Mad Max Fury Road

It must be hard to be relegated to a secondary character in your own franchise.

Fury Road is (sort of) the story of Mad Max, a man trapped in a post-apocalyptic world where the land has become a desert, and water and fuel are in short supply. Max is captured by the War Boys and taken to the Citadel, the fortress of a man known as Immortan Joe. Max inadvertently finds himself caught up with Furiosa, one of Immortan’s former generals who is trying to escape with Immortan’s former wives.

So how does Fury Road fare?

The Good

  • Some really great cinematography
  • Charlize Theron absolutely dominates the screen as Furiosa
  • A special mention goes to Nicholas Hault, who is almost unrecognisable as Nux, the War Boy
  • An almost non-stop rollercoaster ride from start to finish
  • Some crazy designs in regards to the characters and vehicles
  • Great action scenes that use mostly live action stunt work
  • Computer generated effects used only when absolutely necessary
  • Interesting look at how things may turn out for men and women in a world gone mad
  • Really cool world and setting

The OK

  • The pacing is good considering the amount of action in the film, but an additional moment or two to breath would have been nice
  • Fury Road is very light on character development (and the best action movies actually have character arcs, see films like The Matrix, Edge of Tomorrow, and Kung-fu Hustle)
  • Tom Hardy does a serviceable job as Max, but he either lacks the natural presence to outshine Charlize, or was directed in such a way that he’s pushed into the background
  • The movie has a very simple plot, which seems quite out of place with this wonderfully detailed universe filled with all sorts of weird characters
  • Over-the-top violence might not appeal to everyone
  • Two dimensional villain

The Bad

  • Is it just me that’s annoyed by the bait-and-switch in regards to who this movie is actually about?
  • I know this is meant to be a movie with a predominantly feminist message, but why is it that none of the men start the film with any kind of redeeming characteristics?

Final Thoughts

If you look at Fury Road as an action movie, it succeeds brilliantly on multiple levels. It’s action packed with awe inspiring stunts, has great designs and interesting characters, and thanks to it’s visceral tone it keeps you on the edge of your seat from its frenetic start to its explosive finish. Then there’s the superb acting of Nicholas Hault as Nux, and of course Charlize Theron, who absolutely dominates the screen as Furiosa. It’s a great action movie, even if it does have a few flaws.

Now I’m going to get into the issues I have with the film, and I will be discussing some SPOILERS FROM HERE, so make sure you stop reading if you don’t want anything in the film ruined for you.

Still here? Ok, let’s carry on.

The last time I checked, this is a Mad Max film, and while Max undoubtedly has some key moments in the film, Fury Road is not his story. As a writer, I would have no problem with this if this was Furiosa: Fury Road, but the poster very clearly says Mad Max. Just imagine if you went to see a new Iron Man film, and it turned out that the story was all about War Machine or Thor. You’d probably say to yourself “Wait a minute, this wasn’t what I was expecting?” It seems to me that people have been so gobsmacked by all the other great aspects of this film, that they’ve forgotten that this is a Mad Max movie in which Max only plays a supporting role.

The other issue is that even though men and women come together to survive towards the end of the film, the film (accidentally or not) starts off with a very strong “all men are dangerous and not to be trusted” message, which is proven entirely true by the actions of the male characters at the start of the film.

If we take a look at Max first, despite all the guilt he carries about the women he cared for and couldn’t save, he is still focused solely on his own survival at the beginning of the movie. After taking control of the War Rig from Furiosa, he leaves Furiosa and The Wives behind, knowing that things will not end well for them should Immortan Joe catch them. The only reason he ends up with them is because Furiosa is the only one who can drive the rig.

Nux is so brainwashed at the start of the film, that it takes repeated failure and the threat of death at the hands of Immortan Joe for him to realise there is no longer a place for him amongst the War Boys. He doesn’t try to help Furiosa and The Wives early on in the film, he’s initially only there because he has nowhere else to go.

Which only leaves Immortan Joe, The War Boys, and the various other madmen whom they associated with, and you guessed it, there’s not a shred of decency amongst any of them (understatement of the year).

But Rowan, I hear you say, Furiosa is seeking redemption for the terrible things she did in the past! She’s also bad! Yes, and no. Furiosa says she did some pretty bad things, and Charlize’s portrayal of her regret definitely rings true. However, relatively speaking, she’s actually fairly innocent at the start of the film. Sure, she’s willing to kill, so she’s not as pure as The Wives, but all the actions we see at the start of the film show that she’s actually quite a good person, especially when compared to the men around her.

The other thing that bothers me is why do we never learn about the terrible things she did? Or why do we never see glimpses of the evil woman she had to become to gain the power that she did? Did the writer/director intentionally choose not to show us this? After all, if you look at any other films about characters seeking redemption, you always find out what the main character did to get to the point that they feel like they need to atone for their sins (see Groundhog Day, Man on Fire, Spiderman, Star Wars, Rurouni Kenshin). This is what makes us engage with the character emotionally, since we understand their motivation.

In my opinion, the message that the film is (intentionally or unintentionally) putting across, is┬áthat in the context of this world men start off bad, and it’s only thanks to women that they can find redemption (this applies more to Nux than it does Max, but it’s still applicable to both of them).

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that. I know this film is meant to be a feminist action movie, but I don’t think this is the best way of achieving that. And before anyone tries to crucify me for being an anti-feminist misogynist, I do agree that Hollywood is pretty bad at representing anyone that isn’t white and male, and that we do need more diversity, particulary when it comes to certain genres. But there’s also many films (even if they aren’t all Hollywood movies) that have more than capable female characters, and don’t demonise men in order to show this. Perhaps Miller should broaden his horizons for his next feminist action film.

 

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