Mad Max: Fury Road has an eclectic collection of keywords listed on its main IMDb page like: “desert,” “feminism,” “pregnant woman,” “exploding car,” “peak oil,” and “dark future.” Oddly enough, they’re all fairly accurate. The film, marking the fourth installment in George Miller’s “Mad Max” series (and the first without Mel Gibson), follows Max (now played by Tom Hardy, “Locke”), prisoner and blood bag for the sick War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult, “Jack The Giant Slayer”), a soldier for the cult that has taken reign since society’s post-apocalyptic collapse. When Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, “Prometheus”) kidnaps King Immortan Joe’s (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who interestingly was the main antagonist, Toecutter, in the original “Mad Max”) Five Wives — women he’d selected specifically for breeding (of which Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is one) — Nux, and consequently Max, must ride into battle to stop her from making it across the desert into her homeland, a place in which order can be restored.
Ultimately, this is one of those movies that are fun to describe, but hard to write about. Mad Max: Fury Road is essential in-the-moment entertainment. Nothing sticks after having an hour or two to cool off, but George Miller’s direction makes the desolate drives fun to unravel. His world-building is pretty attentive — from the over-exaggerated vehicles and costumes to its dialects and all the sand in-between — and Furiosa is engaging enough, if only because she has a robotic arm and is played by Charlize Theron. There are apparently a lot of people pissed off because Furiosa gets to play the hero role. Max himself is pretty useless for a lot of the action (being that he’s strapped to the front of his leech’s car). That doesn’t bother me. Tom Hardy’s “man of few words, many actions” archetype isn’t very interesting and the screenwriters — Miller, alongside Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris — do an awful job pumping him full of pseudo-depth using cliché flashbacks alluding to the death of his wife and kid.
War Boy Nux, however, is one part of Mad Max: Fury Road that survives the illusion of cool; he’s also, ironically, one of the few characters who wasn’t made to be explicitly badass. There are some genuine conceits with him, like the theme of cultural brainwashing that comes up when he realizes that King Immortan Joe might be playing his kingdom for fools. Hoult treats Nux’s instability with both fireworks and humility, which is why his character can resonate over Max and Furiosa’s one-note performances. Miller, who has perfected the art of visual eye candy — doing so once again here — doesn’t realize it takes more than a shot of the lead heroine crying and some PTSD suffering from the other to tell a genuine story. Unfortunately there will always be fans who, much like Nux, will swarm to defend a franchise that has swerved right into “Transformers” territory to tell me how wrong I am.