First of all, I suppose I have to cop to being a Mad Max virgin. Having never seen any of the prior three movies in the series, I went into Mad Max Fury Road completely blind– not knowing up from down, People Eaters from Bullet Farmers, and Gas Town from “the Green Place”.

But my ignorance didn’t stop me from leaving the theater in complete awe (also with busted eardrums and bleeding eyeballs) at the spectacle I’d just witnessed.

As wildly entertaining and flat-out gonzo as anything I’ve seen on screen this year, Mad Max Fury Road is a non-stop fireball of comic book-style wonderment. It will make you think, make you pump your fists, and also make you wonder how writer/director George Miller (whose last three films were the two Happy Feets and the sequel to Babe) could pull all this madness out of his noggin and put it on film.

At its core, Fury Road is a simple story about the good guys trying to get from Point A to Point B faster that the bad guys. But there’s all kinds of bonkers things happening along the way, including a War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who uses Max (Tom Hardy) as his personal transfusion vessel; Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, who has stolen the five wives of King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) to get them to safety; and an uber-modified truck/van-thing that has four Taiko drummers in the back and a glam-rock heavy metal guitarist dangling from a bungee cord in the front. And the craziest thing is that somehow it all works– meshing together into one, big, gnarly freakshow of a good time.

Hardy is a rock-solid, stoic and brooding force as Max, but this is Theron’s world from the word “go”, and she takes no prisoners, offering up perhaps the finest work of her career. It’s a performance that’s so intense and so gutsy that by the end you’ll be thinking it’s her world, and Max is just living in it.

Mad Max Fury Road is as nutty as a fruitcake and as surreal as a Dali… and it’s just as riveting. It’s a wild trip, a haunting allegory, and as cool and intense a ride as you’ll take all year.

4.5/5 stars