madmax-fury-road-brides-hardy-720x462

There are spoilers in this review. Duh. And it’s long. Sorry not sorry.

It was 30 years since the last Mad Max movie came out, so you could say that audiences were very, very skeptical about this new installment. Count me as one of them. I didn’t plan on seeing the movie at all, it was under the radar for me. Everyone I knew started raving about it, and the RT score was incredibly high. Then the MRA declared it feminist propaganda, so I had to see it. To say I loved this movie would be an understatement, so prepare yourself for raving. A lot of it. I’m hardly alone. As of June 28th, it’s grossed a total of $358.4 million worldwide, and it’s topped all the lists of the best movies of the year so far. Why did this movie take the world by storm? Well I think there are several reasons, and I’ll get into that later on. But if it’s still out in the theater, you should go and see it for yourself. I’ve seen it three times now, and each time I came away liking it more. So keep in mind, this is a biased review.

Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t exactly a reboot, and it’s not a sequel either. It has vague references to the first, but it really feels more like a re-imagining. It’s a post-apocalyptic world where people have barely survived a horrible nuclear war. Food and water is scarce, vehicles are the only way to get around and stay alive, and there’s no civilization left to speak of. Max (Tom Hardy) is a shell of a man, haunted by the loss of his family, and he’s taken prisoner by the army of the War Boys, who follow Immortan Joe. They worship him as a godlike figure, and he provides refuge and a small amount of food and water to the people who bow down to him. He’s a disgusting figure, opportunistic and controlling of his little kingdom, certain of his power and his right to everything he desires. Max becomes a blood donor for a War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult). The War Boys are cancer-ridden and albinos, clearly turned that way due to the nuclear-destroyed world, and they are fanatics for Joe. Nux is certainly one of those. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), the very best of Joe’s soldiers, takes her armored truck out to get much-needed fuel. However, she secretly has taken away Joe’s prized possessions, his breeding “wives” who no longer want to be his property. Furious, Joe sends all of his troops out and goes with them, planning on destroying his rebellious soldier. It’s not affection that spurs Joe on; he considers these women his property, and it’s an insult to his reputation and his power. He can’t let them leave without losing face.

pacnv9d5s2ov5i0qt2pxNux and his friend go out with the rest of the army trying to find Furiosa, who desperately goes off-road and she has promised she knows a place they can all be safe. Nux puts Max to the front of his car to keep using as a blood bag. It’s important to note that Max, like the wives, is seen as nothing but an object to Nux and Joe’s people. He too has lost his identity and his freedom, although he’s been clearly ridden with PTSD long before this. Tom Hardy plays this as Tom being little more than feral, able to communicate only through grunts and gestures at first. People note how little he talks in this movie, but it seems like a deliberate choice; only when Max starts to remember what it’s like to be human does he talk. Max manages to escape Nux and he catches up with Furiosa and the wives. At first he refuses to help them, instead attempting to get water from them and to steal the truck. Unfortunately for him only Furiosa can drive it. After a vicious fight with Nux, who secretly hides on the truck afterward, Max allies with the team of woman so they can all make it out alive. The wives include Capable (Riley Keough), Cheedo (Courtney Eaton), Toast (Zoe Kravitz), the Dag (Abbey Lee), and Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Angharad is pregnant, and seems like the leader out of the group of them. They all have distinct looks and some personality, although probably not as much as I’d like. There isn’t a lot of time in the film to spend on extreme character development. It’s fun to hear the actresses talk about their characters though; they clearly thought through each one and who they are, and they’re proud of the final result. All the actors in the film seem very passionate about it, which is always good to see.

Furiosa takes them through a valley where she’s apparently made a deal to get through in exchange for fuel, but that goes wrong. After a frantic chase, with Joe and his people very close behind them, Furiosa and Max work together to get them safely by. Unfortunately Angharad dies after saving the others. Joe shows himself to be the terrible person he is by giving little regard for her outside of losing an object he cares about, and for trying to save his child. She’s not much more than an incubator to him, shown when she uses her body as a shield and he only stops because she’s his and not anyone’s life to take. Yuck. Nux joins up with the group after bonding with the gentle Capable, and realizing his blind devotion to Joe was probably misled. He helps the others escape. Through a series of fantastic action sequences, the team manage to get to the area where the “Green Land” used to be, where Furiosa thought they’d be safe. She was originally from there, a matriarchal society that still had life in it, but it’s died since she was kidnapped with her mother. Heartbroken, she decides to take the wives and attempt with what is left of her clan to flee. Max at first decides not to go with them, but he changes his mind and persuades them to do the opposite: go back to where they started. And take over the kingdom!

FURY ROADIn a crazy series of action sequences, the team make a daring and nearly suicidal attempt to go right back through Joe’s remaining people. It’s a mad dash back to the walled off city Joe created. In the fight, Nux sacrifices his life, and finds redemption for dying not for a false god, but for people he truly cares for. Furiosa gets gravely injured, but she manages with the last of her strength to kill Joe. In a gruesome but satisfying way. She lies dying, but Max saves her by using his universal donor blood to give her a transfusion. It’s sort of beautiful to think that Max becomes a healer and an empowering figure. People said that he was barely the protagonist in this story, but I really disagree. I think they were both protagonists, since Max goes full circle too, opening up and fighting for a cause instead of just to survive. They’re partners, a team. In the end Furiosa and the wives take over the walled city, assumably to become better leaders than Joe was, and Max decides to leave instead and find his own path. Perhaps in helping and saving these women, he’s put to bed the women who have been haunting him throughout the movie.

So why was this movie such a huge success? Well for one, no one saw it coming. There were low expectations. It was word of mouth that led people into the theater, and they were delighted with what they saw. This was an excellent action film, one of the best I’ve seen in years. I think one of the best elements is that a lot of this George Miller chose to do with real stunts, rather than just CGI. In a world of CGI everywhere you can see on the screen, it’s always a pleasure to see when film makers make it more realistic. It is two hours of nearly non-stop action adventure. The quieter scenes and character beats therefore stand out in nice, poignant ways. It’s adrenaline filled and pure entertainment, albeit violent and wild entertainment. It’s funny too, in a few places, especially with this guitarist basically playing as Joe’s own theme music. That never failed to make me laugh, and it’s cheeky. This film is beautiful. The style and design are so distinct. It’s a desert world, but they manage to find ways to shoot it through different colors and camera shots. There’s this one scene that sticks out in my mind of them driving in the sand storm, and the entire truck is shadowed in dark blue, with Furiosa and Max also in that light. But then the wives in the back of a lantern and they’re glowing, this purity amongst all the darkness. It’s fun, it’s stylistic, it’s unique. This is clearly a passion project too, both from George Miller and from the actors gushing about it, as I mentioned before. I think audiences respond to that sort of sincerity, and they want to care about the film in front of them. It isn’t perfect by any means, and the characters don’t get a lot of development, but that’s okay. You care about them all the same. It’s easy to get invested.

maxresdefault

As for the commentary about it being a feminist film, yes, it is. Why? Because feminism is about equality between the sexes. There’s no doubt that Furiosa is equal to Max in this movie. Like I said, I consider them co-protagonists. They each have their strengths and their big heroic moments. If a feminist movie means that all the female characters are treated as equal in the narrative, then yes, it definitely is that. The first thing we see about the wives is them staying they are no man’s property. That is a powerful message, especially in a world where they would ordinarily have no agency. Max doesn’t have any agency in the beginning either, so it makes sense that he would bond with these woman and eventually come to care about them. Furiosa is the star of the film, and while Max certainly has some of the best heroic action sequences in it, he does sit back seat to her. And it works. It feels natural, born of true respect and camaraderie. Furiosa cares very strongly about sisterhood, enough to give up her life and position without hesitation, and the wives all stand together as family. This film stands out in its treatment of women, but really what it should be is an inspiration. There’s no reason that this should seem so unusual and unique because of that element. Maybe it’ll cause a change.

If nothing else, it will hopefully lead to a sequel. Mad Max: Fury Road is an excellent movie from start to finish. It has excellent world building, and a tight script with no pointlessness and barely any dialogue. The visuals are stunning, the action sequences are exciting, and the underlining story is thought provoking. It deserves the praise it’s been getting. I do worry that people will go in thinking this is a cinematic masterpiece, and while I think it is that, it may not be the Oscar-winning film the praise might indicate. This is a fun film. If you didn’t like the original movies, don’t worry, it doesn’t have much to do with that, and it really is its own story now. It might not win any big awards, but it doesn’t need to. Critical acclaim and a giant box office already makes this a winner. If you don’t believe the praise, go catch it in theaters while it’s still there. Make your own opinion. But hopefully the support will encourage other film makers to take risks and try new things. This is my favorite film of the year so far. Good luck to anything else in trying to top it.

 

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Penny says:

    I wouldn’t say the War Boys are albino; I think they’re painted with white clay, which is abundant in Australia and would serve two purposes. It’d protect them from the sun, and it plays up the military everyone-looks-the-same depersonalisation thing. Nux’s real colouring starts to show through towards the end of the movie IIRC, which is at once a basic factor of the clay starting to rub off and a sign that he’s starting to reject the War Boy brainwashing.

    Like

    • Dee says:

      Oooo thank you, that’s something I missed completely!

      Like

      • Penny says:

        No worries; it’s easy to miss, especially if you don’t have the cultural context of how the Aboriginal people here in Australia use the native clays. The combination of white skin and black around the eyes looked a lot like desert protection – white clay-dust covering to protect the skin from the sun, and black grease to protect the eyes from sun glare, with the added benefit of conformity for the War Boys to assist the cult aspect. It was a nice touch, I thought. I could be wrong, but I think that’s what Miller was going for.

        Like

      • Dee says:

        I think Miller did everything deliberately. He put a lot of work into the visual style, so you’re probably spot on there.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s