Film Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Introduction

When I first heard of this movie, I thought basically two things:

  1. This film would suck because it would just be feminist preaching and propaganda without concern for entertainment, and:
  2. This film would suck because it's another Mad Max movie and would just be childishly violent without having a deeper message.

But luckily, the internet had given me concerns that turned out to be unfounded. I think this movie has a lot of interesting messages centering on the themes of fanaticism, totalitarianism, dominance, and survival (while still being stupidly violent). And, while it does have feminist messages, it doesn't ignore men, caricature all men in a negative way, turn all women into bulletproof Amazons, or forget that systems that oppress people oppress men too. It's hard to make a movie that's just subtly feminist in saying "hey, wives aren't property", while also saying "no one is property". I liked Furiosa. She wasn't an all-out man-hater, she was just a rebel against the evils of the one particular dictator. She wasn't inhumanly badass either; she was badass, but still had believable human flaws. It's hard for a movie to get this complicated concept right, so I give it kudos for that.

Summary

The movie starts with the hero Max escaping from prison in a post-apocalyptic society called "The Citadel". He ends up chained to a "war boy" when recaptured because he can be used as a "blood bag", since as a universal donor his blood is a reason they have for keeping him alive. At the same time as his escape, a woman named Furiosa runs away from the grip of the tyrannical warlord of the place, Immortan Joe. She steals with her a water tanker and Immortan Joe's harem of beautiful wives, who his underlings refer to as "breeders". It's kind of a big deal for Furiosa to remind these women that they need not live as property.

Max and Furiosa run into each other, he helps her escape, and the guy he was chained to, Nux, joins Team Furiosa. Her plan is to take the women, and Max and Nux, through a territory controlled by a rival warlord to a kind of promised land called "The Green Place". I'm probably not spoiling much by telling my readers, this "Green Place" is a lie, but Furiosa does find some of her old posse and, with Max and Nux's help, decides that they are going to go back and take back the Citadel.

"The fact that now we have suicide bombers and terrorists doing the same thing is just proof that history always repeats itself. There have always been people who do bad things. Fury Road deals with themes that are timeless, really: Dominance, hierarchy, tyrants."

— George Miller, writer and director.

Discussion (This Part Contains Spoilers!)

This film is a feminist movie, but I see it as a movie about liberation for everyone, not just women. While it's noted that the wives of Immortan Joe, the warlord villain, are talked about as property of him and objects to be used for baby-making, in this world, pretty much everyone in the Citadel is considered similarly objects and property for Immortan Joe. His foot soldiers, called War Boys, are all painted with the same white body and black face paint, lacking in individual identity. Other women, not beautiful enough for the role of Mrs. Warlord, are simply treated exactly like cattle, made pregnant and fattened and hooked up to milking machines (Furiosa doesn't bother to save these women, which seems like a cinema sin). So basically, everyone who isn't Immortan Joe and his inner circle are his property, his tools. If they don't perform their tasks or obey, they are discarded.

Fighting over resources, especially water, is a theme that shows up in almost every desert punk story. With their water tanker, I think Furiosa's band signifies water as a symbol of renewal and new hope. Water is associated with femininity, so the symbolism is carried with the women, some of which are pregnant. In the beginning, we see Immortan Joe cruelly letting loose with small gushes of water at a time, making the rabble far below him fight each other for what little there is, while he is sitting on quite a surplus. He maintains control by making people fight each other so they don't think to challenge him. In the middle, the "Green Place" Furiosa believed in turned out to have been a once-green land that has since turned into a poisoned bog. The water they found was a false hope. In the end, Furiosa takes over the citadel and lets the water flow more freely, ushering in a new era of democracy and equality. So basically, like the director says, this movie is about the timeless themes, recurring throughout human history, of dictatorship vs. freedom.


Review and Conclusion

While I had not seen any previous Mad Max movies or played the PS4 game before, seeing Fury Road made me interested in exploring the other parts of this franchise. Basically, this is another awesome thing I missed out on because I was too little to see it when it came out. (Like all those jokes about Monica Lewinsky on SNL.)

Anyway, Fury Road is a cool movie. It has a clear philosophical and political message, but it doesn't hit you over the head with it. What it does hit you over the head with is a pure rush of adrenaline; constant vehicular chase-fighting. Yes, it's a bit over-the-top and somewhat unrealistic with all this violence, but there is a surprisingly gripping emotional aspect of the story as well. Definitely worth checking out.

5 stars for Mad Max: Fury Road

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