As anybody that has been following this over the couple of months knows, I am slowly….okay *very* slowly….making my way through reviewing this summer’s tent pole movies. Most of these I’m doing long after seeing them on the big screen, so you’ll have to forgive in most instances if I flub a detail or two in my recount.

I would like to think that won’t be an issue today, though.

The reason? Far and away my favorite movie of the summer was one that had no business being anywhere near as enjoyable as it was, but managed to reboot a 30 year franchise, w/ the same octogenarian writer/director at the helm no less, and turn it into a beautiful, gonzo, exhilarating, bat-#*@& crazy, two-hour adrenaline ride that ebbs and flows the way a movie of its ilk should.

Oh…and did I mention it has, for my money, the two best working actors alive today at the helm? (Im obviously not counting Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis, who at this point are in the victory lap portion of their careers)

I admit I am somewhat dating myself here by confessing that I’ve never actually seen the original Mad Max Films. I wasn’t alive for the first two, was barely walking for the third, and beyond maybe a few snippets of Thunderdome have never really felt the strong desire to head down that path. (To be fair…only in the last five years did I get to the Indiana Jones movies, and Ive still never seen Star Wars.)

That being said, I came in w/ no real preconceived notions. I had a pretty good idea of what Max Rockatansky as a character was meant to represent, basically the personification of the terms survival and revenge. He doesn’t say a lot, seems to more stumble into situations than create them, and leaves abruptly once they are over.

In that regard, they could not have picked a better actor than Tom Hardy, nor a better way to conclude the film. Seeming to fear that such a character might not connect w/ a modern audience the way it did in the early 80’s, George Miller (the patriarch of the Max Universe) opted this time to bring in Charlize Theron, allowing her Imperator Furiosa to chew up huge amounts of screen time w/ her grease painted, head shaven, one-armed, post-apocalyptic overseer of a group of young women fleeing an oppressive dictator.

If not for the title of the movie, one might actually believe that Furiosa is the main character, such is the imbalance throughout. Theron plays the role with guilt and emotion to spare, the driving force behind the entire plot, both literally and figuratively. Hardy is more along for the ride, ceding the reigns, delivering most of his lines through a system of grunts that would make even Vin Diesel proud.

While the interplay between these two characters provide the backbone of the film, there is plenty of everything else going on around them to establish this firmly in both the post-apocalyptic and the actions movie canons. As a whole the tale is essentially one long chase scene, w/ bullets and explosions to make even the toughest 17 year old critics happy. As this is a futuristic world, it seems to borrow heavily from other films that live somewhere between real-life and graphic novel, including many of the character depictions, choices of attire, etc.

Taken as a whole, this is a movie that works….w/ an asterisk. As I told my folks when they asked if they should rent it on-demand one evening: “Unequivocally yes, just remember that it is a Mad Max and it is a little out there.”

Is it the sort of movie a family will sit down to watch together on a Tuesday night in November? No. Definitely not.

Is it some of the best summer popcorn fare to be found for the price of a ticket? Absolutely.

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