He may be 70, but with Mad Max: Fury Road, veteran Australian director George Miller amply demonstrates that he still has a lot of fuel left in the creative tank as he enters the third act of his career, delivering what I can only describe as an audacious ball-tearer of an action movie, the kind that most arrogant young upstarts half his age could only dream of conjuring up, let alone pulling-off.
If you loved the original Mad Max trilogy and are planning to boycott this movie because there’s no Mel Gibson, or think it’s going to be a big CGI video game like most modern blockbusters, then you are really depriving yourself of a potentially great two-hour cinematic ride. Yes, Mad Mel will always be Mad Max, but let’s face it, even if he was keen to do it, Gibson’s name is pretty much box-office poison these days, thanks to nothing else but his own erratic off-screen behaviour. Tom Hardy, a fine actor and strong presence, makes an adequate substitute in a role that is short on dialogue and high on physicality, but it’s Charlize Theron who takes the acting honours here, forming the backbone for what is a surprisingly strong (and effective) female drive at the heart of the film.
As for the look of the film, of course CGI is utilized, but thankfully it is more to embellish and add scope and spectacle to enormous barren vistas, rather than to create entire unrealistic landscapes that lack depth or realism. The thrilling stunts and car chase sequences, for the most part, look real world and are executed with often jaw-dropping precision. There’s also some pretty bizarre yet stunning custom vehicles in action - designs that must have sounded ridiculously over-the-top and/or completely impractical at the development stage, but which are realised so astonishingly.
Mad Max: Fury Road is one of those films which could have so easily been a disaster, but ends up succeeding beyond most expectations (certainly my own - though just to clarify, I really enjoy the original Mad Max trilogy, but they are far from the top of my list of favourite Australian films).
A real gasoline-guzzling rollercoaster ride. Roger Corman is probably already planning his own low-budget take on it.