‘I’ ON CULTURE
The best thing about Mad Max: Fury Road is that it gives you pretty much what you expect: a long, wild chase through the desert, incredible special effects and almost no intelligent plot. Although many critics have raved about how up-to-date the franchise has become, decades after the last in the series, changes are basically skin deep. Yes, there is a major female hero, as good as and perhaps better than Max at killing bad guys. But aside from that, there is still the nihilistic pull of absolute violence throughout.
This is a nightmare vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Essentially, it all takes place in the desert where Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) controls the main water supply and therefore all the people. He is backed up by a group of mascara-wearing semi-zombies who live in order to die gloriously and live in Valhalla. Max (Tom Hardy), a survivor haunted by visions of his dead wife and daughter, is captured by these men and turned into a living blood donor… meaning all of his blood. As he is hanging upside down with blood flowing from his veins, however, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a top lieutenant of the leader, steals a war rig (these are mixes of cars and trucks, all heavily armored) along with five “breeders,” beautiful young women whose role is to provide “normal children” for the boss. Joe calls out all the troops in a chase. Max, tied up and in a metal mask, becomes a hood ornament on one of the small vehicles, attached through a blood line to Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a crazed young nut determined to either do great things or die gloriously.
As expected, Max manages to escape and joins up with the women. The scene where he comes upon the young women, all wearing relatively little, is one of the few amusing ones. He joins up with Furiosa and the two of them lead the battle against the overwhelming forces of Joe’s horde as they drive toward the “green lands” that she remembers from her childhood. Ironically, they arrive there just to find the few people left, all women, are as badly off as they are and, as Max’s suggestion, they fight their way back to Immortan Joe’s citadel to take over there.
There is almost no real acting involved, even though both Theron and Hardy are exceptional actors. The characters are supposed to be so hardened by the problems they have faced that they have few emotions left. The breeder women are all beautiful, a stark contrast to the weathered, mutant look of most of the rest of the cast. For some reason, Furiosa has an artificial arm. There is no explanation for it and it never is used differently from a normal arm in the action scenes. I suppose it is supposed to symbolize how weathered and tough she is. The closest thing to emotions is a relationship between one of the breeder girls and Nux, and very little time is expended on it. But that is not the point of the movie: hard-core violence and action are the whole point of the exercise.
Is there a feminist message? Aside from the point that Furiosa is exceptional at killing, fighting and truck repair, there really is not much left. Most of the young women seem helpless. The old biddies they find at Furiosa’s old home are tough and can shoot well, but most of them don’t last long. And, ironically, the main point that flows through the film is the vital important of woman as breeders, mothers of their children. There is even a quick scene of women being milked by special pumps so the babies (and leaders) can have mother’s milk.
Despite the weak plot, the action is exceptional. Director George Miller directed the original trilogy and clearly wanted to outdo the action. There are long action scenes of cars crashing into each other, motorcycles flying through the air in giant leaps, flamethrowers, grenade spears, trucks that look like porcupines with spears all over them, and all are used throughout. If you want nonstop action and a lot of violence, this is a great action video game of a film. No plot, really, but the chase is fantastic.