Story highlights

Tom Hardy stars in the role originated by Mel Gibson

Critics applaud the film as more than just another summer blockbuster

CNN  — 

Hollywood’s appetite for sequels and reboots shows no sign of weakening, but “Mad Max: Fury Road” is one instance in which that’s a very good thing, critics agree.

The film, opening today, is a return to the violent post-apocalyptic Australian Outback first seen in writer-director George Miller’s 1979 “Mad Max.” Tom Hardy plays the titular role originated by a young Mel Gibson, and Charlize Theron is a mysterious woman on a mission. It’s being boycotted by men’s-rights activists, but here’s what the critics have to say:

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “While the extended action sequences are dazzling, the film succeeds mostly due to the powerful performances of Hardy and Theron. The best female action hero since Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Theron is riveting as the clever and determined, shaved-headed Furiosa. She lends the role a fascinating blend of toughness, tenderness and gravitas as we learn her tragic back story in the film’s final third. … Sometimes the vehicular crashes and over-the-top pandemonium grow a bit numbing, though Miller finds a way to make even the carnage inventive.”

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: ” ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ isn’t a reboot, it’s a power-up – an outrageously kinetic, visually inventive, dramatically satisfying demolition derby that pits the matriarchy against the patriarchy while standing as the action film to beat for the rest of the summer, possibly the decade. It may be the best thing Miller has ever done. … It’s enough to renew your faith in movies.”

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: “The new film certainly boasts a higher percentage of flat-out amazing action than any of its predecessors, and that’s probably enough said for most of its potential audience. Perhaps the long gestation period served it well. While very similar to its predecessors in almost every way, the film has devilishness in its details. … And then there’s the new leading actor, Tom Hardy, who’s so ideal a replacement for Mel Gibson that one wouldn’t want to imagine anyone else having taken over the role.”

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: “When you get past Miller’s orgy of loco action sequences – and they’re so good, you may not need to – the story is pretty thin. … What made the first Mad Max such a future-shock classic wasn’t just its jittery, overcranked action served up with a sick smile, but also its metaphorical depth. The new film is, I’m sorry to say, just another summer action film (albeit a gorgeously shot one). In the end, Mad Max’s road may be furious, but it doesn’t really lead anywhere.”

A.O. Scott, The New York Times: “It’s all great fun, and quite rousing as well – a large-scale genre movie that is at once unpretentious and unafraid to bring home a message. Way back in the ‘Thunderdome’ days, Tina Turner sang, ‘We don’t need another hero.’ That’s more true than ever, especially during summer movie season. And ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ like its namesake both humble and indomitable, isn’t about heroism in the conventional, superpowered sense. It’s about revolution.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “The long-incubating Mad Max: Fury Road is an R-rated, rocket-fueled romper-stomper, a nonstop chase epic powered by a reported $150 million budget and Miller’s indisputable visionary genius. One look at Max, and the kiddie fans of Happy Feet would be traumatized for life. Does this ride down Fury Road always make sense? Not really. So what? Just go with it.”