The biggest question I’ve heard all week is “Do I need to have seen the previous films in order to watch Mad Max: Fury Road?” The answer is no. No you do not.
Director George Miller’s return to the dystopian wasteland first made famous by the Mel Gibson-starring cult classic Mad Max is perfectly capable of standing alone. In fact, Fury Road does more than stand alone. It towers over other action films.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a two hour chase scene that only pauses long enough to give you the necessary exposition. No more, no less.
Set in the future where oil and water are scarce, mankind has devolved into warbands that only help each other when there is the promise of fuel, water or ammunition. They have successfully damaged the world so that most everywhere is bleak, unforgiving or downright poisonous. There is no joy, there is no hope. Only desperation and the need to survive one more day.
The film starts with Max (Tom Hardy) running from the largest, most powerful warband in the area and failing. They take his car for their own uses, brand him with their symbol and lock him up in a cage. (And that’s just the opening sequence.)
The plot kicks in when Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is sent to pick up ammunition and oil from neighboring gangs but deviates from the path to fulfill a secret purpose. The gang’s leader, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) realized what Furiosa is doing and calls all of his warriors to give chase.
Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is one of those warriors but he is sick and needs a blood transfusion. Not wanting to miss the battle to come, he takes his ‘blood bag’ with him and straps it to the car. And since this is a dystopian wasteland, the blood transfusions come straight from the source so it’s Max who ends up chained to the front of a vehicle as they give chase.
Again, everything you have just read only describes the first thirty minutes of the film. What follows is nothing short of mesmerizing. Action scenes switch with fight scenes blend into another chase scene but at no point does it ever feel like the director has run out of ideas.
The acting is great and that is in part due to the sparse dialog. None of the characters chatter needlessly. They save their words for when there is something important to say.
Then there is the makeup. George Miller has created a fascinating menagerie of grotesques. Aside from Theron and Hardy, most everyone else in this film is unrecognizable behind makeup or strange outfits. None of those effects are flattering, and many of the ‘creatures’ that litter the film look both mutated and inbred.
Finally there are the special and practical effects. Every time a vehicle does something in this movie it looks real. I do not want to know how many stunt drivers shit their pants during filming but I feel like the number is greater than three. From simple things like a biker ramping over a truck to whole vehicles exploding and even a few cars getting sucked into a giant dust storm, everything looks real. This film did a great job of blending effects and at no point was I able to point and say “Eh, that looks pretty fake”. For a movie that contains so much delightful weirdness, I’d say that’s a huge compliment.
Do yourself a favor and check out a rare action movie: one that can actually be enjoyed across multiple viewings. Go watch Mad Max: Fury Road. At least then you’ll have an idea of how to survive the apocalypse.