‘Mad Max’ conquering Cannes

Tom Hardy is shown in a scene from "Mad Max: Fury Road." (Photo credit: Warner Bros.)

Tom Hardy is shown in a scene from “Mad Max: Fury Road.” (Photo credit: Warner Bros.)

By Steven Zeitchik
Los Angeles Times

It took 30 years for “Mad Max” to return, but now that he’s coming back, he’s doing it in style.

“Mad Max: Fury Road,” George Miller’s franchise follow-up to 1985’s “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” will make its world premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, organizers said last week. The movie will play out of competition on May 14, just a day ahead of its release in the U.S. and other territories.

Miller’s new film — he has directed all four “Mad Max” movies — revisits the post-apocalyptic world that began with a 1979 cult classic and blossomed into a global franchise. This time around, Tom Hardy stars in the lead role of Mad Max Rockatansky, with Charlize Theron playing a woman on a quest opposite the loner hero.

The Cannes premiere will bring to a high-profile end a long journey for Miller and studio Warner Bros. that began with several development attempts in the 2000s, the eventual casting of Hardy in lieu of Mel Gibson and a production that both moved to Namibia and proved to be unexpectedly elaborate.

In addition to what it means for both Hardy’s career and Warner’s summer box office, the new movie will offer a rare chance for fans to gauge a genre’s sustainability and under a bright Cannes glare. Miller’s first three films helped set the tone for a modern mode of filmmaking, both influencing how action movies are shot and cut while also providing a template for a now-common post-apocalyptic genre. “Fury Road” will yield a glimpse into how that same director takes on that story in a very different cinematic world.

Miller had shown brief footage at the recent South by Southwest film festival, which was well-received, as he himself grappled with how much has changed.

“I have to say I felt a lot of emotions, memories,” he said at the presentation, which also included a full screening of the second “Max” film, “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.” “And then comparing it in my head, kind of twisted in knots comparing it to what we’ve just done on ‘Fury Road’ and seeing that it’s so similar and so different at the same time. You’re watching a very kind of bewildered man right now.”

“Fury Road’s” Cannes appearance marks the latest signpost for an odyssey that began with the 1979 “Mad Max” film, an independent Australian production so marginal to the world film scene that it famously had its dialogue redubbed for a U.S. audience. The new movie also carries high hopes for WB, which is looking for franchises outside its DC Comics line and hopes this can kick off a new line of tent poles. Though the world’s preeminent venue for auteurs and prestige cinema, Cannes also will lean in a more commercial direction at times, offering a showcase to, and helping studios launch the campaign for, movies such as “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

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