If there has ever been a more astonishing display of a filmmaker’s prowess with kinetic action sequences than this late-career Gesamtkunstwerk by George Miller, I haven’t seen it. And neither have you, because there isn’t one. The Mad Max reboot is a staggering, stunning, sweeping, astonishing, literally breathtaking exercise in the defiance of physics. It moves so fast, and for such sustained periods, that “visionary” isn’t really the word. (“Glimpsarian”?) Regardless, you’ve never seen anything remotely like it. See it on the biggest screen you can find, in 3-D if possible.
It’s noticeably dumb in certain ways, but its visual intelligence and wit vastly outweigh its concessions to the genre (which, P.S., Miller basically invented and is now, at the age of 70, content to massively subvert). Even calling it Mad Max is kind of a misnomer. Max isn’t really the lead character—though the fantastic Tom Hardy certainly does his best to pull focus, effortlessly sweeping away the legacy of Mel Gibson as he goes.
Charlize Theron matches Hardy blow for beautiful postapocalyptic action-hero blow, but she’s not the star, either. Neither are the supermodels, nor the hundreds of pasty mutant extras (this Aussie production clearly kept a lot of members of the Orc Actors Guild in post–Lord of the Rings paychecks), nor any actor or set or prop or thing.
The costars of Fury Road are velocity and momentum, in concert with elaborate, magnificent pyrotechnics and choreographed violence that registers as martial dance. The action sequences are so enrapturing that they seem to warp your perception. Driving home from the theater is a bizarre reentry.
In the nearly 30 years since the original Max trilogy ended (comma disappointingly), Miller has directed one kinky commercial project (The Witches of Eastwick), two excellent children’s films—Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet—and the emotional wrencher Lorenzo’s Oil. From the looks of Fury Road, however, he has spent every minute since Thunderdome wrapped planning this triumphant return to the wasteland he created in 1979, and now has the chance to perfect. And does.
Not that the film is perfect—there are dramatic issues, dialogue issues, etc. But the world is perfect. (In terms of pure expression of a filmmaker’s distinctive vision, Mad Max: Fury Road makes James Cameron look like Brett Ratner.) If Miller, at 70, still isn’t satisfied that he has finally made his mark, then I personally dare him to make another one of these films, right now, today.
I double dare him.