By Elisha Silk (Houston, Texas)


Since 1979, the words “dystopian” and “post-apocalyptic” have been synonymous with two simple words: Mad Max. For some of us, one or all three of the original Mad Max film trilogy were our introduction to these two literary concepts, brought to life in captivating and ferocious cinematic illusion. A few of us might even remember the VHS or DVD covers of Mad Max, The Road Warrior, and Beyond Thunderdome at the local video rental, tantalizing us with their artwork, promising a bleak world of violence; powerhouse vehicles; shotguns and pistols; and metallic spikes, blades, and black leather.

Therein lies the main obstacle of rehashing Mad Max for the modern audience. How do you take an archetypal character, setting, and imagery, and tell something new and unique?

Um, You don’t.

This movie didn’t need to be made.

Alas, but it was, and there are some strong points. For starters, a majority of the movie takes place in moving, skirmishing vehicles — and it works well. Whereas most action movies take a vehicle chase or road battle and compress it to a high-octane sequence, this film stretches the adrenaline across an entire movie, with excellent scene pacing, and fresh, creative battles that engage the viewer without overkill or repetitiveness.

Charlize Theron is another plus. Entirely outstanding. She plays the jagged female heroine with grit and realism; well, as real as a prosthetic claw-handed warrior woman imperator good-gal in disguise who risks it all and throws the apocalyptic order out of balance by fleeing with the sultry slave wives of the chief villain — deep breath — can be.

Speaking of the chief villain, he was one nasty cookie: creepy, original, and a well-crafted contrast to the protagonists. Frightening in appearance, a sort of pallid mixture of heavy metal and necromancy, the villain’s overall ghoulish look is complimented by a wicked oxygen mask and opaque, cloudy armor, complete with chest medals. He could be wearing Darth Vader’s trailer-park cousin’s medical survival armor, but we’re not sure.

Slight issue though, I would have liked to have seen more of this villain and his distasteful, cultish kingdom.

As for Mad Max in the flesh, nothing amazing to report. Tom Hardy, as an actor, is a liquid hallucinogen infused into the boyishly rugged, mortal avatar of the god of passion. Anyone who could straight rock the role of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and also transmorph into a devilishly sophisticated reinvention of Bane, is a rare, skilled actor, indeed.

But he added zero to the Mad Max character. He did a nice job, but lacked the enduring spirit and internal isolation & rage of a younger, not-openly racist Mel Gibson.

The haunted nature of this character was over-aggressively portrayed at the start of the movie, and then fizzled and dissipated as the story unfolded. Some consistency and further development in this area could have helped seal a stronger mark on this particular Max interpretation.

Finally, the barren appearance of the dystopian world, the modified vehicles, and the extreme action levels were all well-designed and executed, vividly appealing, and befitting the Road Warrior world.

I would have preferred for Mad Max to be left within his ground-breaking original trilogy. I think the story here could have been neatly contained in its own vehicle (pun intended), without the iconic Mad Max’s involvement. But a creative, non-stop battle chase setting; Charlize Theron and her claw; and a villain who could pass as a geriatric, overweight & diseased version of [DC comics’] Lobo make this film worth the viewing.

…Also, whoever thought of the eyeless, electric guitar man in Santa-Claus long johns — and then thought to bungee cord him to a driving sound stage and give him a flame-spewing guitar — well, sir or madam, you just plain rock.

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