Remakes, reimaginings and reboots are nothing new in Hollywood, though they’ve certainly been festering more abundantly like a pool of stagnant multicoloured water ever since the turn of the new millennium. When studios and producers become devoid of ideas, they simply dip their ladle in the swirling swamp and create whatever gloopy mess they pull out, whether it’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Lion King or Point Break, almost always to ugly results.
So George Miller’s reimagining of his own post-apocalyptic Australian action movie Mad Max was something of an enigma when it was released in 2015, sculpting the original story in a brand new light, creating the finest action film of the 21st century in the process. In the backdrop of the dusty Outback ‘down under’, Max (Tom Hardy) finds himself prisoner to the bonkers War Boys, a tribe of automobile enthusiasts with an obsession for Guzzolene (post-apocalyptic gasoline) and a willingness to impress their gruesome leader, Immortan Joe.
In the dazzling golden wastelands of the deserted Australian Outback lies a citadel of a trio of towering rocks, topped with rare vegetation and engraved with large skulls. Here, Immortan Joe leads a vile dictatorship where peasants beg for the water he has in abundant supply, whilst his only interest lies in procreation and the valuable Guzzolene on which society is dependent. It’s a bizarre and totally compelling set-up that introduces the viewer to the insanity that such a life has forced on its inhabitants, from Immortan Joe’s vile appearance to the equally eccentric characters that walk its baron holes, burrows and caves.
Whilst movie studios rely on the power of nostalgia to lure in vulnerable audience members for sequels and reboots, George Miller recognised that such call-backs are simply superfluous; baggage for the real story at hand. Instead, Miller made an action film that demanded your attention, creating a story so insane it’s difficult to believe that any producer gave it the green light.
In an industry that leans on derivative products for sustained success, Mad Max: Fury Road presented something for audiences to truly cherish, a film so stuffed with originality, ingenuity and imagination that itself became a cult phenomenon. George Miller’s film quite simply injected action cinema with a much-needed dose of sugar-soaked adrenaline, reminding audiences of the thrill, joy and experimentation of late 20th-century action cinema, when the likes of The Terminator, Hard Boiled and Predator frolicked in originality.
At its core, Miller’s film is an extended chase sequence, with Tom Hardy’s titular character joining hopeful fugitives Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Toast (Zoë Kravitz) and the rebellious War Boy, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) in their pursuit of a new life away from the rabid pack of fantastical tribes out to hunt them down. Though, with help from the industrial heavy metal soundtrack of Junkie XL, who force the sands of Mad Max: Fury Road to shimmer and shake with furious tension, the film becomes a frenetic exhibition of haywire action and luscious ingenuity.
In dunking the audience into the world of Mad Max without a seatbelt or airbag, George Miller allows the film to engulf the viewer like a sandstorm, with the bizarre fiction of the world seeming totally normal in the wild world he has created. Whilst so many modern blockbusters have the fingerprints of studio executives all over them, Mad Max: Fury Road truly feels like a complete artistic vision that elevates the original trilogy as opposed to endlessly harking back to their place in film history. Fury Road doesn’t pander to fan expectations, studio wish lists or modern expectations, it simply rides eternal, “Shiny, and chrome!”.