Typically, a summer flick doesn't transcend its stereotypes. It's even less often that a film that revives a thirty year old franchise is better than mediocre. More importantly, a film that rips apart every Hollywood trope--things execs hold dear in film making--shouldn't exist in mainstream media in the first place.
Yet, here we have Mad Max: Fury Road. It's not a reboot of the iconic 80s Mad Max franchise but rather an addition to it, despite the murky timeline and change in actor. It's not a testosterone laden "dude flick" in which every character is a white male. In fact, the titular character, Max Rockatansky, sits shotgun next to Imperator Furiosa, often literally. This film not only strays from the traits of most summer blockbusters but also strays from every single thing people thought it would be. In a franchise founded on a post-apocalyptic wasteland, fast cars, and male leads, a film full of strong females and a vague sense of hope doesn't seem to fit. But it does. Perfectly.
Additionally, for being a two-hour long high speed chase, Fury Road does a remarkable job of building the characters. The 80s legend Mad Max was eliminated within minutes of the film, but that's okay -- he's replaced by an authentic, heartbreaking character. This version of Max comes with hallucinations and flashbacks, painting a more human picture of Max and making it easier to understand his turbulent emotions. Viewers don't have to be wasteland wanderers to relate to this character; they can easily sympathize because they see his pain. And, even though every major character in this movie is vastly different, they're all pursuing a common ideal: redemption. Furiosa, the women who fled the Citadel with her, and Nux--the War Boy--are raw, gritty, and real as they chase this dream. The female characters in this movie don't even fit their usual "damsel in distress" trope, which is a refreshing change from the usual action films.
Despite all of the ways Fury Road sets itself apart from Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the film gives ode to its predecessors by ensuring that elements from those films are present throughout. Creating a sequel thirty years after the previous movie is a dangerous game, and George Miller, writer and director, played it well. The leg brace Max created for himself after being shot in the knee in Mad Max? Present. A music box like the one he gave to the Feral Kid in The Road Warrior? Spotted. The Interceptor makes a brief appearance before being wrecked and then taken in by the Citadel -- another radical move made by Miller. This isn't a different Max; this is just Mad Max on even more octane.
Mad Max: Fury Road isn't for everyone. It's violent, bloody, and chaotic. On the other hand, it's poignant, mind-blowing, and even beautiful. It takes everything Mad Max was in the 80s and amps it up a few notches. This film is a masterpiece in the action genre, and it's certainly the best film I'll see all year. Plus, any movie that includes a flame throwing guitar player is just plain awesome.