Fire, gears, and weird: Mad Max Fury Road

This is a post about the insanity that is Mad Max: Fury Road, if you haven’t seen this film yet, stop now and go and see it because like a hard boiled egg left in an unplugged fridge for two weeks, this post will have spoilers in it.

I have loved Mad Max since I was 13 and Fury Road did not disappoint. It’s the first film in a long time to make my head explode in the most pleasant of ways, which has made me return to the movie theater twice now, with a third waiting in the wings. This film, like its action, has a lot going on and is the most subtle film you will see this year.

Yes, a movie with spikey hot rods and metal shredding freaks is subtle.

Its storytelling is so focused that a lot can be missed as this world blurs past the audience in a fireball of themes and ideas. This moving metal album cover has a lot going on under the hood.

Visual storytelling

There is very little dialogue in the movie. I wouldn’t say it approaches Once Upon A Time In The West  level of silence, but it is on par with that film. We see character development that is shown and not told.

Look at the beginning of the film, with Max and his V8 Interceptor standing alone against the wilderness. Max is more animal than man here because of the fact that he has had to become an animal in order to survive; as per his intro, survival is the only thing left in him. Fast forward to the end of the film, where he disappears into the masses of people and into the society he left behind. Through his journey we see him become more and more human. As he gets his stuff back, his boots, jacket, and gear, he becomes more of a man. His increasing interaction with women also helps to civilize him and make him into a functional person once again.

Then you have Furiosa (As a friend of mine said is the best female action hero since Ripley, I wholeheartedly agree), when we meet her it’s a close up of her Immortan Joe brand on the back of her neck and we pull back to see her getting into the war rig. She seems cool but tense at the same time. The reason why is because this is probably her last time attempt to escape the Citadel and if it fails she will die. She is a woman who knows exactly what she is doing and knows she cannot let her guard down. The only time we ever really she her guard down is when she meets The Vulvani tribe of Many Mothers and at the end of the film.

The actors are showing the character development rather than letting the editing show it. There isn’t a specific moment in which they become better people or suddenly appear in a Deus Ex Machina sort of way. They carry the film and drive it forward, rather than just being carted along by the plot.

It’s about people

This film has people in it, and I don’t mean that people can be seen in it, but rather it has people in it that care about one another. Obviously if you’re on the opposite side of the gun, the care is quite small, but within the individual groups from Immortan Joe’s Warboys to The Vulvani, they truly care about one another. It’s a connection that is strong and serves a purpose in the film as the Warboys bow and salute one another and The Many Mothers respectfully remember those who have gone in their hearts.

These tribes of people become family to one another and it is through this connection that they are able to live.

At one point the group talks about satellites and how TV shows were everywhere. It’s something that is almost unimaginable to the younger group as that kind of connectivity seems almost god-like.

Max begins to earn his humanity once more by being around these women who care for one another. He sees a piece of himself in Furiosa and begins to regain his humanity through her while she has him to assist in her plans to return home and save the wives from their life of slavery. Max at the beginning of the film is more animal than man and when he finally says his name, he almost doesn’t believe it himself because it probably has been a long time since even he uttered it out loud.

How freaking weird it is

There is nothing in this film that is normal or even remotely close to normal, I mean it had a breast milk farm, and I loved it for that reason. For the last ten years a lot of sci-fi films have tried to go weird, but wind up being the goth kid version of Star Wars. In fact, many modern sci-fi films have been heralded as the new Star Wars or something to that effect and because of that marketing tilt, and probably the pressure of the film’s producers, they usually do feel like a watered down SW.

This film isn’t trying to mimic another film or even be “the new XYZ” it really is unique. If you look at the designs of the film, from the cars to the other tribes to the gear that the characters in the film use, it is analog. Nothing in this film is slick, all of it is boxy, rough, and tangible.

This film is a 1980’s film and 80’s sci-fi or fantasy films were all freaking strange. I mean look at what came out of the 80’s:

  •     Krull
  •     The Dark Crystal
  •     Legend
  •     The Masters of the Universe
  •     Highlander
  •     The Last Starfighter
  •     Explorers
  •     Mad Max

All of these films have bizarre designs and even stranger story lines, but they were each different in their own way and did something. Most modern sci-fi is very similar, in both design and story, and follows a rigid structure we have seen hundreds of times. The closest films to Fury Road, in my mind, are The Road Warrior and Stagecoach.

I really do hope we see more bizarre stuff in the theaters, because that’s what’s really going to get me in there every weekend.

May you be shiny and chrome!