Quick: when you're trying to forge a new civilization from the ashes of the apocalypse, what's the most important element for making sure it endures? That's right: babies. And in a world where the test tubes have all been smashed, if you want babies, you need women: their wombs, their breasts, their tender regard for life at its most fragile stage. ("Who killed the world?" ask the women of Mad Max: Fury Road, and it's a manifestly rhetorical question. Answer: men.) The trouble is that, as resources go, women can be tough to manage. Sometimes, they get ideas of their own and light out for a better place. And sometimes, they get a little help along the way from a handsome stranger with a tragic past. Director George Miller can't help but indulge himself during his long-delayed return to the franchise that made him, and he might have done well to make the dialogue a touch clearer against all those roaring engines. But he also delivers the kind of grueling, motorized action that leaves you dazed, drained, and maybe dazzled, relieved only occasionally by bleak verbal assessments of the situation. It's a pitiless, primitive, primal world he's built — from its medicine to its religion to its tribal diplomacy — and it's wondrous to behold. With Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron. (2015) — Matthew Lickona
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