Friday, May 29, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

The last two weeks have been pretty rough for me and I'd been looking for something to get my mind off of things for just a little while.  I had heard that the Mad Max movie was really good and not nearly as gory as the R rating would imply and decided that the action flick sounded like just the thing I needed.

My initial response to Mad Max: Fury Road is this:  Do not mess with women because we will remember and we will fight back.  Action movies are for girls too!  And my absolute favorite line, the mantra "We are not things."

Please note that this post will contain spoilers.
If you have not yet seen the film, you may want to skip this post.

While the title of this film is "Mad Max: Fury Road" it isn't actually about Max at all, in fact you don't even learn of the characters name until the last five or so minutes.  Nope, this two-hour long movie is actually about Furiosa as played by Charlize Theron, a group of sex slaves called the Wives, and their escape from the villain Immortan Joe.

As for Max?  Well he plays the part of damsel in distress for most of the opening of this film as he fights against both his war-boy captors who want to use him as a universal blood donor (plot point) and memories of those he has lost, eventually escaping and overcoming his fears in order to help Furiosa in her quest to free the Wives.  He is very much a secondary character.

Now, Immortan Joe is a tyrannical leader of his own little cult of "war boys" who are brainwashed, war-painted young men with no thoughts other than following Joe's every command and earning the honor of dying for him and being allowed passage to Valhalla.  In addition to housing the women used as breeders, Immortan Joe controls much of the food and water supply in this post-apocalyptic world while two other war lords control the fuel/gas and bullets/ammunition respectively and that the three seem to have an agreement that keeps them in power.

Joe has a limitless supply of water and food that he hoards and shares only with those he deems worthy, while leaving thousands of people to live living in the land below his fortress to a life of constant starvation and the desperate hope that he will spill water from his citadel into the dirt below for them to fight over.  Does anyone else see the outright imagery of capitalism here?

In a world ravaged by nuclear fallout and all the sickness and deformity that will bring, the Wives are fertile women without visual deformities or cancerous growths who are used for breeding purposes, locked away, and outfitted with chastity belts.  Essentially, this is a movie about sex slaves escaping slavery.

Now, if Mad Max were to follow the "norm" of action movies, then these women should be terrorized into obedience and waiting to be rescued rather than choosing to fight for the chance at freedom.  They are so much stronger than that; from the oldest Wife who stays behind in an attempt to assassinate Immortan Joe, to the heavily pregnant Splendid Angharad who uses her body as a shield and ultimately falls to her death during their escape, to the youngest who momentarily breaks when things take a turn for the worst, desiring only to go back to the safety of a world she knows, but eventually even Cheedo the Fragile grows to become a stronger person by the end of the film.

From the first time you see the Wives, they are not sexualized by other characters or by the camera.  Instead, the focus is on their willful removal of the chastity belts and their desire to be clean after riding inside a dirty tanker.  Rather than sexualizing these nearly-naked women, the camera doesn't linger on anything more than Angharad's pregnant stomach which is a strong plot point for the film.  By the end of the movie, these women are no longer the Wives but have become Sisters to each other.

And I haven't even mentioned the Vuvalini yet!  The Vuvalini are a matriarchal clan that Furiosa and her mother were stolen from years ago.  These are strong, intelligent women who use their bodies as weapons and who are not afraid to pick up a gun in order to defend themselves and others.  When Furiosa returns to them, these motorcycle-riding, sharpshooting women are ready to step up and defend the Wives on their journey and carry with them a bag full of heirloom seeds and the hope those seeds bring to the world.  Seriously, there isn't enough time in the day for me to discuss how great the Vuvalini are.

(gif credit goes to maxsrockatansky on tumblr)
On a side note, the cinematography and use of special effects is sheer perfection and works really well.  I can always spot the CGI work in movies and when it's overdone it can seriously detract from my enjoyment of the movie itself.  Even when viewed in 3D, Mad Max: Fury Road does not suffer from this problem.  It is visually stunning and realistic in a way that many films just don't manage.

I enjoyed everything about this film, it was worth the price of the ticket and whatever price tag they slap on the Blu-ray.  There is supposed to be a black and white, silent version of the movie on the Blu-ray that I cannot wait for!

I think that I will leave you with Tom Hardy's response to an ignorant question about there being too many women in a movie for boys.  I completely agree with him when he says that...
It’s about time you had better female leads in action movies. This is not a feminist argument, it’s a person-hood situation. This is how we ought to reflect the times — not so much strong women, but just people.
While the main character, Furiosa, is physically disabled with an amputated left arm, the lack of ethnic representation in the film was very disappointing.  I can't remember if there was a single person of color shown.  Seems like it's two steps forward for feminism and one step back for ethnic representation.

In conclusion:  This is an amazing film that handles serious issues such as rape, feminism, death, and capitalism without losing sight of the fact that it's an action movie.  If you aren't scared of an action movie with a leading lady rather than leading man, then this is the movie for you.  Mad Max: Fury Road gets a solid 10/10.