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Sydney Morning Herald

Seamlessly taking over the role. Tom Hardy in Mad Max Fury Road.

Mad Max: Fury Road: Here's what you need to know?

Sydney Morning Herald

May 14, 2015

Garry Maddox

It's been 36 years since the first Mad Max movie, but very little has changed.

Thinking about seeing Mad Max: Fury Road but wondering whether it's a movie for you?

That will be a popular question as director George Miller's fourth instalment in the action movie series opens around the world. Given that it is 30 years since Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, filmgoers will be wondering, do they need to be familiar with the other Mad Max movies? And if they've caught some of the footage, who are those wild looking characters with strange names like Imperator Furiosa and Immortan Joe?

The first thing you need to know – don't worry, no spoilers – is ........
You don't need to have seen the previous instalments:

Sometimes you watch a sequel and spend the first half of the movie wondering "should I know who that is?" and "how do those two know each other?" But Mad Max: Fury Road is entirely self-contained, with everything you need to know explained in first five minutes.

No doubt the movie will spark renewed interest in Miller's first three instalments – the raw Mad Max (1979), the classic Mad Max 2 (1981) and the inventive-but-not-quite-as-good Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome​ (1985).

The landmark action series turned Mel Gibson into a star and sparked a hundred copycats across popular culture – none more obvious than Kevin Costner's​ Waterworld.

However there are subtle references to previous instalments:

Although mostly shot in Namibia, it has Australian energy.
Although mostly shot in Namibia, it has Australian energy.
Fans of the first three Mad Max movies will enjoy seeing Max wearing his iconic leather jacket, a moment featuring a hurdy-gurdy and the kill switches in the War Rig. But Max doesn't have a dog this time round, although Miller promises there is one in a planned sequel.

It is neither a prequel nor a sequel:M

Don't worry about where the movie sits in the Mad Max chronology. Miller quietly suggests it might take place between Mad Max 2 and Beyond Thunderdome​ but it doesn't matter. "It's revisiting the world," he says.

The story takes place in a brilliantly conceived world, even if you don't understand it on first viewing:

Miller has created a new dark age with a logic behind every element on the screen. "All the worst-case scenarios we see in the news come to pass all at once," he says. "Economic collapse, power-grid collapse, oil wars, water wars and things we just didn't see coming. There's wholesale organ failure of all the things that glue us together.

"You jump 45 years into the future. All the coastal cities so far as we know have been razed. Great gangs have marauded​ like locusts across the land. In the centre of a continent like Australia, there's a new dominance hierarchy, where all the resources are controlled."

No Mel Gibson or his dog from the original Mad Max.

Immortan​ Joe controls artesian water from his citadel and trades with other warlords who run Gas Town, which has the fuel, and the Bullet Farm, which has the weapons. With computer systems wiped out, the wasteland is filled with whatever can be cobbled together from a more robust technological era.

So the social structure, characters, vehicles, costumes, weapons and even the dialogue and the gestures are all "found objects" that have been recycled by survivors.

Miller says his team had two rules in creating the world. "Just because it's after the apocalypse, it doesn't mean people can't​ make beautiful things," he says. "And just because it's the wasteland, it doesn't mean people lose their sense of humour."

You don't need to be an action movie fan:

If the last movie you watched was Fast & Furious 7 and you're hanging out for the eighth, you won't be disappointed by Fury Road. It has large-scale spectacle, wild stunts and a dazzlingly original vision for a post-apocalyptic world. But Miller has been smart enough to redefine the action movie by bringing in a female warrior, Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa​, who shares the screen with Tom Hardy's Max Rockatansky.

​The plot in a line: Furiosa​ drives a truck known as the War Rig across the desert, pursued by marauding warriors, to help the five young wives of a warlord named Immortan​ Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) escape, teaming up with Max along the way.

Tom Hardy is a credible Max:

He is still one of those actors that many people half recognise. He was British agent Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the masked Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, conman Eames in Inception and troubled Welsh driver Ivan Locke in Locke. He has taken over from Gibson seamlessly, though Miller had planned to cast Heath Ledger until his tragic death.

Those wild stunts were real:

Miller and producer Doug Mitchell take pride in getting through a gruelling shoot over 135 days – featuring 300 stunts – with no-one seriously injured, let alone killed.

They went "old school", doing it on set rather than creating stunts, vehicles and explosions with computer graphics. It works.

Max's iconic car is in it:

In the opening scene, Max drives an updated version of his famous supercharged Interceptor, called the Razor Cola. Like every other vehicle in the movie, it has been battered, "weaponised" and decorated for war.

But Mel Gibson isn't:

There were rumours of a cameo for Gibson after Miller cast Hardy but they are not true. Miller thought it would jar to have him bob up.

It's very much an Australian film:

While it is backed by Hollywood studio Warner Bros and was mostly shot in Namibia, Fury Road benefited substantially from Australia's filmmaking incentives. And it has a raw, rambunctious energy and an originality that is entirely Miller's.

What a year it is for Australian directors with action movies. First, James Wan triumphed with Fast & Furious 7; now Miller looks like doing the same with a very different breed of vehicles in Mad Max: Fury Road.

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