It’s been 30 years since the last installment of the “Mad Max” franchise was in theaters, but in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” George Miller immediately thrusts the viewer back into post-apocalyptic Australia—and there is zero time wasted catching up before we embark on what is, more or less, a 120-minute-long exploding car chase.
Our introduction to the titular Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is brief. One second he’s gazing off into the wasteland, munching on a lizard while haunted by flashbacks from the lives he couldn’t save, the next he’s running for his life, hunted down by the bald, chalk-covered War Boys (the most eager of which, Nux, is masterfully played by Nicholas Hoult).
Turns out, the ramshackle free-for-all desert landscape has been built up since we last saw Max. He finds himself held captive in the Citadel—a functioning, albeit hardly democratic society, run by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Toecutter in the original “Mad Max,”), a fleshy despotic madman, who’s considered a quasi-deity to the denizens he lords over. He controls the water supply, so he controls everything.
The scene is ripe for rebellion, and so Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa—driver of Immortan Joe’s skull-adorned War Rig—veers off path and onto the Fury Road during her next gas run. More important is her cargo: she has Joe’s Five Wives—ethereal supermodel beauties (played by Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Abbey Lee, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Courtney Eaton)—in tow, rescuing them from a life where they were destined to be Joe’s playthings. And so three war parties are sent to retrieve them, and bestow the utmost punishment upon Furiosa.
Outfitted with a shaved head, charcoal war paint, and one mechanical arm, Theron steals the show as a living embodiment of fierceness. One of Miller’s smartest moves was to allow Max to take a backseat to Imperator Furiosa, and to build up three-dimensional female characters who actively kick ass and are an integral part of an action film’s storyline.
Also impressive was Miller's creation of a post-apocalyptic universe that had barely any back story or explanation but remained hyper-attentive to keeping every small detail of that world highly stylized. Even the silliest additions—like the inexplicable guitar player who rides around with the war party—seemed to have a place and a reason. It's a world that invites you to suspend belief and go along for the ride.
But even if all of that means nothing to you, and the action film is what you paid for, then an action film is what you will get. You will see monstrous vehicles colliding and exploding with near-constant frequency. You will see pyrotechnics, and supermodels, and hand-to-hand combat, and more explosions than you can count, and you will leave feeling like you've just sat in on the wildest road trip of your life.
Photos by Photos: Warner Bros.