Say this about Australian writer/director George Miller, he has range. Not only did he give us the original “Max Mad” trilogy that introduced American moviegoers to future Academy Award winning director Mel Gibson, but also the animated Oscar-favorite “Happy Feet” and the classic “Babe.”
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” the newest installment with Tom Hardy (“Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) replacing Gibson in the title role, is set in the same dystopian future and is a continuation of the story-line rather than a reboot.
This time around, Max Rockatansky is imprisoned by a tribe called the “War Boys” who call a fertile canyon known as the Citadel their home and use tight-fisted control of scarce water to keep the wretched among them subjugated.
Max escapes when the War Boys use him as a hood ornament on one of the vehicles in a convoy Citadel leader Immortan Joe assembles to capture a hardened road warrior named Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who went rogue on a routine mission.
Furiosa’s tanker contains something far more valuable to Immortan Joe than gasoline, which was to be her cargo. She’s smuggled out his five wives in the hope of finding a better life for them all in “Green Place,” from where Furiosa was taken as a child.
Sure to please fans of the original cult films, “Mad Max: Fury Road” adds a blockbuster-sized budget and an empowered character with Academy cred (Theron) to broaden its appeal; nonetheless it was bested its opening weekend by a-capella bandslam “Pitch Perfect 2.” Make of that what you will.
I’ve never cared for the franchise but hoped there would be something here. The effects were good — not overdone — but too many of the characters bordered on silly.
If I had to sum up this one, I would call it a post-apocalyptic monster truck rally; but not enough of one to stand alone like a “Fast and Furious” installment. Still there were plenty of awesome tricked-out classics and lots of supercharged action.
Hardy is brilliant casting, his 2012 “Lawless,” about the Prohibition-era Virginia Bondurant brothers, is among my favorite films of the last few years and was an amazing performance. But his role here is secondary to Theron’s, which some critics have said was Miller’s paean to feminism.
For me, this one never got out of first gear.
Med City Movie Guy’s Rating: 3 Honks