Will I fall in line with the current critical and audience consensus on George Miller’s triumphant return to ‘a world of fire and blood’ after a three decade sojourn into producing more family friendly entertainments (Babe, Happy Feet)? Yes, i bloody will mate. Mad Max -Fury Road is easily the best film of the year so far, a wildly operatic comic book saga; brutal and beautiful in equal measure and one of the best pure action films of recent times. Stripped to the bone plot, mythical figures, eye-popping visuals and adrenaline fueled, non CGI action choreography that just makes you gasp or laugh in astonishment at its virtuosity and insanity. That all of this sweet madness was orchestrated by a genial 70-year-old Aussie gentleman is a most delightful conundrum that also highlights the relative creative bankruptcy and risk averse mentality of most young directors working in mainstream action cinema today.
To be carried along on such a wave of joyful invention is a rare thing and even made me forget my ingrained relationship to mel Gibson’s iconic incarnation of ‘max’, embedded in my childhood consciousness from watching ‘mad max 2’ aka ‘the Road warrior’ on ye old VHS back in the early 80’s. In ‘Fury Road’ english thesp Tom hardy inhabits ‘max’ throwing himself into the proceedings with admirable intensity and gusto but while he is certainly a super intense world class brooder, he lacks Gibson’s live wire charisma and natural flair for levity in the part.
Being quite the fearful child back then, watching such a stark, violent, unfold with such cinematic fury and relentlessness awoke the primal terror within and yet I could not tear my eyes away, it was a bleak yet curiously hopeful vision with a reluctant, vulnerable hero at its centre, surviving somehow. It was dark but not despairing unlike most horror movies for example, which I mostly avoided until my teens.
Many years later I watched ‘mad Max 2’ and could appreciate the film on the level of craft and technical skill and admire its haiku like simplicity story wise; a hero myth reimagined with dynamism and purpose. Miller made something universal and unique, a feat he once again achieves with ‘Fury Road’, thirty plus years later.