If there's one thing that epitomises Mad Max: Fury Road it's this: a psychotic, blindfolded character straight out of a metal band, chained to the front of a truck and a wall of amps as it charges through the desert, playing a double neck electric guitar that's also a flamethrower. This film is ridiculous, but it's amazing.
Within the first few minutes we learn everything we need to know about Max himself (Tom Hardy). It's just one example of director George Miller's economic storytelling that sets up the setting and character immediately. Max is a man on the run in the scorching desert of post-apocalyptic Australia, haunted viscerally by the demons of his past and attempting to escape his captors - bizarre religious cult the War Boys led by their leader King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who controls the water supply. That's all the set up you need; knowledge of the previous films is unnecessary.
The remains of the film is one hell of a rollercoaster ride with some of the most intense action sequences you'll see. It's not so much a car chase as a war between armies of vehicles, with a setting like no other - a world of metal, fire, skulls and infinite sand. With its stylised cinematography, sped up action and sweeping zoom shots, this feels like the best comic book film not actually based on a comic book. It would make an awesome video game.
The action is as bombastic as it comes, full of impossible feats of fantasy. Characters scramble from vehicle to vehicle, attack each other violently with flaming weaponry and cause explosions left right and centre. All of that happens in set-pieces of biblical proportions - huge desert vistas, towering canyons and (best of all) a cataclysmic thunderstorm. And that's not to mention the soundtrack, itself a battle between melancholic orchestral strings, screaming electric guitars and the constant roar of engines. How they don't run out of petrol is a miracle in itself.
Forget the title though, this isn't Max's story. He has his moment at the start. The real protagonist is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). In this male dominated world, women are little more than providers, either of "mother's milk" or of children (perfect, male children). The main impetus of the plot is Furiosa aiding the escape of Immortan's five "wives", seeking redemption not only for herself but for womankind. They may all be impossibly beautiful, but they're strong, capable women - Furiosa especially is the spiritual successor to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley from Alien. The future is one of feminist equality, with women (literally) leading the charge. This Mad Max defies its marketing and the expectations of the audience - it's a macho action film, but with women pushed front and centre.
Above all? It's just fucking cool.
Watch: Mad Max: Fury Road is out now.