It seems to me that Hollywood–and entertainment in general–can’t come up with anything new.
Sequels. Prequels. Spin-offs. Reboots.
The so-called “summer blockbusters” are nothing more than tasteless CGI pastries injected with a gooey filling made of bantering superheroes, giant robots, zombie fighters, and sparkly vampires, all which we viewers scarf down while speeding past fiery explosions on our way to a happy ending. Every actor and action, from the abdominal beauty of the Spartan 300 to the hypnotically-slo-mo destruction of iconic American landmarks, is retouched and enhanced into a stylized pabulum for our plebeian appetites. There is no grit. There is no ambiguity. All is good and bad, beautiful and evil, plucky survivors and defeated foes.
Then, along comes Max.
In Mad Max, the 1979 low-budget breakout film, writer/director George Miller introduced the world to two things: Australia, and his ultimate dystopian anti-hero, Max. Most Americans didn’t see Mad Max until the ’80s (after the release of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior), and when we did, all we got was a terrible, fuzzy VHS transfer with the original actors’ voices dubbed over because we Americans are too stupid to understand the Australian accent. This was later rectified with DVD release, but the original crime went unpunished.
That aside, George Miller’s Mad Max and its sequels were quite unlike the standard summer blockbuster fare. They were, in fact, just like their protagonist: gritty, unapologetic, pragmatic, ambiguous, discomfiting, and very, very violent. Unfortunately, they were also a little like Australia at the time: rough around the edges, not quite professional, uneven in tone, and not a little over-the-top.
You’d think we already had enough reboots out there–Batman, Star Trek, Spiderman, Batman (again), Superman, Planet of the Apes, Batman (yet again; how many times are we going to reboot that franchise?), and TMNT–but I think there is room for one more, because it is precisely Mad Max’s mixture of unadulterated kickassery and middling quality that makes Max the premiere candidate for a serious reboot.
And that’s what we’re gonna get.
After a decade of work, a handful of false starts, and a great deal of rewrite, George Miller returns in 2015 with a renewed, reinvigorated Max. The new movie, Mad Max: Fury Road is, in Miller’s own words, more of a reboot than a sequel, a reinterpretation of his original.
From the visuals in the trailer released at ComicCon, Miller’s style and eye for tableaux has matured, and yet he has applied this intensely visual storytelling style to what is purported to be a 110-minute car chase punctuated by the occasional line of dialogue delivered amid blooming marigolds of fire. The selection of Tom Hardy as Max is perfect, in my opinion, and though he won’t say much, at least in this film we’ll be able to see his face (unlike his straitjacketed performance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises). Also cast is Charlize Theron, whose queenly stature and undeniable strength (even without the robot arm) counterbalances Max’s earthbound characteristics.
Fine by me.
Don’t gild the lily.