Sunday, June 28, 2015
Mad Max: Fury Road
* spoilers *
A nuclear war has made the world into a desert wasteland and society has collapsed. Immortan Joe rules from his Citadel, keeping the water from the common people and giving it out just enough to keep them complacent. He has an army of War Boys who never reach adulthood and gladly give their lives to fight for him. Max, a crazed man tortured by his past, is captured and used as a blood bag for an injured War Boy named Nux. Imperator Furiosa is supposed to be going to collect gas for Immorten Joe, but instead she takes his five wives and makes a break for the legendary Green Place. Determined to achieve glory, Nux straps Max to the front of his car and tears off after Furiosa, but things don't go as planned. Max and Furiosa reluctantly team up to defeat Immortan Joe, save the wives, and escape to the legendary Green Place.
Going in, I assumed Mad Max: Fury Road would be a typical testosterone fueled, misogynistic action movie. I had heard nothing but good things about it from everyone, so I decided to give it a chance and it didn't disappoint. The world building and aesthetics are amazing. The world is a barren desert due to nuclear war and aging Immorten Joe holds on to his power with an iron fist. He takes all the natural resources and commodities from random the public to hold over them and divvy out as he wants. This keeps the people poor and prevents them from overthrowing him. The most fascinating part of this bizarre world is the War Boys. They are strong and healthy young boys taken from the public and raised to be brainwashed, blindly faithful followers of Joe. As they get older, these strong and healthy boys become sickly and lose all sense of individuality. They gladly give their lives for their beloved leader and believe his promises of Valhalla after their death. None of them see maturity since they die from cancer or in the battles they fight. This whole regime is sick and unnatural because ancient Immortan Joe sacrifices the youth of his society in order to destroy the natural order of youth eventually taking power over the old. The young men are completely disposable and accept this state while the women are reduced to breeders and breastmilk machines. The film employs a style similar to steampunk, but more updated and mixed with a primitive, tribal vibe. Nothing in the film is new, but is instead repurposed from trash and stolen goods. Metal and technology in the film represent decay, stagnation, and enslavement rather than advancement or progress.
My favorite part of the film was the use of gender equality throughout from the portrayal of the female characters to how other characters treated them. Furiosa is the only woman with any sort of power in this world. Her crew defers to her even if they don't understand what she does. She has proven herself to them and they (mistakenly) trust her completely. While Max is the title character, he stumbles upon the main events by accident and isn't really the main focus of the film. Furiosa is the driving force behind it and I related more to her. Once they join forces, Max treats Furiosa as an equal. He accepts that she is better at him at some things, like driving the massive rig, shooting a giant gun he repeatedly missed with, and continually following her lead. They help each other and recognize each others' strengths and weaknesses. Their relationship is a partnership and a friendship. Furiosa is a nuanced character who is tough as nails and extremely capable, but still has emotions. She seeks to improve her life, exact revenge, and save others. Charlize Theron captures both sides of the character and just blew me away. The emotions in the film run strong despite all the explosions and violence, resulting in some beautiful, quiet scenes between characters. In the end, it's Furiosa who kills Immortan Joe, overthrowing his regime, and takes the responsibility of rebuilding that society while Max continues on his own journey.
One of the reasons I thought I would hate this movie was the portrayal of Immortan Joe's wives. I saw an early preview of the first scene with Max and Furiosa. The wives wear diaphanous, sexy silks which are incredibly impractical for the desert setting. I figured they would be repeatedly raped on screen, nude at inappropriate moments, and generally useless to the story. I am so glad to be wrong. The misogynistic treatment of women in the film stems from Immortan Joe's regime. He reduces women to unwilling breeders and milk providers while Furiosa and Max eventually free all these women in their upheaval. So many people mistake the inclusion of misogyny in a film as an affirmation of it, but they need to look at its context within the film instead of jumping to conclusions. The wives' dresses are meant to titillate and look pretty, but they've chosen to free themselves from this view. Their past sexual abuse is never shown in the film because it doesn't have to be. They don't have to prove to the audience that they were indeed essentially sex slaves in a guilded cage for a megalomaniac. Some of the wives want to go back to their guilded cage because of a combination of Stockholm Syndrome and that their cage and its trappings are familiar in contrast to their uncertain fate in the desert. The wives, while not physically tough, did all they could to help Furiosa and Max through physically blocking them with pregnant bellies, deceiving the enemy, reloading guns, etc.
I enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road. The characters are complex; the visuals are brutal and beautiful; the story is surprising; the themes are relevant; and the inclusion of music in a dystopian society is spot on. Why would future societies reject art? The guy with the flamethrower guitar was my favorite minor character. The movie is just a breath of fresh air all around. I highly recommend it.
My rating: 10/10 fishmuffins