Mad Max: Fury Road and all the images you see below are owned by Warner Bros.
Directed by George Miller
We all have a list of movies that we feel we should have seen by now, but for whatever reason have never gotten to. At the top of my list you’ll find the Mad Max trilogy which is a shame because if Mad Max: Fury Road is any indication, those movies would definitely be right up my alley. In the new Mad Max film, we see that the hero of the wasteland (Max Rockatansky played by Tom Hardy) has gotten himself dragged into some greater by a group of insane cultist who want to use him as a living blood bank. Throughout the film, he’s used as a human IV bag, beat to hell on numerous occasions, and tries to show a gruff and unapproachable exterior that eventually falls away into a heart of gold.
As an interloper in this tale though, he’s not really the focus here which is reserved for Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and her quest to save several women from the clutches of the insane cult leader (Immortan Joe played by Hugh Keays-Byrne) who runs a town called The Citadel which is a gearhead paradise and the only place around that has a steady supply of running water. Facilitated by a series of chase scenes, Max ends up joining Furiosa and the imprisoned and aids them in their escape from Immortan Joe and other tribes in the wasteland through ANOTHER series of chase scenes. Then there’s a couple more chase scenes at the end. Have I mentioned there’s chase scenes in this movie?
What is immediately apparent about this film is how striking the production is throughout its entire run time. Everything in this movie has been lovingly crafted to reflect the critically damaged and improperly healing world that this takes place in. the ingenuity in all the little contraptions that make the cars work the way they do is terrifying when you realize that people that are crazy enough to spray paint their own face before rushing headlong into death are also smart enough to rig exploding harpoons, stinger spikes, those awesome pole thingies, and the souped-up cars that seem pretty damn plentiful in a the wastelands. The massive swarm of post-apocalyptic red neck cultist that is constantly chasing our heroes is downright scary at times, yet the movie still manages to paint them as sympathetic for the most part. In fact, that’s one of the greatest strengths this movie has, which is to humanize the individual nut jobs which in almost any other movie would be nothing more than cannon fodder. Sure, Immortan Joe and the other clan leaders (who I think are related to him but it wasn’t too clear) are definitely monsters who are taking advantage of those who are struggling to survive in this new world, but we get plenty of scenes from a lot of different scrubs in his army to give this wasteland a bit of life and character. In fact, one of the best things in this movie is one such scrub named Nux (Nicholas Hoult) who gets a great deal of screen time, though I won’t spoil exactly why here. His character arc throughout this journey could be a movie unto itself, but it never feels cut short by the fact that he’s mostly a supporting character throughout.
So the movie succeeds in painting it’s villains as a sad and dangerous outgrowth of a world that has indeed gone mad. What about its heroes? This is where that whole “feminism” thing comes into play because the women in this (Furiosa, the women she’s saving, and another group later on in the movie) are all a joy to watch and get a chance to kick the patriarchy right in the balls and punch it in the teeth. It’s also a rather diverse cast of female characters in here that I wasn’t really expecting and am happy they went for. Some are old, some are young, some can kick ass, and some can barely even hold a gun. They’re all united though in the suffering they’ve had to endure at the hands of this new world and are more than willing to fight it at every turn. Is the movie feminist? I have no idea. Yes, the women more than just object themselves to the male gaze (for the most part avoiding the Fighting Fuck Toy trope) and they easily pass the Bechdel Test which you may or may not think of as a valuable barometer for films like this. It glorifies the hell out of violence, what with most of the ladies getting at least one awesome kill each, but then I guess we run into the question of “is a woman holding her own in a masculine activity showing women as equal to men, or simply reaffirming the negativity of feminine things?” I tend NOT to be on the side that says “violence is inherently masculine” but then again the genre is FILLED with films that claim to show Strong Female CharactersTM who end up falling headlong into the Fighting Fuck Toy trope (*cough*Sucker Punch*cough*). As for this movie? I’m gonna say that overall its portrayal of its female characters is positive, if for no other reason than the AMOUNT of women with are in no way interchangeable and have a chance to fight back against their oppressors. I MIGHT have liked this movie more if there was ONE female bad guy just to balance things out a bit (and I tend to LOVE female villains), but what’s done here is already above and beyond what we normally see in Hollywood action films.
Wait, isn’t there someone else in this movie? OH RIGHT!! Sadly enough, the weak link in the cast is Max himself. Oh sure, Tom Hardy is absolutely brilliant in the role and has some jaw dropping action scenes throughout, but his personal story is by far the weakest. He’s having flashbacks to something which may or may not have been in the other movies, and these flashbacks (when they bother to show up) fill him with crippling anxiety and usually cause him to make mistakes that he shouldn’t. They’re annoyingly prominent in the opening actions scene where Max is trying to escape from his captors, and only show up when convenient. It’s not like ANYONE else in this movie requires that to give their character depth, yet because of how half assed this approach is, it gives him much LESS depth than those characters. Max really doesn’t have a motivation here other than survival which would have been PERFECT in a movie like this (he even says he’s driven only by his instinct to survive) but they want to cram an entire backstory here and it feels incomplete. This is especially obvious with his decision at the VERY end of the movie which is SPECTACULARLY cliché and only highlights how little they want to differentiate Max from every other badass who doesn’t get involved but then gets involved anyway.
So Max’s character in here is a bit weak and ham fisted, but it’s balanced out by strong supporting cast and world that feels fully alive with villains who seem to exist as actual people. Not only that, but this movie blows shit up REAL good in a way that even The Avenger’s should be watching out for! Hell, this movie is so bombastic and metal that they even have one vehicle that’s just there to play war music! They’ve got one mother fucker whose sole job is to play his fire spewing electric guitar into battle!!!
Are there ANY flaws in this movie? Honestly, not really. SOMETIMES the action is a bit hard to follow (in the final chase scene it was hard to tell if someone had died yet) and I thought the transitions (which were ALL fade to black then fade back in) could have been done better, but other than that there really isn’t anything more to say on the negative side. This is especially amazing because I tend to hate post-apocalyptic stories. Most of the time, it’s just an excuse to torture characters and show how EVIL humans can be without actually making it compelling or interesting. Zombie apocalypses are ESPECIALLY guilty of this kind of mentality (the REAL danger is not out there. IT’S IN HERE!!!!!), but as I said before, this one works because it’s heroes aren’t cosigned to living lives of doom and gloom, and the villains manage to be fleshed out enough to not just be arbitrarily monstrous. That, and it’s full of AWESOME BOOMS!!!!!!!!
Mad Max: Fury Road is in the same vein of action films as The Raid and Dredd, in that it’s almost entirely a protracted action sequence, and like those other films it still manages to fit in some damn good character moments while practically reinventing the wheel when it comes to whatever kind of action it’s focusing on. It may not appeal to those looking for a strong story, but what it lacks in complex narrative it makes up for in fantastic world building, strong characters, and visceral action that certainly matches the best we have out there. If you like to immerse yourself in a world that feels wholly realized, and you like to see cars go kablooey, then you’re not going to find anything better than this film right now, and most likey for a long time to come. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go track down those other films!
FINAL THOUGHT: I know this is like asking Darren Aronofsky to do a Perfect Blue remake, but can we PLEASE get George Miller to direct a live action Fist of the North Star?
I welcome any and all spoilers for the sake of discussion in the comment section below. Please be aware of that before reading them.
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