In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.
Director: George Miller
Writers: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy,
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Much has been made about Mad Max: Fury Road recently, both in relation to the previous films and to what greater message this movie might be putting forward.
With that in mind, let’s start with what it is in comparison to the three previous entries in the Mad Max universe: Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
Yes, we have to talk about Thunderdome.
Deal with it.
Fury Road is like more like The Road Warrior than any of the other films.
Mad Max was a slow meditation on the decline and fall of civilization, and how anyone, even a good, dedicated, man of the law might fall under stress. Entirely character-driven and motivated, with only brief bursts of the action sequences to come, Mad Max had arguably the best story of the original three films. Why, because it dealt with the loss of one man’s humanity in the face of humanity’s loss of itself.
The Road Warrior depicts Max, now accepting of his fallen state, fighting to stay alive, but unwilling to attach himself to another family or group to any level he might find himself hurt by. He is, in his heart, still a good man, a man of honor, and so will not surrender himself or his chances at survival. By the end, though, he is willing to trade his services to a group in order to survive, and perhaps for revenge on another group that would have denied him his freedom. That last gasp of hope on his part is rewarded by, if not his betrayal by the “good” folks, the realization of their willingness to satisfy Max’s life for their own.
In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Max is alone again, and is robbed of his few material possessions. Finding his way to a bastion of civilization, Barter Town, he encounters the post-apocalyptic embodiment of free-market capitalism. A person cannot even enter Barter Town unless they have something to trade or sell. Once more, in an attempt to regain his own freedom, he is forced into associations he would rather avoid, but unlike before, he has fallen to the level of dealing with those who he might not have in the past, accepting a deal for a public assassination under the guise of Barter Town law. At the critical moment, Max is confronted by the evil he has agreed to, and backs out, only to be sentenced to death by the ruler of Barter Town, whose deal he broke.
Saved in the wastes, Max finds himself the unwilling protectors of a group of children, who believe that his story of Barter Town is their mythical “Tomorrow-morrow Land.” He sets off to retrieve them, and he saves his soul once again, only to willingly sacrifice his chance at a life with some humanity. Here, Max might have surrendered his despair and rejoined life, but chose instead to protect it, even at the cost of his return to it.
Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is once again on the move in the latest installment of George Miller’s franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road. Max is now openly haunted by the faces and voices of those he could not–or worse: did not–save in his time in the wasteland. Captured by the forces of the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Max becomes a “Blood Bank” for the War-Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who, like most of the people living in and around the Immortan’s Citadel, are poisoned and dying of cancer or various other grotesque conditions. The Immortan controls a massive fresh water supply, and uses that control to declare ownership of everything around him, including the people, and especially the breeding females, who he hopes to have untainted children with to carry on control of his kingdom.
When the Immortan’s Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, head shaved and one-armed) takes a massive War Rig out to collect Gasoline from Gas City, he has no idea that she is about to make a run for freedom, carrying Joe’s most precious possession, his wives, at least two of which as already pregnant. Fusiosa is not a breeder, not a cow (that scene is both disturbing and slightly humorous), but an exemplary warrior for a society she was kidnapped into years before. When Joe realizes her traitorous act, he mobilizes his entire war machine, including Nux, who cannot leave without Max’s blood, so weak has his illness made him, that he straps Max to the front of his vehicle to continue receiving his transfusion while on the hunt.
From this point forward, the action in the movie is pretty much like this:
In. Your. Face.
If you’re not familiar with the previous films, be prepared to see the most outlandishly (in a good way) modified vehicles you could possibly imagine, and then throw your imagination out, because it sucks compared to what George Miller and his folks come up with. The are fast, deadly, nitrous-enhanced, and 110% more awesome than anything you can conceive of, and 150% more awesome than the things you CAN’T conceive of.
Nobody can crash a car like George Miller.
We clear? Okay.
Now we to look at the parts of the movie that seems to be causing so much trouble on the internet. Is this film a feminist picture or not?
Well, yes, I suppose it is. If feminism is women being empowered to make decisions about their lives and bodies, without asking a man for “permission,” then, yes, this is the feminist power film for you.
Does that make Charize Theron’s Furiosa the feminist center of the film? I could argue “no” to that. We learn, in a scene in which she doesn’t even appear, that she doesn’t steal Joe’s harem because she wants to; she does it because they beg her to take them to freedom, so that their children will not become warlords like Joe.
The truly independent women here are the wives, unseen and silent for half the film. They are the ones driving the action, even if Furiosa is the one driving the truck.
Does that make Furiosa less of a bad-ass? Hardly. Broken by her time in captivity, she recaptures some of who she was–who she might have been–by helping the wives. She can identify with them as a woman on the basest level (she has not been treated as a woman, but as a warrior for so long…), while still being able to hold her own, without assistance, among the dominant members of the society: the men.
In a way, then, it could be argued that only by aiding the wives does Furiosa become a feminist.
But, Max is merely a means to an end for Furiosa and the women. A tool to be used to achieve their goals. This revelation lets us circle back around to Max. By the time the movie ends, Joe is dead, Furiosa and the wives have returned to the Citadel to live and free the masses (at Max’s suggestion, since only the Citadel has water and plant life), and Max slips off into the crowd, still unable to return to a life other than that of outcast, no matter what he might want, or wish he could want after so long. The look on his face as he leaves speaks to his regret, but in Max’s world, there is no other choice for him.
This is an excellent film, and I highly recommend it.