As post-apocalyptic flicks go, ‘Mad Max’ is the grand-daddy of ‘em all. Indeed, George Miller’s seminal low budget 1979 B-movie and its sequel, the even better ‘The Road Warrior’ starring a young and then unknown Aussie who goes by the name of Mel Gibson, have become somewhat synonymous with movies in the genre. The dystopian desert wasteland depicted in the Mad Max films is bleak and unforgiving in the purest Hobbesian sense: a mad, mad world in which Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” and the laws of the jungle reign supreme. What ‘Mad Max’ did better than perhaps any other post-apocalyptic movie is its portrayal of our dark future as a sort of post-modern Wild West and its protagonist as the perfect anti-hero.
Some thirty years after ‘Beyond Thunderdome,’ George Miller attempts to update and bring Mad Max to a whole new generation in ‘Fury Road,’ this time with Tom Hardy playing the former lawman-turned-lone avenger as he was first kidnapped by feral “War Boys” to be an involuntary blood donor before being swept up by a maelstrom of events beyond his control thanks to the machinations of Imperator Furiosa (a bald headed Charlize Theron) which led to the often exhilarating and merry chase through the desert that took up about three-quarters of the movie’s two-hour running time. While character development and dialogue are in short supply in ‘Fury Road,’ its old school “live” stunt sequences more than made up for it and are far more visceral and believable than the sanitized and overcooked CG stuff we've been subjected to in the ‘Fast and the Furious’ films. Yawn.
Brutal and uncompromising, ‘Fury Road’ delivers the goods and captures the sheer essence of the previous Mad Max movies. Its simple black-and-white “kill or be killed” morality in a post-apocalyptic western setting still resonates today as much as it did more than 30 years ago. And given that it did fairly well at the box office despite its ultra-violence and hard R rating, it’s not a stretch to say that ‘Mad Max’ still retains an appeal that goes beyond biker gangs and fans of Iron Maiden or ‘Heavy Metal’ magazine.