Confession: I’ve never seen all of a Mad Max movie. I started watching the original, but ten slow minutes of unintelligible mumbling nixed that. Not having seen it, I didn’t go for The Road Warrior, presented as a sequel. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was an HBO staple when I was growing up, and I’ve certainly seen parts of it over and over (the Master Blaster fight scene must take place on a half-hour because I think I’ve seen that bit like 30 times) but never the whole thing.
I haven’t seen a lot of 80s staples, but I’m not sure how I never got around to this one, given my interest in videogames like Fallout and Borderlands and in boardgames like The New Era. When I heard that Fury Road required no previous knowledge and was getting great reviews, I decided to jump on board.
I liked the movie a lot. It’s a tense action movie with incredible design and set-pieces. Essentially one long chase scene, it’s hard to imagine them being able to constantly raise the tension and over-the-topness, yet George Miller continually does so. That the majority of it was practical effects and stunts makes it even more incredible.
I thought it was a lot of fun, but it has been a bit oversold. While there’s enough plot to tie the chase to, it’s not a particularly novel one. Also the claim of how incredibly feminist it is overstates the case. It’s certainly got more of a feminist angle than what’s usually out there for Summer, but so does a pile of hams. It’s difficult to gauge how high a movie jumps when the bar is sitting on the ground.
This isn’t to say that there’s no real feminism in the movie. There are definitely a lot of moves in that direction. The end, I think, kind of muddles the message, but there’s clearly an attempt to break from tradition here. Charlize Theron’s character is no “man with breasts”. Changing that character to a man would result in a very different movie. Yet she’s also not there to be rescued by Max, have sex with Max, or be a prize for Max at the end. In addition, the character of Nux could be argued to show the benefits that feminism offers to men. It’s not a difficult read to make.
The movie actually does away with a lot of the usual tropes, which is great. Max is not the baddest badass in the world (though the bits from Thunderdome I’ve seen indicate that this was a constant theme.) There are a lot of moments that you don’t usually see in these kinds of movies. And unlike a lot of current action films, the characters do things between the “fuck yeah” moments other than engage in witty banter.
Mad Max: Fury Road genuinely offers more than the usual junk. How much more, it’s difficult to say, but if you’re even slightly curious, check it out. I’m glad I did, and I’ve added more Max to the Netflix queue.