Movie review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Imperator Furiosa

Imperator Furiosa

I’m someone who grew up in the 80’s–I graduated high school in 1987–and yet somehow managed to never see any of the first three Mad Max movies. My only real memory associated with any of them is Tina Turner’s Thunderdome song and the video that went with it, ’cause yeah, that song was pretty awesome.

This meant, though, that I came into Fury Road with pretty much no preconceptions of what to expect in a Mad Max movie, other than the buzz I’d seen all over The Mary Sue and about it. It’s that buzz which sold me on having to see the movie, since if I hadn’t heard in advance how well it treated the female characters, I would have had no interest in seeing it. It helped, too, that my housemate Paul went ahead and saw it before Dara and I did, and reported to us that it was the most metal movie he’d ever seen and that he was absolutely ready to see it again with us. Likewise, another local friend of ours, userinfogfish, spoke very, very highly of it–and had gotten to the point of considering a fourth viewing.

So what did I think? Picoreview: gracious, there sure was a lot of driving in this movie! And shooting! And explosions! I didn’t find it quite the religious experience that the Mary Sue reviewer or the reviewer did. And I do have to admit that I found the non-stop action a bit too wearying for my personal tastes, even though I could also see the cinematic artistry involved in portraying it.

But I was mostly there for the female characters, so all that was rather okay. And I was definitely quite satisfied with them–not only Furiosa, who was awesomeness incarnate, but also the escaping Wives and the Vuvalini. Of the Wives, I think my favorite is Capable. Not only because of her name, but ALSO because I just discovered that the actress who plays her, Riley Keough, is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter. 😀

Additional interesting commentary I found on the film:

And now, some spoiler-specific commentary of my own behind the fold.

Overall, yeah, I did find the pacing almost exhausting. Much of it was so frenetic that I often had trouble catching specific lines of dialogue, particularly from the War Boys, who roared pretty much every single word they uttered. At the beginning, during Max’s initial escape attempt from the citadel, there was one particular sequence that I found hard to follow visually as well–there was a jerky rhythm to it all, one that I think would have worn me out much more quickly if they’d kept to it for the whole film. Fortunately, they did not.

I could also say that I found Immortan Joe and his War Boys over the top to an almost comical extent–but then again, that’s all part of the aesthetic of this film, so I’m really kind of okay with that.

And when you melt this film down to its fundamentals, as has been described elsewhere, the plot really is just one great big car chase–everybody drives in one direction for the first half of the movie, and then turns around and goes back the way they’d come for the second half. Given that, I was still rather impressed with how they managed to weave characterization and intriguing glimmers of worldbuilding in between all the shooting, explosions, and riffs on the flaming sword guitar. As a newcomer to this setting, I caught myself wondering about all sorts of details–such as what Gastown and the Bullet Farm were, what had happened to Furiosa’s people during her absence that they’d been whittled down to a handful of survivors, and why the “Green Place” had been destroyed. And who the woman was that scrambled down off the tower to greet Furiosa and embrace her. Was she a sister? Some other long-lost relative?

On the way home from seeing the movie, Dara and Paul and I discussed how they pulled off no fewer than three character redemption arcs–for not only Furiosa and Max, but also Nux. Nux in particular was a surprise, and I really liked how Capable’s showing him some basic humanity and gentleness was enough to win him over to Team Furiosa. And oh man, his sacrifice at the end was beautiful and sad. And yet very clearly under Nux’s own control. You went to Valhalla, kid. Just like you always wanted. Sniff.

But I also really liked the interactions between Furiosa and Max. Not a whiff of romantic interest, and that was fine–there was more than enough to appreciate here in just two damaged people seeing something in common between them, while at the same time not downplaying or overplaying the extent to which they’re both damaged.

Three cheers for Angharad the Splendid as well, and god, I was sorry they killed her off. But she, too, was in control of her own death and that’s important to point out. And I liked one of the comments in the articles I spotted–i.e., that Joe never got his mitts on the baby, either.

Cheedo the Fragile–a.k.a. Cheedo the Unfortunately Named, given that Dara keeps calling her ‘Cheeto’–was the one who initially flipped out after Angharad’s death and tried to go back, yes? And she’s the same one who later also deliberately fakes trying to surrender herself as a distraction, isn’t she? In which case, yeah, lovely little character arc for her, too.

I only have a name for Toast the Knowing after the fact, now that I’ve been looking all the characters up and trying to figure out who was who. But I liked her, too. I liked that she was the one keeping track of the ammo, and I like that ‘the Knowing’ is part of her name. And yeah, more worldbuilding curiosity here, as I wonder how she got the ‘Toast’ part of her name too.

Same commentary for the Dag, the delicate blonde who wound up bonding with the old woman with the seeds, and becoming the guardian of those seeds after the older woman died. I wonder how she got her name, and I like how she found a bit of hope in the thought that her imminent baby might actually be a girl.

I do wish more of the Vuvalini had survived the movie, though. (Yet another worldbuilding detail I’m curious about–where that name came from!) And I agree with commentary I’ve seen elsewhere that it might have been nice for at least one of the escaping Wives to have NOT been young and gorgeous.

But despite those quibbles, I’ll TAKE it. Because at the end of the day, this flick laid down what a great number of women have been saying all this time: that we can be action heroes right alongside men.

Rock on, Imperator Furiosa.

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