IN 1979, Mad Max presented a post-nuclear future of vast desert wastelands where motorized anarchist gangs reigned and pillaged. The film was a small-budget project, one of the many that emerged from Australia’s New Wave cinema movement.

Director George Miller never imagined Mad Max and its two sequels (The Road Warrior in 1981 and Beyond Thunderdome in 1985) would blaze a trail for a new kind of action genre set in a post-apocalyptic world. It also rocketed Mel Gibson to international stardom.

After more than three decades, Miller returns with Mad Max: Fury Road, and proves he has not lost his touch.

Fury Road takes the car chase to the extreme. Never has a trip from Point A to Point B and back been crammed with high-octane action that leaves viewers little time to catch their breath.

Miller has kept the look and feel of the old Mad Max films: the desolation, the Fellini-inspired grotesqueness of the characters, the savage fight sequences. What sets Fury Road apart from its predecessors is that everything is on a grander scale.

And this time, Miller, who also wrote the script, puts the female lead on equal footing with the male hero. The macho factor is underplayed here, with Max, played by Tom Hardy, fighting alongside Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is definitely no pushover in combat despite missing part of her arm.

Max and Furiosa join forces against the warlord Immortan Joe, who rules the Citadel, which is very much like the Thunderdome, only more grandiose. Captured by Joe’s bike raiders, Max becomes a human blood bank, supplying the life-giving fluid to one of Joe’s lieutenants.

When Furiosa smuggles out Joe’s five wives in a war rig, Joe leads a war party in pursuit, bringing along Max who is shackled to the hood of one of the battle vehicles like an ornament.

A fierce sandstorm allows Furiosa to momentarily escape her pursuers. Max meanwhile finds himself half-buried in the sand after being thrown out of his rig. He forces Furiosa’s group to snip off his chains and enters into an alliance of convenience with them. He learns that Furiosa is taking the women to the Green Place, where Immortan Joe had snatched her from her family when she was a child.

The ragtag band is soon joined by a clutch of old women bikers, who ride like motocross veterans. They tell Furiosa that Green Place has been wiped out, dashing her hopes of seeing her family again.

Furiosa wants to drive ahead in search of a new refuge, but Max argues that the only hope for survival is to return to the Citadel and seize control while Joe’s war parties are still out in the desert.

Furiosa and Max try to race past Immortan Joe’s hordes, and the two groups engage in mobile warfare. Miller takes the audience on a wild ride, filling the screen with scorching fight scenes, thundering explosions and spectacular crashes.

The fighting leaves a lot of dead bodies behind, including a good number from Max and Furiosa’s group. How the desert battle ends is for you to find out.

Like Gibson’s road warrior, Hardy’s Max is again the reluctant hero, a wanderer who would rather be left alone, but who is thrust into situations where he must fight not only to save himself but others as well.

In Fury Road, he comes across a woman who is definitely not a helpless maiden. Furiosa is every inch a warrior like Max, but with a difference. She has a mission to lead the oppressed to freedom and a new beginning.

Theron gives Furiosa both strength and a sense of purpose, but there is also a vulnerability that viewers can empathize with.