After 30 years, original writer/director George Miller reboots his MAD MAX franchise without taking the easy ‘origin story’ fallback option. Instead, diving straight into a new chapter and instantly erasing any lingering disappointment with THUNDERDOME/’85, the unhappy third chapter. And it’s really something to watch Miller @ 70, still able to organize some of the cleanest, most viscerally exciting & readable extended action sequences around. There’s just too much of them. Trapped by marketplace demands and the lure of unlimited CGI possibilities, Miller hits kinetic overload, pleasing the FanBoy gamer base clutching their replay buttons, but losing much sense of consequence. What’s really at stake when it’s so easy to pop back from deadly injury? (That goes for the ‘muscle’ vehicles as well as the muscle men.) And then, the final action fillip isn’t even good CGI. A shame, since the simple story is neatly embellished as a gaggle of runaway brides in the expected post-apocalyptic world try to drive their way to reach a rumored Green Zone with help from a couple of goonish bad guys who quickly turn downright sentimental along the dangerous journey. Now and then, the film pulls back for a stunning vista that might have come out of one of those early Chuck Jones’ animated CinemaScope ROAD RUNNER shorts, but too much of this Brave New World is less than convincing everything-but-the-kitchen-sink art design wedded/welded to primitive custom & fanciful industrial gadgetry. It’s still something to see, if you don’t mind the flat acting presence of hard-headed, thick-lipped Tom Hardy. The rare actor who loses personality when the face mask comes off.
DOUBLE-BILL: MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR/’81, with its classic truck battle sequence, the unquestioned champ in the series, plays perfectly well on its own.