(l-r) Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road. (Jasin Boland / Warner Bros. Pictures)
Audiences nationwide now get to return to the world of the Mad Max franchise.
George Miller, director of the original films starring Mel Gibson, returns to breathe new fire into his post-apocalyptic tale while keeping it familiar.
To Miller his coming back is, “…Like visiting an old hotel. Everything had changed in 30 years. Cinema had changed and the technology had changed so it’s an opportunity to blend all that together.”
In Mad Max: Fury Road, we meet up with Max (now played by Tom Hardy) as he is captured to become the living blood bag of a Warboy (Nicholas Hoult) who chases a glorified death when a female road warrior Furiosa (Charlize Theron) steals the slave wives of the citadel’s tyrant Immortan Joe.
And of course, all hell breaks loose and armies are sent to retrieve his possessions. What isn’t counted on, however, is Furiosa being able to outrun them and the chance of fate of her meeting Max and forging an unlikely alliance out of survival – two road warriors taking on an entire car fleet of warboys and bounty hunters.
It’s a story that isn’t just another male driven action film and actress Charlize Theron says it boils down to the great opportunity Miller created for gender equality in film.
“I’ve never gotten to make a movie surrounded by women and that was like a breath of fresh air for me and I knew instantly from understanding the project that George has an innate understanding of women and what women represent in society and he wanted that to reflect in a post apocalyptic world in the most truthful way possible,” says Theron during a press conference in Los Angeles.
Casting Theron as the one armed, kick-ass driver, only added to her work in roles that defy stereotypes. Young actress Zoe Kravitz, who plays one of the wives, shared that working with her was inspiring.
“Having her there we wanted to all really, really bring it,” says Kravitz. “Just even out of respect toward what she was doing.”
Both Furiosa and Max stand next to each other with a compelling dynamic. They literally try to kill each other when they meet as Max just wants to get free and continue being the lone road warrior until he’s persuaded otherwise. Hardy reinterprets the cult hero with rough intensity.
“Tom’s such an interesting human being,” says actress Abbey Lee, who plays The Dag. “He’s a fascinating person to be around. He keeps things exciting cause you never really know what you’re gonna get. He doesn’t really give a lot away but just to watch him go through the motions of getting to find his character, he puts himself in it entirely.”
In a different take than Gibson’s, this Mad Max is distinctly Hardy whose body of work has boasted beasts of character such as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and Bronson in Bronson. But even the actor felt a little intimidated.
“I think that initially I was daunted,” says Hardy. “Mad Max is synonymous with Mel Gibson–a much loved character by many people. I was excited to get the job but the seesaw effect was that everybody loves Mel as Max and nobody’s gonna want me. So it’s like being the new boy at school.”
He adds, “Having said that, there was no real pressure to fill anybody’s shoes or sort of be the new Mad Max, that I was inheriting a legacy and I had been chosen by George to translate his vision and character, he’d asked me to come along and portray his max. So really it was a question of just doing what was asked of me. I tried to understand and fully transmute George’s vision which is epic.”
To Miller this new Mad Max flick is all about characters and story in the midst of heavily action packed chases. He took a trope and turned it on its head.
“Instead of the MacGuffin being as usual a thing, that it should be human cargo: five wives breeding for an heir for a warlord. That started the architecture of the movie and the rest followed organically from that. It couldn’t be a male stealing the women, it had to be a female road warrior. The story unfolds as you know, often you don’t even consciously do this,” says Miller.
The other female characters who start off as the wives develop in surprising ways that defy the damsel notion and Miller’s motivations speak to a changing culture.
“We are seeing in the world in many places that women are emerging in a way that’s a unifying healing force in the world and that kinda crept into the movie,” says Miller. “I just wanted to create characters.”
Theron reflects, “We had a filmmaker understand the truth of women are powerful enough and that we don’t want to be put on pedestals or be super unnaturally strong and capable of things we arent capable of doing but what we are capable of doing is really interesting and really informs a story like this.”
Mad Max: Fury Road is not only a new chapter in the Mad Max legacy but also one that adapts to the world in film audiences want to see. Every character in the movie takes part in the action, the violence and vengeance without relegating its female characters to background.
While marketed as a Mad Max film, it’s distinctly about Mad Max teaming up with this dangerously revolutionary woman embodied by Theron.
When asked if there should be more films like this, Theron jumps in, “Hell yeah!”
She adds, “It’s really strange to me when these movies come on screen and we all respond to them really positively and they get a reaction and it’s like why is that not enough of a reason to keep exploring that?”
Mad Max: Fury Road is now playing in theaters.