The original Mad Max always seemed to me to be a poor effort at a post-apocalyptic thriller that had no sense of world building while suffering from the same poor aging effect that so many similar films from its era have in recent times. Mad Max: Fury Road definitely does not suffer from those problems. There is world building and tons of it in George Miller’s attempt to continue his signature franchise, and the use of old school techniques actually brings some freshness to the film in an era that overlies on the use of CGI. However, for all its world building, the overuse of campiness in it just doesn’t fit well with the rest of the film, and while the old school chase and fight scenes are really impressive it’s hard to become invested in them with a mostly drab set of characters and an odd mix of goofiness and seriousness setting the film tonally off course.
Mad Max: Fury Road finds Max (Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson) being captured by warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his army, the War Boys. While in their midst he finds himself in the middle of a chase between the War Boys and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as she plots to free Immortan Joe’s slave brides from his grasp. The plot is pretty simple and straightforward. The problem is that the world building just isn’t. There are some serious elements such as the health effects nuclear radiation would have on humans, and characters such as Max and Imperator Furiosa seem to come from a very serious film. That does not mix with the cartoonish war boys or the obnoxious looking bearded babies and fat footed sheriffs. It also doesn’t help when such a simple plot decides to stop from time to time to give some very basic backstory to certain characters. The stop in action just lands with a thud.
It also doesn’t help that the most interesting characters in the film are relegated to supporting roles. Mad Max and Imperator Furiosa may be billed as the main attractions but Tom Hardy is utterly wasted as the usual master of accents fails to find one and stick with it here while Charlize Theron fails to live up to the hype as the successor to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. It is characters like Nux (Nicholas Hoult bringing a lot of pathos to a man that just wants to be a martyr), Angharad (a surprisingly effective Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as the leader of Immortan Joe’s slave brides) and Capable (Riley Keough bringing some effort to one of the more underwritten slave brides) that bring the only effective originality to this film.
Mad Max: Fury Road tries to bring old school action filmmaking back in an era where CGI overload seems to affect every summer film. I just wish the film surrounding the admittedly impressive action was better.