It turns out we do need another hero, and it comes in the guise of George Miller. The 70-year-old Australian director’s absence from the action genre since the proliferation of computer graphics is entirely what helps make his comeback, Mad Max: Fury Road, so deliciously entertaining. There hasn’t been a film in this franchise for 30 years, and that entry, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, was a compromised production on which Miller only co-directed, but if the man’s list of credits since then reads more like the family catalog of sublime inflight entertainment, let it be said that he never really gave up the ghost of darkness that swallows the characters in his latest film. Both Babe: Pig in the City and the two Happy Feet films were full of cruelty and sadness and issues that one doesn’t often associate with modern day ‘kids flicks’.
Nevertheless, Miller has come roaring back with the fourth entry in the franchise that he birthed in 1979 and Fury Road is the biggest one yet. Rather surprisingly handed a ginormous budget (these films were never particularly huge box office hits in America), Miller does what so few blockbuster filmmakers seem incapable of doing and actually letting audiences see the money. Despite being set in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland (Namibia standing in for Australia after heavy rainfalls made the outback look too green!), every frame feels rich and decadent, full of imagination-stretching images that feel tangible. Miller’s insistence on practical stunt-work, effects, and sets where possible is plain to see as each rough-and-ready action scene full of hurtling, exploding, revved-up automobiles smash and crash into one another at breakneck speed and they were really tumbling around axis-over-hood in the desert sand. He allows the camera to follow the action in a way that only James Cameron can truly rival. The editing is similarly strong, with the action sequences, each more outlandishly devilish as the last, finding a riveting rhythm amidst the mayhem that makes the destruction easy to comprehend and follow.