From the director of Happy Feet comes the fourth entry in his Mad Max saga, Fury Road. Die-hard fans of the series, please forgive my ignorance regarding it as it’s been many, many years since I’ve watched the earlier entries in the series and my biggest memory of it is loving the Tina Turner theme song from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. It is then to my benefit that Fury Road follows the trend of the other sequels where the earlier entries don’t really matter as far as continuity goes; all you really need to know is that in a crapsack future there is a lone hero named Max who traverses the landscape with the loss of his family and loved ones weighing heavily on his heart.
In Fury Road, Max (Tom Hardy) is just scraping by with all his other adventures past him. He’s simply trying to survive when he’s captured by followers of the evil Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played the main villain in the original Mad Max) Max is strung up like a human blood bag to help give Joe’s sick war boy Nux (Nicholas Caradoc Hoult) who played Beast in (X-Men: Days of Future Past) life. At the same time Furiosa (Charlize Theorn) has made off with one of Joe’s tanker trucks along with his wives and is making a break to start a new life. Joe beats the drums of war and sends out all of his army to re-capture the escaping women. Nux straps Max on the front of his car to keep the blood transfusion going while they give chase across the wasteland. Yeah, you read that right. Max is a blood-transfusing hood ornament for the first twenty some minutes of the film. When they make their way up to Furosia that’s when things get interesting and a narrative starts to take place amid all the amazing chaos that takes place of the next eighty some minutes of the film. In a sense, it’s a quasi-remake of The Road Warrior with the film being one continuous chase
Miller, at 70 years old, has made a film that seems like it was written by a metal head teenager in 1983. Seriously, you could take just about any shot in this film and slap it on a metal album cover and it’d fit perfectly. After watching Fury Road, this is the picture I had of him in my minds eye:
This is really him:
It’s very jarring and impressive that the guy who made Happy Feet can return to his franchise with something so impressive and contrary to what we’re seeing in films currently. Everything that happens is vital to building the story and the world the film takes place in. I’ve read that even the steering wheels have back stories to them. Seriously, there is so much going on that it’s going to take me multiple viewings to process all of the insane set pieces. Speaking of which, my favorite is the giant rig with stadium speakers set up on it and guy who looks like a cross between John 5 and a cenobite cranking away demonic riffs on a double neck guitar that shoots flames from an exhaust pipe fashioned on the end. You don’t get more metal than that! My only two real gripes about this film is that it is hard to understand what the characters are saying at times, but it could be the sound system in the theater I saw it in. Also, the choreography left much to be desired. It was hard to tell where each vehicle and participant in the battles were in relation to each other during a few of the bigger action scenes. Overall, it’s impressive this movie got made with practical effects so I’m not going to complain too much about that.
Tom Hardy does an excellent job as Max, and gives new layers to the character that weren’t there when we last saw him. This is a guy who has been kicked down by life way too many times. The stoic hero portrayal that made Max iconic under Mel Gibson is gone at the beginning of this film. Tom Hardy portrays Max almost like he’s a stray dog, and it’s only as Furosia helps Max out that he reclaims his humanity. Slowly over the course of the film we see Max come back to who he was in the earlier films and Hardy does a great job taking the character from a complete nut ball to returning Max to an heroic everyman.
Nicholas Hoult as Nux is the most endearing character of the film, functioning as a bi-polar Gollum type character with split allegiances who the heroes are forced to let guide them across the wasteland. And of course, Charlize Theorn is great as Furosia, the only person in the movie who seems to have a steady head on her shoulders. If this film was made in the 80s a lot of the controversy surrounding her character would not exist. First, some have said that she is the main character of the film, a statement that I respect but disagree with. Let me explain why: Mad Max is basically the archetypical lone wolf “hero” much like Conan and other weird fiction characters in which the designated hero moves from quest to quest with no trace of real continuity. Side characters appear, some take center stage for the tale, but the overall story of the series focuses on one person. The title of this series from the outset has been Mad Max, not Mad Furiosa. The headlining moniker stays in this sequel.
This is why the controversial article from Return of Kings that made big news last week is so laughable; it assumes because the film has a strong female lead that it undervalues masculinity. While reading what little I could before realizing life is too short, I had an image of a steroid abuser masturbating to images of beating women while listening to Five Finger Death Punch. It should be noted however that the same website also offers a very insightful piece (written by another author) about how Conan and other mythic hero tales are important to us as men. You can take from this that the “men’s rights activists” have very different views on women and is divided against itself (the same can be said for feminism). The former article is deathly afraid of women being portrayed in a positive light, the latter sees them as an integral part of a heroes journey. Stories and myths are a huge part of life and reflect human psychology (see Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul). A hero must eventually find a mate worthy of his love, and being a weak willed woman hater is the opposite of masculinity and I’m sad I live in a world that needs that pointed out. If you’re scared of strong women, you’ve got some issues man. By beautiful strong women, I’m fascinated always. On the other hand, feminists are praising the film saying it represents them. And they are just as wrong (such is usually the case).
Max and Furiosa, on their own, would have died in the desert (spoiler alert, they live). It’s by putting aside their differences and banding together they come out of their quests alive and better people. There is something to be said for that. As a species, the war of the sexes is counter-productive to our survival. We both need each other. Of course, I could be looking too much into the film just as much as the assholes and femnazi’s, but at least I’m looking for a positive message.