The return of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise after thirty years has been welcomed with open arms. With a budget that is astronomical compared to the pittance that was spent on the original, director George Miller has returned to his brainchild in order to give it the full treatment, packing it with A-list actors and as many impressive action sequences as possible. What results is a relentless assault on the eyes and ears that is entertaining and at times surprisingly thoughtful, but perhaps too indulgent in its sense of abandon.
Tom Hardy stars as the eponymous Max, his physicality bringing a lot to a role that Mel Gibson once embodied. Max is all sternness and steely resilience as he always has been and Hardy specialises in acting without words, so his lack of meaningful speech for a good section of the movie works well. When he does speak Hardy’s accent is strange, a mixture of as many accents as possible, but overall his portrayal works because he’s so comfortable with portraying long silences and acting with his body. Charlize Theron is the star of the show though, her Imperator Furiosa is the ultimate badass of the film and Theron channels a darker side of herself rarely seen since ‘Monster’ to turn Furiosa in to someone who wants the best for her charges but is so sick of the establishment that she’s willing to do a lot of things to ensure that that happens. Nicholas Hoult also puts in a strong performance as Nux, a role that is far out of Hoult’s comfort zone, but one that he acquits himself well for, his insanity managing both to be amusing and troubling.
Miller’s adaptation succeeds most when it focuses on the growing relationship between Max and Furiosa, along with Max’s growing sense of compassion, aided by the visions he has of his dead wife and child and his gradual realisation that he doesn’t just have to be in it for himself. Amongst all the manic car chases, shouting and general anarchy that spans the film, it is the most human moments that tie the film together to make it work at its best. However, despite its surprising level of intelligence the film’s relentless style means that after a while it is easy to grow tired of rumbling rigs and wheel spins and yes, even the sight of someone playing electric guitar with flames shooting out of the top isn’t quite enough to prevent that feeling of exhaustion from returning a few minutes later. Ultimately, a leaner version would perhaps have had more impact and made better use of its intelligent and at times powerful story, but ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is still a success, even if it’s one that you’ve had enough of after one viewing.