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Mad Max Without Mad Max

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Photo: The new film still remains the main global cinematic premiere of May. Source: Warner Bros.
Photo: The new film still remains the main global cinematic premiere of May. Source: Warner Bros.

Just a week after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 23, the main cinematic event of the month, "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga," will be released worldwide. The Gaze reveals what to expect from the fifth installment of the Mad Max franchise.

The first biker action film, "Mad Max" (1979), produced on a modest budget of just 300,000 Australian dollars, became an international sensation, grossing 100 million USD globally and catapulting the then-unknown 23-year-old Australian actor Mel Gibson to Hollywood stardom.

Subsequently, director George Miller, who also joined the ranks of global cinema elites, made two sequels. The sequel titled "The Road Warrior" turned out even better than the original. The thirty-minute biker chase for a fuel tanker across the Australian desert not only solidified the film as a dieselpunk classic but also made it a significant phenomenon in global cinema—even by the standards of 1981, a year that saw the release of such classics as "Chariots of Fire," "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark," "An American Werewolf in London," and "Thief."

The reboot of the story about the road patrol officer Max Rockatansky, nicknamed "Mad," who battles biker gangs in post-apocalyptic Australia, was conceived back in the nineties. However, a series of problems, including economic ones, delayed the premiere for many years. During this time, Mel Gibson aged and lost his reputation, while Heath Ledger, who was to replace him, passed away.

Nevertheless, when "Mad Max: Fury Road" finally hit the screens nine years ago, it turned out that director George Miller had hit the jackpot once again. "Fury Road" became a major event in the cinema world, perfecting the aesthetics of the first three films to an absurd degree, and critics immediately hailed it as the best in the tetralogy. The gangsters on wheels became even more colorful and vibrant, and the film itself was essentially a continuous car chase across the African desert, where the crew spent three years filming. "Fury Road" was shot without CGI technology, using real cars, bikes, and stuntmen, leaving audiences breathless with the vehicle stunts.

Instead of the now-toxic Mel Gibson, the new film starred the young British actor Tom Hardy, and Charlize Theron's character, the Amazonian Furiosa with a biomechanical arm prosthesis, took center stage.

Between the two films about Furiosa's adventures, George Miller directed the urban fantasy "Three Thousand Years of Longing" with Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton in the lead roles. Although it flopped at the box office, it marked a new trajectory for the Mad Max franchise—feminist and pseudo-philosophical. In the new film, there was no place for Max Rockatansky: it is entirely Furiosa's story.

Therefore, the new film is unlikely to have the same stunning impact as "Fury Road." Firstly, because we have already seen the setting of the Wastelands—the post-apocalyptic world where the film's action unfolds—in the previous film. As well as all those fantastical images of the numerous motorcycle gang members. Additionally, we know how Furiosa's story ends, which is a significant dramaturgical flaw: it's hard to empathize with a character when the happy ending is already known.

Finally, George Miller's main mistake in the new film is the reduced action: in "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga," there are only five car chases over more than two hours, but what chases they are! However, there is more dialogue. As we know from "Three Thousand Years of Longing," philosophical dialogues are not the strongest aspect of George Miller's directorial talent, a genius of action films. And while journalists have ironically noted Furiosa actress Anya Taylor-Joy's 30 lines, even that seems excessive.

Although the choice of actress turned out to be a very successful decision. Anya Taylor-Joy may seem too delicate for an Amazon, but her peculiar beauty (which journalists called extraterrestrial) adds credibility to the film's fantastical landscapes.

But despite these obvious spoilers and the fact that "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" is essentially a B-movie exploitation film, the new film still remains the main global cinematic premiere of May. Few can make films the way 79-year-old George Miller can.


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