“Oh, what a day. What a lovely day!”
Mad Max: Fury Road drives us through a post-Happy Feet, post-apocalyptic wasteland, one populated with the absurd sights and sounds from the mind of director George Miller, yet still grounded in dynamics relevant in today’s world. It’s a movie that features exquisitely crafted action sequences that don’t just serve a purpose of action for action’s sake; rather, those sequences are avenues for world-building, character-building, and story-building, and this is a movie that immerses its audience without the use of any mind-numbing exposition. There’s a difference between an engaging culture/world and an over-reliance on plot, and the film has the former down pat and avoids the latter.
Miller trusts the audience to understand the state of this world and of these characters, and while we may not get every bit of information that we might want, that’s in no way a bad thing; rather than build a story after a long sequence of explaining, the movie builds its story as it asks us to absorb, as it fleshes out the characters and their environment mainly through striking visual imagery. The cast understands the power of visuals over words, and Hardy and Theron convey so much through silence and non-verbal communication throughout; we see guilt and sadness, fear of the past and a survival drive like no other. It’s an impressive display by a great cast, and actors like Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley–going from Transformers to this is a great way to dig your acting career out of the toilet before it can be flushed–and more round out a thoroughly unique and compelling group of characters.
And although the story is a simple one, it’s still layered with ideas that are adeptly handled by the creative team. It’s a story about parenthood. It’s both a story about objectification and the value of human beings, about religious fundamentalism and finding some hope in a seemingly hopeless world. One of the most intriguing visuals consists of the War Boys spraying chrome on their mouths, and it’s a nice example of Miller introducing an image that may seem difficult to decipher at first, yet can be read as a representation of the religious link to cars in this movie; the War Boys are emulating their religiously significant automobiles here, and it’s just one image that speaks volumes about the world. After all, it also speaks to the way Immortan Joe is able to control the War Boys: religious indoctrination, specifically. And from there, we can expand our view to Joe’s wives and to the crowd that is controlled by the release of water; these are all people who have had their agencies stripped by a powerful few, and the foundation of the movie is thus built on the small group that rejects Joe and his methods. Both genders, refreshingly, are treated as equals; these are human beings in a bad situation, and that’s that.
There are so many images throughout that we can analyze in that manner, and it’s wonderful to see an action movie use its visuals to convey a story rather than convey the fact that a building is being blown up or a city is having the shit kicked out of it by aliens. And as action set pieces themselves, Fury Road contains some of the most exhilarating sequences I’ve ever seen in film. Whether it’s the Doof Warrior playing that awesome guitar, the Bullet Farmer shooting wildly into the air, Max and Furiosa fighting together, or the audience getting a bird’s eye view of the action, what’s clear is that Miller understands what makes an action movie work. It’s not just the action; it’s everything that is created by the action.
-It would be interesting to see a black and white version–as Miller wanted–but I feel like the vibrant colors are essential to this movie. Especially given the contrast between day and night.
-I love how all the trailers–my favorite of the year thus far–only give away scenes from the first battle, which is the worst battle sequence of the movie. And yet, that action sequence is one of the best I’ve seen.
-The War Boys seem, on the surface, like those weird-looking bad guys who are there in endless supply in every single action movie (whose purpose=cool death). However, I’m impressed with the way the movie humanizes these characters; it’s important to remember that yes, these are humans, and it’s one of the key points the movie makes throughout. And it isn’t JUST Nux who is humanized, which is nice to see.
-Like a video game, isn’t it? Trying to defeat all the “bosses”.
-The music is essential in this movie, and I’ve listened to that soundtrack so many times. This piece gets me pumped up:
– “I thought you weren’t insane anymore.” The movie has quite a few lines like that that are pretty hilarious.
-Furiosa is a badass, but it’s so refreshing not to see a badass female character who’s seemingly untouchable. It’s also great to see women like the Vuvalini and the wives dying not so that the men have motivation to do something, but rather just because they’re fighting and, well, people die. Some people are stronger than others because that’s how life works, and there’s equal treatment of this idea throughout. What’s important is that these characters help each other; they all have different skills, and they recognize strengths and weaknesses.
-To illustrate the aforementioned non-verbal communication: I love the scene in which Max is about to snipe the Bullet Farmer’s car, but eventually just lets Furiosa do it. She trusts him to do it, but he trusts her to do it more. What a great dynamic this is.
-After a scene like Angharad going under the wheels, another movie would definitely have her somehow living and manufacture a conflict between Max and Furiosa about him lying about seeing her die.
– “I AM THE SCALES OF JUSTICE!” The Bullet Farmer scene. Holy shit, what an awesome image, especially against the night sky. And that music.
-I really love the Nux character arc (and the small detail that he doesn’t know what a tree is). At the end, he sacrifices himself not because he’s buying into Immortan Joe’s BS, but because he’s found people he cares about, people he would sacrifice his life for.
-Rictus is cool.
– “Remember me?”
Photo credit: Mad Max: Fury Road, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures