By SAM DOLAN
“When the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken,” says protagonist Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) as a gigantic big rig explodes on the backdrop of a bleak desert. Since its release on May 15, Mad Max: Fury Road has shattered audience expectations. It has been 20 some years since the last Mad Max movie, Beyond Thunderdome, and people everywhere have been anxious to see where this new film will take the series. Mad Max: Fury Road combines relentless, exciting sequences with a story that is both engrossing and emotional. It is easily the best movie of the year so far, and I am confident that it will be one of the best action movies of the next five years.
The Mad Max franchise is probably one of the most influential names in cinema. The first movie, simply titled Mad Max, came out in 1979. It followed police officer Max Rockatansky, played by then-unknown Mel Gibson, trying to avenge the death of his family in a dystopian Australia. For many years, Mad Max was the most profitable movie ever made, grossing 10 million dollars against a 400,000 dollar budget. The next movie, The Road Warrior (1981), again followed Max defending a small settlement from bandit attacks. Road Warrior was extremely popular in the United States and has made a lasting impact on the post-apocalyptic genre. The third entry, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), was the first real “Hollywood” entry in the series, increasing the franchise’s level of action and sentimentality. As revolutionary as they were from the late 70s to mid 80s, the Mad Max movies were very much products of the times. The OPEC oil crisis combined with the fear of nuclear war gave the series a world that was independent from and dependent on the present.
Fury Road, the newest entry, carries the Mad Max tradition while also bringing a refreshing take on the series. In this movie, Max reluctantly agrees to help a group of slaves escape from an evil warlord. The action starts from the moment the film opens and doesn’t finish until the last minutes of the movie, while the pacing allows the movie to engage the viewer and gives meaning to the action. Much of the movie is centered on a chase through the wasteland. The excitement rarely slows down, giving the viewer an appreciation for what’s on screen; the scale of it all is extremely impressive and there is an almost obsessive attention to detail. All of the vehicles and bandits look unique, and each brings a new challenge to Max and his convoy, almost to the point of the action being ridiculous; one of the bandits even plays heavy metal on top of a truck that is completely covered in speakers. Mad Max uses various backdrops of the wasteland, forcing the characters to adapt to environments like mountains, flatlands and swamps in order to survive. Each brings their own unique skill, and motivation is shown through actions rather than dialogue. It’s nice to see a movie that displays how a character feels rather than saying it. Interaction between people was probably limited so that the movie could keep up its very fast pace.
People going to see Mad Max: Fury Road might be a little put off by the fact that Max is less the center of the story than Charlize Theron’s character Furiosa, as the story focuses more on her hope to find sanctuary for the slaves. There’s a kind of elegant simplicity in the story in lieu of the apocalyptic consequences in other action movies. People should know going into the theater that Mad Max actually isn’t really about Max; he is just a wanderer and a way to connect the viewer to this world. The actual appeal of the Mad Max series comes when Max tries to find his humanity by helping people, and this movie is no different.
Response to Mad Max: Fury Road from both critics and audiences alike has been extremely positive. Robert Gordon (Jr.) said that he “thought it deserved its 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.” He said that he would recommend the movie to others because of the strong performances of both Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, the substantial use of practical effects and the tasteful use of computer-generated imagery. Veteran film reviewer at the New York Times A. O. Scott said, “It’s all great fun, and quite rousing as well — a large-scale genre movie that is at once unpretentious and unafraid to bring home a message.”