Post-apocalyptic road warrior Max Rockatansky puts pedal to the metal again with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson as the all-action anti-hero. Ever a magnet for trouble, Max finds himself joining forces with rogue warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) when she attempts to flee her desert citadel and its tyrannical ruler Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) - along with Joe's harem, known as The Five Wives. Pursued across the inhospitable Waste Land by Joe's bloodlusting War Boys, Max rediscovers something worth living (and dying) for. Mad Max creator George Miller jumpstarts his long-dormant franchise with a breathlessly exhilarating joyride that knocked the socks off audiences and critics alike.
It's been thirty years since taciturn road warrior Max Rockatansky last gunned his engine in 1985's Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
Refreshingly, his latest outing - with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson in the driving seat - sees the return of original Australian writer-director George Miller instead of drafting in some young Hollywood whizzkid.
It's a sound decision. Miller's vivid imagination (he practically invented the post-apocalyptic road movie) is thrillingly served by today's stunning visual effects yet his old-fashioned storytelling makes sure the narrative engages as smoothly as a well-oiled gearbox.
We first meet Max falling into the clutches of desert despot Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) after his iconic Ford Falcon interceptor is battered into the sand by the "War Boys", Joe's lethally loyal band of car-mounted thugs (before a glorious death they ritually spray a silver aerosol across their mouths).
Held captive as a mobile blood bank, Max finds himself taken out on a dusty foray as the War Boys pursue one-armed rogue lieutenant Imperator Furiosa (Theron), who's made off in the gun-bristling articulated tanker, the "War Rig", with Joe's personal breeding machines - The Five Wives.
It's essentially one big chase movie but Miller never for one moment lets up on the action - an exhilarating, Dali-esque demolition derby as reimagined by Cirque du Soleil and all taking place against spectacular desert vistas (it was actually filmed in Namibia).
Hardy's cop-turned-drifter (the British actor was six weeks old when the first Mad Max film roared into cinemas) retains his trademark inscrutability (a few flashbacks outline his guilt at failing to protect his family) and his relationship with Imperator is nicely strung out as their mutual admiration grows enough to make them a formidable team.
Nicholas Hoult plays a War Boy who discovers redemption by falling for one of the wives and Keays-Byne is suitably intimidating as a queasily vindictive cross between a walrus and Biggles.
However, it's the hardware that really shines, a wheel-spinning fleet of spiky juggernauts and flame-throwing buggies - seemingly created in Hell's chop-shop - that collide and explode with a sickening resonance.
Not least of these is the War Rig which (for the fanboys) is fashioned from a bastardised Czech Tatra and Chev Fleetmaster fused into an 18-wheeler and powered by twin V8 engines.
Intriguingly, Miller introduces a feminist strand and it's the female characters who demonstrate the strongest moral fibre - from Imperator's self-sacrifice to the wives' increasingly inventive resilience when faced with the ethical bankruptcy of their male oppressors.
And this is where Max Max scores. Where the Marvel movies are really simplistic action movies for children, Miller can more than match them for real visceral thrills coupled to characters that you find yourself warming to...or definitely wouldn't want to share a car with.
It's the cinematic ride of the year.