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You need to watch the most brilliant sci-fi movie on HBO Max before it leaves this week

“As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken.”

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Hollywood is addicted to nostalgia.

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Remakes, reboots, and way-too-late sequels have been the norm for decades. So when a big director announces a return to their biggest franchise after 30 years, it makes sense to be skeptical.

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Especially when that director’s recent work looks so different from the series they’re reviving.

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George Miller first had the idea for Mad Max: Fury Road in 1987, just two years after the release of Beyond Thunderdome. It took more than a decade to tighten that idea into a story before shooting finally began in 2001.

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The September 11 attacks disrupted shooting plans, and production was moved to 2003, where it was again interrupted by the Iraq War.

Again and again, circumstance pushed Fury Road filming back until 2012. With such a troubled history, it would have been easy to dismiss the Mad Max sequel as a lost cause.

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But just three years later, Mad Max: Fury Road premiered to rave reviews, winning six Oscars and becoming one of the most universally beloved sci-fi movies of the past decade.

As surprising as it is that Fury Road’s tortured development led to a masterpiece, it’s just as shocking that what’s essentially a two-hour car chase made such an impact.

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Warner Bros.

You could easily view Fury Road as pure spectacle.

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The movie is shot through with vibrant, unnatural colors, dotted with explosions, and packed with over-the-top stunts.

A shocking number of the movie’s death-defying stunts were done practically, with stunt performers pulling off seemingly impossible feats of acrobatics in harrowing conditions.

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Warner Bros.

Fury Road is so good at that surface-level spectacle that it would at least be a fun distraction if that’s all the movie was.

Fortunately, there’s a lot more going on in Fury Road than sick stunts.

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Because so much of Fury Road’s worldbuilding happens wordlessly, it’s easy to overlook if you’re not paying attention. Everything from Max’s forced tattoo to the movie’s iconic vehicles paints a picture of this world’s priorities.

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Warner Bros.

Survival is a constant battle, other people are seen as obstacles or resources, and the people (invariably men) at the top care for nothing but their own power and legacy.

In the Citadel run by the movie’s villain Immortan Joe, people’s bodies are used as factories producing babies to keep the city populated, blood for transfusions, and violence to crush Joe’s enemies.

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All this is reflected even in what seem like brainless action scenes. Immortan Joe’s warriors sacrifice themselves and each other without a second thought while men fight over women as if they were property.

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Warner Bros.

But for all its grimness, Fury Road is ultimately a movie about hope in a hopeless situation.

Suffering and death are everywhere, but by banding together and learning to trust each other, the movie’s heroes find something worth living for.

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Fury Road’s version of hope isn’t the utopian wish for peace. It’s the hope of downtrodden people to overthrow their oppressors and take back their humanity — a far more empowering message in the end.

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Mad Max: Fury Road is streaming on HBO Max until April 8, 2022.

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