Mad Max: a symphony of carnage

Jon Fuge

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Unbelievably, it’s been 30 years since we last visited the dry, desolate world of George Miller’s Mad Max. While the original, post-apocalyptic trilogy may look dated today, its influence still looms large. And the road warrior’s cinematic return, Mad Max: Fury Road, has certainly been worth the wait.

While Mel Gibson was originally billed to reprise the role of Max Rockatansky, his recent series of ‘outbursts’ means Tom Hardy now takes centre stage. As with the original films, Fury Road is a film with a basic premise and a whole lot of everything else. Picking up at an unspecified point on the Mad Max timeline, the film follows our anti-hero as he comes up against a maniacal self-proclaimed deity, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Linking up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), on the run from Joe after she liberated his harem of wives, Max must burn rubber in order to escape the vengeance of Joe and his army of ‘War Boys’.

With the exposition out of the way, let’s get straight to why we are here: the action. And, boy, what breathtaking action it is. Motorbikes fly overhead, cars explode and guitars shoot flames as the chase ensues. The ever-increasing number of vehicles and the ever-imaginative ways in which they do battle is truly astounding. This is action as an artform. Commendably, many of the insane set pieces were achieved using practical special effects, rather than pure CGI, and each explosion and metallic crunch arrives with a sense of real consequence as a result.

Even when things aren’t blowing up, Fury Road’s eye-popping aesthetic still grabs your attention. The burnt sands against the light-blue skies form the perfect backdrop for the brutal set-pieces and cements Fury Road as the most visually stunning Mad Max movie to date.

In what is, essentially, a two-hour car chase, it’s surprising how much you are made to care about the main characters’ plight. Hardy’s Max is a feral ball of unspoken aggression and hidden vulnerability; a mumbling, grunting madman fuelled by his base survival instincts. Hardy has taken up the mantle from Mel Gibson expertly, adding more complexity to the character than one might have thought possible. Meanwhile, Theron’s Furiosa is an instantly iconic creation: a character who can stand alongside Ripley and Sarah Connor in the pantheon of formidable, female sci-fi characters. With her steam-punk prosthetic arm and oil-smeared face, she carries the same mixture of strength and vulnerability as Max himself.

This is a modern action movie for the ages, taking the Mad Max franchise to new, action-packed heights. But, faithful to the original trilogy, Fury Road is, above all else, a study in sheer, unbridled visual insanity. Buckle up.

Jon Fuge is a writer based in London.

Watch the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road:

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