Re-boots of classic film cycles and re-makes of individual films seem to exist on the extremes of opinion in the public eyes, especially in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres, an area known for geeky pedantry and unconditional loyalty to a brand. Either they are massive successes, Batman, Spiderman, and Planet of The Apes or abject failures such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which somehow managed to skid under a bar already set so low by the original. To re-work the Mad Max series was always going to be interesting. The original series contains an interesting trajectory; cult, low budget film is suffixed with a more heavily financed and more action driven hit and finally turned into a hi-gloss Hollywood stinker aimed at family viewing. So where would Fury Road find it’s audience?
As years have gone on our filmic vision of the future has got darker and more dystopian so the fact that this new outing is set in a more extreme world vision based on the second film is to be expected. A post-apocalyptic desert inhabited by territorial gangs that assumes when the oil and water runs out everyone will be more concerned with hairstyles, clothing and car accessories than the basic staples of life but a frightening vision of one possible, though highly improbable shape of things to come.
The plot is simple. First the non-cynical take on things. Max, the main protagonist is captured and held by a marauding war band and against his will becomes part of a mission to stop a break away faction led by a renegade war leader from escaping back to greener pastures (literally) with some of the few fertile women or Breeders in the gangs ranks. He then becomes part of that breakaway faction and helps them get to safety. The realisation that there is no promised land leads them to head back to the Citadel, the home of the aforementioned gang for a final showdown.
The cynical version of events is that Max, a man recently released from prison for doing bad impersonations of Charles Bronson, has to drive the vocal group Mediaeval Babes across a discarded set from Laurence of Arabia peopled with gangs designed by Games Workshop.
The even more cynical version is, they drive over there, change their mind and drive back again.
Okay, so the originals were hardly full of rich emotive characterisation, twisting subplots and compelling narratives, but even this seems to bat way below that literary average. One of the biggest problems is Tom Hardy as Max. It would be difficult enough to follow in the leather biker boots of a young Mel Gibson but here he says almost nothing, forgets to act, though I guess the script hardly calls for either and is basically a brooding cab driver who you expect to turn around to the passengers and say “You’ll never guess who I had in my highly over accessorised war rig last week?” To be honest you could have written him out of the film altogether and it would have made very little difference, not a good thing to say about the titular character.
But if you were a fan of the first two in the original series for the stunts and crashes, then you are on safer ground, there is plenty of that on offer, in fact that is pretty much all the film is, a series of car crashes and people leaping from one vehicle to another getting ever more improbable as the film moves along. To be honest once you have seen a couple of spectacular collisions you have seen what is on offer, but they sell it to you again and again…and again.
So basically it is The Paris-Dakar Rally with explosions and fancy haircuts, and whilst being cinematically sweeping, action pact, dark and brooding, the end result still manages to be unmemorable, vacuous and aimed at pre-pubescent role play nerds and over imaginative heavy metal fans. You want a glimpse of a possible dark future…go watch Children of Men.