When George Miller first gave us Mad Max in 1976, I was too young to appreciate it, however as a kid growing up I was one of the many who managed to see them and love them, that said by the time it came to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome I felt (even at my then relatively tender age) as if the magic had worn off, while discussing the films recently, I recalled that it was actually a number of years before I watched the entirety of Thunder Dome.
Speed forward a generation and Miller has given us a new “episode” is the life of Max Rockatansky. I say episode as that is exactly how Miller described it when asked, it is not a prequel, sequel or other, but a new episode in the continuing adventures of Max
This time round Max is played by Tom Hardy (Peaky Blinders, 2014) who must be one of the busiest actors out there at the moment., He pretty soon runs into Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max, 1979 as “Toe Cutter”) and his band. Immortan controls the only source of fresh water in the district and together with two other local settlements; Gas Town, ruled by The People Eater (John Howard, All Saints 2001) and The Bullet Farm, run by the Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter, the Great Gatsby, 2013) they control the district. Immortan has developed an almost cult based society with those who serve him directly and act as his foot soldiers being given the necessary food to survive, other clanging around outside are left to be thankful for any scraps. As with the previous offerings society is mechanical and post-apocalyptic.
While a prisoner of Immortan, Max is to be used as a “Blood bag” for the one of the War pups – these are the (usually dying from radiation poisoning) young people under Immortan’s rule. Immortan has developed a psuado-religion with his War pups/dogs willing to die for him and go to Valhalla. In Max’s case the War Pup in question in Nux (Nicholas Hult, warm bodies 2013). Life is complicated when Imperator Furiosa , (Charlize Thron, Prometheus, 2012) one of Immortan’s more senior people, escapes with one of his war wagons ( a large fortified petrol trailer -which seems to be broken in to containers carrying water and human milk- and tractor) and, most importantly his 5 wives, all of whom are fit and healthy and capable of producing children, with at least one of them currently pregnant. Alarms are raised, and the war pups/dogs are sent out to capture them, indeed the neighbouring settlements are brought in and together the three leaders and their mechanical armies hunt down Imperatur Furiosa, here war wagon and as they discover the hidden wives. Max is attached to one of the war pups as a blood transfusion supply, however undaunted, the war pup, Nux (Nicholas Holt, Warm Bodies, 2013) volunteers to join the chase.
And now the fun really starts. As the chase begins Immortan Joe brings his warriors together, in a fantastic display of post-apocalyptic engineering right down to the booming sound truck with its own rock guitarist hanging from cables as he riffs to the assembled wildness. What follows is a genuinely edge of seat sequence of set-piece stunts which come off brilliantly.
Eventually Max manages to not only free himself from Nux but also get to the war wagon, its water and fuel and along the way discover the real cargo. Furiosa is taking them to The Green Place an almost mythical land she remembers from growing up. To add to his troubles, Nux is not too pleased to have lost his blood supply and to have done so in such a public manner, seeking to gain Immortan Joe’s approval he volunteers to get on to the war wagon and rescue the situation, Immoratan Joe promises him Valhalla and the brainwashed pup goes to his death. However he does not die and actually contributes greatly to events, though not as Immortan would have liked.
The chase continues and of course many are killed along the way in fantastic displays of destruction and mayhem. Eventually they come to Furiosa’s homeland where they meet a group surviving women, one of whom, the Keeper of the Seeds (Mellissa Jaffa, Komodo, 1999) manages to nicely convey how much life has changed. I don’t know if it was intended but the spirit of the women of the Green Lands was reminiscent of the characters and their strength shown in the 1956 classic A Town Like Alice (Jack Lee).
Things of course don’t exactly go to plan, but as with any good story, things have a way of working out to everybody’s (mostly) pleasure.
This movie might be an “episode” but from the perspective of popularity, it is effectively a reboot bring the franchise to an entirely new generation. I’ve tried not to say too much, the movie is visually spectacular, with a great cast and some witty dialogue, enjoy it.
To those who say the role of max has been diluted and there is too much of a female lead, I would simply say; no, you’re wrong.