Wow. Move over Avengers, because the world’s gone mad. I’d been keeping a close eye on my social feeds this week, trying to skip over any spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road. That proved extremely difficult considering the fact that reviews have been flying out at top speed this week; and I was getting the overwhelming sense that NOBODY disliked this movie. Today I finally got to see it too.
I was right. It’s beyond anything you could hope to expect from a post-apocalyptic, action/ heist film rebooted from 1970’s material in 2015. This review contains spoilers**
So if there are so many explosions, why am I not ripping this apart like I did with Transformers for being destruction porn? (By the way, I realised that “destruction porn” is way too ambiguous; you probably shouldn’t Google that).
I digress; unlike Transplosions by Michael Bay, Fury Road has a ton of practical effects, even to the point that every ridiculous vehicle you see on screen is 100% driveable. You have to respect this in a world where we are past the point where we are awed by amazing special effects constructed by hundreds of people in post-production. It takes a hell of a lot to craft this much detail with practical effects, so well done to George Miller and his team for kicking it old school.
The other amazing thing that action movies tend to do is make things happening somewhere on the screen. They just happen and they are there somewhere in the shot. In Fury road, each shot has purpose. I imagine this is necessary when you’re doing costly practical effects like this; but it’s definitely commendable that Miller, and cinematographer John Seale were able to craft a visual spectacle with this much detail where specific actions are lit or framed perfectly to emphasize them and give them meaning in a brief moment, and as part of the bigger picture.
Speaking of high-octane scenes, another element that modern audiences are easily bored by is when action goes on for so long that it feels exhausting.
Fury Road didn’t fall into this pothole, with Miller knowing exactly when to put the pedal to the metal (quite literally) and when to curb the action with some human interaction, even though many of these scenes portrayed how gut-wrenchingly inhumane this post-apocalyptic world now is.
The film was captivating all the way through, and I’m of the opinion that this was because we don’t know everything about Max’s world, so every nuanced action in every scene is a nice little glimpse at what these people are living like. This keeps audiences interested, and provides the perfect catalyst for engagement, especially when your main character (arguably Max) is a man of very few words.
Which brings me to what many people have been saying all week long: that Mad Max: Fury Road is a feminist film, and that Max is probably not the main character. From a men’s activist website calling for men to boycott the movie, to many trusted publications referring to the film as one very empowering to women, this idea definitely holds some weight.
What I will add is that I loved the dynamic between Max and Furiosa. There is no romance, no passion. There is some abstract understanding; some idea that they have both been through hell and lived to tell it. They stand as equals as they fight, as they ride together, and as they triumph.
For me, what Charlize Theron said in a recent interview perfectly sums up the way I feel about the feminist vibes too…
Considering the feminist and other themes in the film, I think the best way to analyse these is to take a close look at some of the most interesting characters.
The most captivating character in this movie is by far Furiosa, played by the stunning Charlize Theron. She’s tough as nails, but has a ton of empathy.
This is clear by the fact that she seemingly single-handedly devises the plan to remove Immortan Joe’s wives from the Citadel and take them back to her home land where pastures are green. As I mentioned above, she is Max’s equal, and if not more than he is in the world of this film. She’s got more depth and more conviction than anyone else on screen. Overall a very interesting, somewhat tragic character.
This guy is just evil. He has his throne above everyone else in the Citadel, and acts as more of a god-king than a leader, commanding the War Boys through his cult.
I see him as a hyperbole, and in many ways a critique of modern day corporations; of government; of The Man. Joe controls the resources, so he controls the people. In an early scene, he is shown opening up a dam of water as the inhabitants of the city stand below, clawing for a taste of water.
Another shot shows him rushing through an area where some sort of vegetation is being grown, which is a stark contrast to the rest of the landscape in the surrounding area. This throws a sharp light on the class divide in the Citadel.
Nux is one of the War Boys who follows Immortan Joe in the cult of the V8. He’s brought into the story by the fact that Max is his blood bank. War Boys generally endure poor health because of their industrial surroundings, and Nux therefore uses Max for a blood transfusion to maintain his health, and also to increase his adrenaline during battle.
I thought this character’s transition from devoted V8 War Boy to helping Max and Furiosa was one of the most entertaining developments in the story. The character is played magnificently by Nicholas Hoult who channels the nuanced elements of child, fanatic and good guy that Nux possesses.
A man of very few words. What is there to say about Max more than the fact that he is mad? I felt they did a really good job with portraying his need/ want to remain alive.
In the initial stages of the film they really sell this hard in the way he interacts with everyone he comes into contact with. He is definitely a loner in this wasteland.
Okay, I was just talking about feminism above and now I’m grouping all of these characters into one section (give me a break okay). I will mention that all of these characters were well-developed, as each of the stunning ladies had very unique personality attributes and (although minor) roles to play within the bigger picture.
In their complexity, these characters personify their protest: “We Are Not Things!” that is the underlying reason for their escape, and the inciting incident behind the film’s main story.
Here’s a cool featurette that gives some more insight into the role of Immortan Joe’s wives:
I think I have said more than enough. Overall I loved this movie. It’s just a really great feeling in this modern age of movies where you can see awesome reviews for a film, go into the film with positive expectations, and still walk out blown away by what you’ve experienced.
Favourite Part: All of the action scenes. All of them!
Favourite Quote: If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane.
Check out the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road below:
About the Author: Stephen is a writer and film critic who’s editor of BTG Lifestyle. Follow more of his film ramblings on Twitter @thesnagel.