The film is set in a post-nuclear wasteland (not as obviously Australia as in the prior “Mad Max” films). Imortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules a small “hydraulic empire” (water monopoly) enforced by his testosterone-sodden cult of “War Boys” , who believe that Joe will open the gates of Valhalla to them when their “half-life” ends (preferably in a splash of ultra-violence).
Max (Tom Hardy), who is the protagonist only in the classical sense of being the first character on stage, is captured by the War Boys, and both his car and his blood co-opted for the Citadel, Joe’s stronghold.
By chance, Max gets dragged along as part of the escort for Furiosa’s (Charlize Theron) mission to fetch fuel from Gas Town. (Evidently, “Imperator” is a rank title, which seems odd for a subordinate, until you consider that Imortan Joe is a “god”, more or less. It’s also unusual that Furiosa is one of Joe’s chief henchbeings, since no other women that we see are anything but property in the Citadel, but apparently she’s that tough--.) When it appears that Furiosa has her own agenda, events allow Max to get free and start taking a hand, although he still ends up going along with Furiosa’s plan.
Since I expect that, by this time, anyone who cares has probably seen the movie, I won’t go deeper into plot details.
Considered on its artistic merits, the film is grotesquely beautiful. It is a long symphony of motorized conflict, with every move carefully choreographed. The fact that the War Rigs are all real, and the battles done mostly without CGI really does somehow add something—an extra bit of realism to the surreal. And each move and tactic seems to have meaning in the conflict, without being just gratuitous. The kludged-together designs of the scavenged vehicles are crazily marvelous. The varieties of barren landscape have austere beauty, also.
The action is largely non-stop: the first half of the film has little more intelligible dialog than the “Minions” movie--; but there are breaks to let off pressure, which makes the movie easier to endure.
I appreciated hark-backs to the earlier series, mainly found in the credits, where the character names (“Rictus Erectus”, “Toast the Knowing,” “The Doof Warrior”) sound like members of the back-up band for GWAR or the cast of a Moebius comic. However, the thing I missed was the eccentric characters such as “The Gyro Captain” from Mad Max: The Road Warrior, or the nigh-unstoppable “Ironbar” from Beyond Thunderdome. Characters such as these must have been important to writer/director George Miller at some time, but now all humor, all whimsy has been ground under the hungry wheels of action, action, action.
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