So 30 years after the original trilogy of George Millers’ Mad Max films came out we now have the reboot/sequel…. the requel…again with George Miller at the helm, a rare opportunity in modern cinema.
The premise, simple. In a world ravaged by nuclear fallout Max has been captured by the hoards that occupy our barren outback wasteland and taken to the Citadel to be used as a human blood bag for the ill. Upon escaping he unintentionally joins up with one of the Citadel’s commanders (Charlize Theron) who has gone rogue and is attempting to free leader Immortan Joe’s best concubines. With escaping being a common(ish) goal the chase is on.
This film is bat shit mental. What a lot of people like with the original Mad Max’s was that it was a shoestring budget film that expressed a genre not readily seen as well as throwing Mel Gibson’s career into the international spotlight. This is a different creature entirely. Miller has been given the budget to show, wow and amaze us and he did it fantastically.
Aesthetically it is post apocalyptic porn. Bright desert colours intersected with jagged rocky terrain populated by humans often deformed and neanderthalic, it’s all very weird and wonderful. The strongest lead and take for themselves. The weak go hungry and poor and are used for the pleasure and branded like cattle. Society is made up of the leftovers of a nuclear ravaged civilisation and gasoline is the rare commodity of choice. This world has been built in a way that you just accept what you are seeing. There is no reason for having everything explained and for one I am glad for the lack of unnecessary dialogue and the assumption that the viewer can’t work things out for themselves.
The action is unbelievable. The close up combat is gritty/dirty and brutal while all the motorised action brings all the crash bang and wallop the film needs. The car action scenes are beautifully effective and done in a way that you can feel what is happening on a level that CGI just cant. The cars/bikes made up of spare parts, spikes, armoured plating take a pounding, it’s not visual effects it’s bone crunching, car slamming, gasoline fueled motor vehicles flipping, rolling and exploding.
The film is unusual in a way as it is told through the medium of action for a lot of it rather than dialogue but respect has to go to George Miller with sticking to this style as it works. The film doesn’t ask you to try and figure out anything that isn’t in front of you but shows you a clear progression for our main trio of characters. There’s also something more personal in seeing the story unfold this way through the physicality and tribulations of each character too.
And speaking of the characters Hardy stays true to being Mad Max and acts like a rabid dog haunted by atrocities of his past and embraces Millers way of progressing the story visually rather than through dialogue. Saying that our lead was not the stand out, Charlize Theron was. Hollywood has been crying out for a strong female that can kick ass in a Ripley sort of way and this girl is it. She plays Imperator Furiosa and a commander of sorts entrusted with the job of a fuel pickup when she uses the trip as an escape for our masked villain’s harem. There’s no big revealing reasoning as to why these out of all the women trapped are chosen other than they are the ones ‘chosen’ to continue our dictators bloodline. She’s strong willed, deadly with a gun and committed to her cause, sacrificing herself if she’d have to… and all of this with one arm. Theron shows the complexity of the characters opposing personality traits (clear emotional strength vs willing to take a life in a second) in a way that is as uncompromising as it is effective. The feminists of this world will be happy with the strong female lead although not sure whether it was done intentionally or not but given the lack of the cliché damsel in distress, the harem of chosen birth companions did look like they just walked off a Vogue photo shoot. A sort of intentional ambivalence perhaps? A shout out also goes to Nicholas Hoult for his scatty performance Nux. His was the most traditional character arc but was unique and fun to watch.
Looking at it critically you could complain that there was a need for some more character development or more compelling drama between characters thgat didn’t involve action, but to be fair, for me anyway, George Miller knew what was working with this film, fast paced brutal action fantastically shot, and therefore he doesn’t let up. Why change a good thing? There is a need for these types of movies to get made, and by ‘these types’ I’m talking about films with a unique premise that can have the kind of budget it needs to excel because Mr Miller, you have done just that.
This movie has one speed, which is GO. A breath of fresh air in a world of CGI heavy action films. The characters are enjoyable to watch and the action at times can only be seen to be believed. It’s not a traditional action film by any stretch but it works as a high octane Twisted Metal cluster-fuck of a movie.