"My name is Max. My world is reduced to a single instinct: Survive. As the world fell it was hard to know who was more crazy. Me... Or everyone else."
- Max Rockatansky
I think I can safely say that in all my film watching life, I’ve never known a film take this long to reach the screen. I remember that back in the late nineties, a fourth Max Max was said to be in development. (Though I seem to remember at one point reading that it was going to be called “Thunder Road” as in the Bruce Springsteen song – but that could be my fevered imagination filling in gaps with things my subconscious makes up.)
So, preparation was gearing up in 2001 with Mel Gibson back in the driver’s seat and then 9-11 happened. Production was cancelled. Further delays were due to the collapse of the dollar, and some well documented difficulties in the star’s personal life.
But here it is, finally, after 15 years languishing in development hell.
I have a very soft spot for the Mad Max franchise and a few years ago, I wrote a retrospective about them for Starburst back in its online edition days when I had a regular column titled Future Imperfect. You can take a look at that here.
I have to admit that I was going in to the multiplex not really wanting to like Fury Road. The trilogy is the trilogy and stands well on its own – apart from Beyond Thunderdome, which is a tepid and uneasy melding of two different films, rather like when they used to make films for theatrical release made of 2 episodes of TV shows. In my opinion, Bartertown should have been a film on its own, and the lost children should similarly have been the fourth and last, with Max finally finding a place to belong. For the record, Mad Max 2 (or The Road Warrior, depending on where on the planet you live) is one of the greatest sequels ever to grace celluloid.
Despite my prejudice against recasting Mel Gibson’s most iconic role, I found I really couldn’t help myself from being swept along with the action and having a great time.
Not that it doesn’t have a couple of small problems. (Yeah, here we go…..)
It’s a great film – but I still think that Gibson could have played the role. That’s the biggest thing. Tom Hardy really IS the best possible replacement for Gibson and plays it very much in a Gibson vein, but the original is the original if you get my drift.
So, where exactly along Max’s timeline does this fit it? I have absolutely no idea!
Max is already in the wasteland, there are flashbacks indicating he has already lost his wife and child, his black leathers are in a state of disrepair and he wears the leg brace, indicating that he’s already had his run-in with The Toecutter and Bubba Zinetti as shown in Mad Max.
Now, it can’t be before Mad Max 2, because we see he’s driving the V8 interceptor, which gets destroyed, salvaged and then catastrophically destroyed in another chase. Yet at the beginning of MM2, he’s in the V8, and it doesn’t get totalled until the film’s two thirds through.
A character has the same music box Max salvages from a tanker in MM2 and hands to the Feral Kid, also the Gyro Captain’s goggles and helmet are clearly seen adorning a skull mounted on the front of a vehicle. Again, a reference to MM2.
Okay, I guess I’m just being nitpicky here. I was perfectly happy when Daniel Craig’s Bond unveiled the iconic DB5 in Skyfall with all its Goldfinger weaponry intact, despite that in this rebooted continuity he’d never been issued with it.
Fury Road is basically title to credits action. That’s a refreshing return to the format of the first two films, with Max having very little to say, but a lot to do. I had spoken to a friend of mine who had caught an earlier screening and he said that there wasn’t much plot.
He was, of course, absolutely right. But then, the plots of Mad Max 1&2 could be written on the back of a cinema ticket with room to spare. So, here it is, in all its glory – the main thrust of the Fury Road plot.
Furiosa (Charlize Theron) wants to go home.
Yeah, basically that’s it.
She has taken with her some property of Immortan Joe (no, that’s not a typo – it’s “Immortan”, not “Immortal”) and he wants it back so he’s in pursuit with his army, all driving the most amazing array of nitro boosted turbo charged mixed up, mashed up collection of customised motorised muscle ever seen in one film.
Jos is played by Hugh Keys-Byrne who appeared in the original Max as the Toecutter. No relation in the characters but again, the memorable close up of his eyes just as his character gets wiped out in Mad Max is again used here. Ex WWE wrestler Nathan Jones plays Rictus Erectus, the son of Joe – basically the same role as Vernon Welles’s Wez from MM2.
The get to the fabled Green Land that Furiosa’s trying to reach, the wasteland with all its attendant threats must be crossed and that’s the bulk of the film right there. I don’t know if anybody else felt this, but when I was watching the film, my mind kept going back to the classic Judge Dredd story The Cursed Earth, which I read about thirty years ago. (The plot isn’t the same – Dredd and a bunch of misfits need to cross post apocalypse USA to reach Mega City 2, but have to do so in armoured vehicles across the nuclear wasteland with all its attendant threats – see where I’m going with this?)
As ever, the action sequences are incredible to watch. I know that stuntmen lost their lives filming the chases on MM and MM2, but I wasn’t sure how much of what we see on screen here is “real” as opposed to CGI, but official figures released suggest that 80% of the stunts were done practically, with only the remaining fifth being computer enhanced.
All in all, go in to see this one ready to be bewildered by the sheer action and the turbo charged pace it moves at, but don’t bother trying to figure out whether it’s a prequel or a sequel. It’s not a reboot.
Hell, just go in and enjoy. It is, after a “a lovely day”.
Copyright © 2010 - 2015 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.