Written by guest contributor Dave Fox
Visionary director George Miller has taken a long and winding road back his trademark post-apocalyptic world, Max Rockatansky's home, "The Wasteland". Following the poorly received third installment in the Mad Max trilogy, Beyond Thunderdome, Miller's directing career took a turn as he spent time behind the camera for the Babe sequel and two films about dancing CGI penguins.
It's not the case that Miller had no desire to make another Mad Max film. Possibilities for a fourth film and/or a reboot were mooted for decades - at one point in the 90s it looked as though it would be an animated film - but as the franchise's star, Mel Gibson, aged and became less and less of a bankable star, it seemed less likely that a new Mad Max would ever see the light of day.
Against the odds, in 2015 we were finally able to return to Miller's hectic fever-dream of an Aussie apocalypse. Despite rumours of a cameo, Gibson didn't appear, replaced in the title role by Tom Hardy. It's much more of a sequel than reboot, though really it could function as either. Mad Max: Fury Road doesn't bother with an origin story or exposition, it barely bothers with plot: it throws you in head first to a fully formed world and invites you along for the ride.
The film is almost nothing but a spectacular car chase, reminiscent of the final 20 minutes of 1981's second Mad Max installment The Road Warrior - only louder and even more spectacular. What plot there is concerns Max being captured early on in the desert citadel run by terrifying despotic demi-god Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Joe has five "wives" locked up to sire him a healthy heir, but when they escape in a petrol tanker piloted by an ex-wife Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Joe's army give chase - and Max gets caught up in the conflict.
When the film draws breath around 20 minutes in after continuous carnage, it may be the first time you draw breath too. It's easy to understand why most films aren't made with skeletal plots and stunt after stunt after stunt - in the wrong hands, Fury Road would be a mess of Michael Bay proportions, but in Miller's hands this recipe for disaster becomes something quite extraordinary.
Also, while plot may be minimal, there's still a message here. There seemed to be a lot of hate online (among knuckle-draggers, to be fair) about the film's supposed feminist overtones, but frankly, should it be controversial in 2015 to have a message of "women are not objects"? The fact that such a thing even still needs to be said shows that, if anything, we need more films willing to take this stand. It's true that really, Imperator Furiosa is the real protagonist, rather than Max, but there's nothing wrong with that. Max has always been an interloper in the lives of others, but Furiosa - with her metal arm and steely gaze - is just as able to hold up an action film as the title character. And Max remains vital to the film, even if he's not always its focus.
Fury Road shows, too, that there's still a place in cinema for practical effects (Fury Road makes relatively minimal use of CGI when compared with many modern blockbusters) and that the action genre isn't as dead as everyone may have thought.
There was a lot of competition for my favourite film of 2015. It was a tough choice, and when thinking about it I changed my mind maybe 3 or 4 times. In the end, I chose Mad Max: Fury Road because I came out the cinema with a grin from ear to ear - and everyone else was the same. It's exciting, it's thrilling, it's tense, it's important in a few ways but more than anything else: it's fun. Ultimately, we go to the cinema to be entertained, because we want to have fun. Mad Max: Fury Road delivers that in spades, and nothing else came close to it for that in 2015.
Mad Max: Fury Road Director: George Miller Writers: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy & Nico Lathouris Studio: Kennedy Miller Productions, Village Roadshow Pictures Running time: 120 Minutes Release Date: 5/15/15