Mad Max: Fury Road is a fantastic movie. I will state right up front that I love action movies. I love action adventure, sci-fi action, fantasy action, action thrillers, action comedies, you name it, I like it. Now, not all action movies are good movies and I will not see a movie just because it is an action movie. Unless I’m home battling a cold. Then I can lay on the couch all day long watching horrible Sy-Fy channel (don’t you just hate their new spelling?) original movies. In a cold medicine induced haze even the true terribleness of those movies are fun. Like the original Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdrome, Mad Max: Fury Road was directed by George Miller who also shares writing credit on all four films. The film stars Tom Hardy as the title character and Charlize Theron.
Let’s talk about Charlize Theron’s character Imperator Furiosa for a moment. Because she is awesome and because well-known “men’s rights” blogger Aaron Clarey has issued a call to all “real men” to boycott the movie for its “feminist agenda” and all manner of other horrible, no-good, terrible, liberal whatevers. George Miller is on record as stating that the movie did not start out with a feminist agenda, but that the mechanics of the story went in that direction. I don’t care whether George Miller is feminist, or meant to make a feminist movie. What I do care about is that there are a LOT of REAL women of all ages in this movie who are bad ass in any number of ways. And it shows women’s true strength as well as the one thing about them that makes them most vulnerable and is exploited to this day in all manner of ways; their reproductive abilities. Charlize Theron’s character is strong, empathetic, discerning, caring, formidable, capable, and fearless when needed, but understanding completely the odds against her and it is all of those qualities, even the seeming “feminine” or “soft” of them that make her so bad ass. The other women’s parts aren’t as large and they don’t have a lot of time to flesh out their characters, but they are all well written and well acted and important to the movie. And this profusion of women characters who are there for more than just eye candy, make this movie so much better than the usual action flick. Don’t get me wrong. I like eye candy as much as the next person. As a heterosexual woman I enjoy seeing gorgeous, fit men on the big screen as much as the next woman. But, I get to see those guys being more than just fit and gorgeous and it is so refreshing to see the same from women characters who are more than just the “token” strong woman who’s also the romantic interest of the male character.
As much as I appreciate Charlize Theron’s character and work in this movie, and she is the co-star, the story is still Mad Max’s. Max has the biggest character arc in this story, and changes the most due to the circumstances. There is one other male character with a similar arc and change that is also quite well done, that I won’t discuss to avoid spoilers. Tom Hardy’s Max is truly mad. More so, I think, than any of the previous incarnations of Max. He’s the kind of crazy that would get a person institutionalized in a pre-apocalyptic world. And the genius I think of Miller’s story is that Max is not the driver of this story. He’s sucked into other’s stories right from the beginning and is forced along for the ride very much against his will. This is something I think that men’s right proponents don’t seem to get. Their life is not just their story. Every one around them has their own life and story and sometimes they overlap in good ways and bad, but you will never make it through this life without allies, no matter their gender. Making entire other groups of people the enemy will never work out for you in the long run. And trust me, in a post-apocalyptic scenario you are going to want some bad ass women on your side. That is the reason a strong male character like Max survives. His strength is not just in his maleness, but his ability to see others as friend or foe based on their actions, not their gender or sexual orientation or skin color or any other thing that some people use as excuses to see themselves as superior.
George Miller clearly had a bigger budget than especially the first two Mad Max movies. The cinematography is appropriately post-apocalyptic. There is very little color other than the beiges and browns and grays of a desert world with very little water. The music is it’s own character in this movie. Literally. And I’ll leave it at that, other than to say it’s one of my favorites. The costumes and make-up are all great as well, showcasing the crazy, parched world where the haves and the have nots are easily delineated. Which brings me to the other aspect of this movie that I loved. I have no idea of George Miller’s politics or even if he meant to make a statement about inequality with this movie. But this movie shows clearly the atrocity of a few people having almost all of the resources, leaving the masses scrabbling for scraps and most importantly, the inherent instability of that kind of system. And to my point above, the masses, at the end of the day, care less about the gender, skin color etc. of their leaders, than their ability to make their lives better and will embrace change gladly.
Now if you could care less about the political and social nuances of a good action flick and are just there for the the stunts, explosions and naked women, this movie will not disappoint. The stunts are jaw-dropping and apparently none of the vehicle stunts were done with CGI, they were all real-world. This movie was so intense that it literally wore me out. I was so tense throughout the movie that a couple of times I realized I was hurting my sides I was squeezing my arms together so hard. I saw it in 3-D and while I hate the bits that come flying out at you really fast making you jump, this movie wasn’t terribly egregious in their use. And there was one bit near the end that was totally inspired. There was quite a bit of applause at the end of this movie, which doesn’t happen very often in a movie theater. I highly recommend this movie. It is quite a ride and will give you something to think about along the way.