Andy Burns On…the Mad Max Legacy

Was it not the great Tom Petty who once said that “the waiting is the hardest part?”

Of course it was. I think most, if not all of us are familiar with that sage piece of wisdom from one of Gainsville, Florida’s favourite sons. So imagine then, if you will, waiting for a brand new Mad Max film.

Imagine waiting thirty damn years.

That’s the wait fans had between Mad Max: Beyond Thuderdome and Mad Max: Fury Road – thirty long, arduous years. Thirty years of rumours, false starts, and dashed hopes.

For die-hard fans, the waiting truly must have been the hardest part.

I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard, though, even if the world George Miller created and that Mel Gibson embodied has been with me since I was just a little kid. And when I say little, I’m talking about five or six years old.

Here in Canada, back in the early 80s, we didn’t have HBO. Our movie network of choice was called First Choice (which would eventually rebrand to The Movie Network of all things). Every weekend, I would go to visit my dad, stepmom and sister. Inevitably, I would cuddle into bed with Dad and Step-Mom and we would watch movies, until the two of them would fall asleep.

Not this kid.

I’d stay up and watch movies I probably shouldn’t have been seeing. Typically they were of the horror sort – I vividly recall watching Frank Langella’s Dracula, with the fairly ridiculous ending. I also remember watching the original Mad Max.

I swear I remember the American voices. The bikes. The violence. The brutal killing of Max’s wife and child.

imageYes, I was young. I don’t think this stuff “disturbed” me, though. I knew it wasn’t real. That it was make believe. That it was action.

My memories of The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome are less specfic. I know I watched the former when I was younger, but it wasn’t until my early adolescene that I watched the latter. I did read about the filming of it via Starlog magazine (come on, what geek today didn’t have a few Starlogs growing up?) , and I wasn’t sold on it. I just hated the idea of Max, the eternal loner, saving a bunch of kids. Even though I was a kid myself, I thought the concept was just super silly. When I caught up to the film years later, I don’t think I was too far off. In fact, I’ve really only watched it once, which I can’t say about either Mad Max or The Road Warrior.

imageWhich brings us to now, and the release of Mad Max: Fury Road. We have a new Max with Tom Hardy, a heroine with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. New bad guys and new ways to make cars explode.

Many people waited many years to see this film, considering it was in development all the way back to the early 2000s, with Mel Gibson originally set to reprise the role. While it would have certainly been cool to see Mel back on the big screen again kicking ass, Tom Hardy does well as Max. To be honest, I don’t think there’s a hell of a lot to it. He hardly has any lines, just a few here and there. It’s more in the eyes and the body language that Hardy conveys emotion (usually anger in this one). It’s a good thing too, as there were a few moments when Max spoke that I thought he sounded a little too much like Bane.

The film, in most ways, is Charlize Theron’s. This is nothing new in the franchise, if you think about it. The Road Warrior wasn’t Max’s story, it was the story of the people he helped. Same thing with Beyond Thunderdome (damn kids). Here it’s Furiosa and Max working to save wives of Immortan Joefrom constant procreation and slavery. It’s a strange sort of post-apocalyptic buddy film, and Max and Furiosa are a fantastic pairing.

At the end of the day, was Mad Max: Fury Road worth the wait? Oh yes, simply for the incredible action that George Miller puts on the screen. Practical effects, real car chases – it’s a feast for the eyes, and you’ve got to see it on a big screen to appreciate it all. Please, don’t wait to watch it on your phone or tablet. This is epic action filmmaking made for maximum effect. Trust me on this now.

Now, we wait for the next Mad Max film. That’s going to be that hardest part.

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