It seems these days that any strong genre film spawns a wealth of imitators, but for some reason, the unique mix of post-apocalyptic scavenging and car combat introduced with the original Mad Max has seen few other entries. And in recent years, it seemed even George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road would have trouble making it to completion.
Despite setbacks, the director revealed on set in Australia that as filming completes, the film is already testing 'extremely well,' even without a cameo from the original 'Max.'
After reports of re-shoots first surfaced, skepticism continued to build, with the implication being that Fury Road may not have been testing as well as Warner Bros. had hoped. Tom Hardy (the man playing the titular hero) was quick to shoot down those assertions, explaining that he would be heading to Australia not for re-shoots, but simply "more Mad Max that’s even more spectacular.”
Now, director George Miller has explained to the Sydney Morning Herald that despite the worrying press, the film's finishing touches are proceeding as hoped. And even more importantly, the reactions from early test screenings have been promising:
''Our film, luckily after a ridiculous amount of work, is testing extremely well...We're very happy. There has been a lot of doubt about it, [people saying] 'it took so long', but Warners have delayed it until 2015 to go into the top weekend of the year.''
Miller went on to explain that whether due to visual continuity or an homage to the original Mad Max films, the filming of the opening and final sequences were planned to be filmed in Australia from the start (many of the exterior shots were filmed in Namibia and South Africa). The newspaper points out that rains brought plant life to the Australian landscape on more than once occasion, limiting when and where production could take place.
Exactly how much weather can be blamed for the project going over budget remains to be seen. But even if Warner Bros.' decision to intervene and heighten supervision was a sign of trouble, the ship looks to be righted. After pulling a no-show at Comic-Con 2013, it looks as though leading man and new 'Max Rockatansky' Tom Hardy and cast will be able to appear in San Diego next summer, since Fury Road won't be hitting theaters until May 2015 - a full three years after filming began.
That length between starting production and hitting screens is certainly never a good thing, but the studio's decision to release it in the middle of an increasingly-crowded summer could be viewed as a sign of confidence. Hardy's star may be on the rise, but going up against the likes of Batman vs. Superman and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, even indirectly, means the studio is confident they can make up their sizable budget despite serious competition.
Unfortunately, Miller also confirmed in the interview that although rumors of a Mel Gibson cameo in Fury Road had circled from the start, fans will have to be contented with the newest incarnation alone:
"It would have been nice somehow but, no, it's not true."
The director did tease that Gibson's original Interceptor would appear in the finished film, so hopefully that will be enough for diehard fans. But in all honesty, we can't blame Miller or Warner Bros. for breaking some ties with the former star in favor of launching a completely new take on the post-apocalyptic hero. If the film finds success, it will be interesting to see if the series continues its 'interquel' structure (Fury Road is set between Mad Max and The Road Warrior) or breaks off on its own.
What do you make of either the lengthy production or release date? Do you take it as a sign that Warner Bros. believes in the finished product? Or do you still have your doubts? Share your own thoughts in the comments.
Mad Max: Fury Road will release in U.S. theaters on May 15th, 2015.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.