Thursday, May 21, 2015

Syan Vs Movies- Mad Max: Fury Road

After 30 years Max Rockatansky has returned the big screen and the action does not stop for a moment. Hop into the War Rig and ride through this dangerous Fury Road. With Tom Hardy in the titular role, replacing Mel Gibson, and Charlize Theron acting in the lead role as Imperator Furiosa, this is a hit.  Oh, what a ride, what a lovely ride.

Immortan Joe is Sweet Tooth's descendant

With a longer hiatus than Doctor Who, Mad Max had a lot to do in order to reintroduce himself to modern audience. The choice to go with a movie that is light on plot and heavy on action worked heavily to its benefit. Mad Max: Fury Road can have its entire storyline boiled down to “Max joins up with a group of women on the run from a crazed dictator.” It’s that simple. It’s not a big character study, it’s an action-packed run and the movie industry NEEDS those from time to time.

However, this is not a turn-your-brain-off silly battle romp. It’s quite interesting with its subtlety. The little bits of plot you are given make you want to more know about the background of both the world and the characters.  After the movie I was still genuinely confused as to: what a “bloodbag” is for, why Nux and others were dying, what the chrome spray that they used as an adrenaline drug was, what skin condition did Immortan Joe suffer from, as well as a plethora of other things. Complete and utter confusion, and when I asked others about these, thinking maybe I missed something, they did not know either. Now, I’m not holding this against Mad Max: Fury Road only due to the fact that I don’t feel the explanation of any of these is crucial to the exact events. Joe was clearly a lying dictator who kept everyone under his control, Max wants to find redemption for his past, Furiosa needs to save the wives and return to the “green land.”  That’s all we need resolved in the film.

This dude has set the internet on fire.
Because his guitar shoots fire.
No, really.

Where I find concern is in the fact that Vertigo is producing Mad Max: Fury Road comics. The positive is that these comics are written by George Miller, the creator of Mad Max in the first place. My issue is that these are acting as a way to avoid working further material into the movie organically and instead presenting it in the comics as bonus features. If these comics act more as data books and extended universe material, that’s great, but if they serve as a way to simply cash-in on the movie’s success and use rejected storylines that were not good enough to make it out of the film’s cutting room, then it’s a tad shameless.

Despite having the “Mad Max” title, this is not Max’s story. This is absolutely Imperator Furiosa’s tale.  Max joins with her, not the other way around. She is the central driving force (pardon the pun) behind the entire conflict. She was abducted when she was young. She works to earn a high position under Immortan Joe. She escapes with Joe’s wives. Conversely, Max is attacked, taken prisoner, dragged after Furiosa by Nux, then joins up with Furiosa when he gets free. He is her supporting player. This is probably best shown when their group hides in the dark from an approaching sentry, and Max tries to use his rifle to snipe the searchlight. Max takes two shots, missing both times, and looks at Furiosa who takes the gun from him, uses his shoulder as a rifle stand, and makes the shot in her first try.

Furiosa don't mess. Furiosa don't miss.

This and other moments show that even though it is just as much, if not more, of a crazy action-packed rush as the previous Mad Max movies, Fury Road has an excellent feminist backbone. I applaud that even though their past as sex slaves to Immortan Joe is alluded to, we are not forced to see yet another flashback of violence against women.  It has more females than males in principle roles, and each of them has their own voice, which is important. Furiosa has by far the most lines in the film, aided by the fact that Max doesn’t really speak until halfway through its runtime. Zoe Kravitz is angry at the pain she has suffered through as Toast the Knowing.  Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is strong playing the pregnant Splendid Angharad, the voice of reason amongst the wives. Abbey Lee spouts some of the craziest yet most insightful lines in the movie as The Dag.  Cheedo the Fragile, played by Courtney Eaton, is the kind-hearted healer who sees the man inside of the tortured Nux. Melissa Jaffer acts as a sage who knows the need for violence in this dying world and the hope for salvation in her role as the Keeper of the Seeds.  These are just a few of the varied major roles played by women within Mad Max: Fury Road.

I thought Max was hallucinating when he sees five beautiful women in the middle of the desert.

Max himself is a very interesting character in this film.  We pick up with him captured by Immortan Joe’s henchmen, fitted with a mask, and trying in vain to escape his death mountain before being turned into Nux’s bloodbag and fixed to his grill. Once he escapes, Max is soft-spoken and hard-hitting.  At one point he marches off alone to face a group of enemies without saying anything. When Toast asks what he plans to do, Furiosa simply replies “Retaliate.” When he returns and asks for water, Cheedo worries he is injured only to be told by Furiosa that it is not his blood that he is covered in. Max doesn’t feel the need to comment on things unnecessarily. Early in the film, we see that Max is haunted by the death of many of his loved ones, as he sees their screams when others are in peril, but as the movie rolls on, he opens up further and becomes the one to bring hope to the group when they are at their most forlorn.

Immortan Joe and his son, Rictus Erectus, are the primary villains of the movie. Acting as the dictator and his muscle, they are horrific and cruel. There is one moment that tries to give them a small portion of sympathy and complexity as they each mourn someone about whom they cared.  Conversely, Nux is a villain who truly earns redemption and forgiveness.  Realizing he has been used by Joe, Nux becomes torn and is then saved by Cheedo’s kindness. Moving against a man he has revered as a god, Nux sacrifices everything he had been raised to believe in order to have hope in a brighter future.  

"Get this off. I really have to pee and the teeth scare me."

Altogether, Mad Max: Fury Road is a high-octane enjoyable adventure from start to finish.  It walks the line between mindless action film and subtle commentary about fleeting nature in a careful fashion. It has excellent characterization and is the perfect example that a feminist movie does not need to be a “chick flick” like some people foolishly claim. The plot holes serve to make you more interested in learning about the world rather than leaving you unsatisfied.

Short version: If you like violent action films, don’t miss it, but don’t expect a deep storyline. 

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Look into other Syan Vs Movies reviews:  Tale of Princess KaguyaPitch Perfect 2San Andreas, and Ex Machina

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