Mad Max: Fury Road has been the subject of much debate on its stance on feminism. This can be debated endlessly and endlessly… Max is something of a hero in this film, but the real issue, the catalyst that initiates the plot, was not aided by a man. On the flip side, you can argue that it seemed exploitative to have 4 out of 5 women characters in this movie wearing barely any clothing at all.
Science fiction has always been a potential place to see progressive politics in action as someone tries to imagine a new future. Will it be a hopeful future, a la Star Trek or will it be something much bleaker? The world of Mad Max has always been a stark one, a barren one, a kill-or-be-killed kind of world where your closest ally might be someone who tried to kill you only moments before, and your greatest enemy is someone who you thought to be capable of such kindness and compassion.
The third sequel in a series that began in in 1979, Mad Max: Fury Road has a lot of anticipation. This is the first movie to come out since 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome, in which the series seemed to veer toward a PG-13 trajectory. While Thunderdome was good fun, it was no Road Warrior, and it’s good to see Fury Road getting back to what made the movies so successful in the first place… back to this bare-knuckled brutality, with blood and sand and legitimate harm that could come from anywhere and happen to any character, no matter how attached to them you’ve gotten.
Fury Road begins similarly to the way The Road Warrior did, with the briefest of re-caps, introducing you to the titular character, the barren, post-apocalyptic world and then, BAM!, it’s off to a start that doesn’t begin to let-up until the very end. I’ve seen Fury Road described as a movie which is one long chase scene, and that’s not far from the truth. It pretty much is, but the movie does know when to dial it back a bit and have quieter moments. Some of the movie’s best moments are a quiet, eerie silence that happens just before a loud bang is going to happen.
Tom Hardy as the new Max, filling in for a now-racist and now-insane Mel Gibson, lends a great screen presence. Tom Hardy is always enjoyable to watch because he’s a fantastic actor and knows how to convey a lot of emotion—he can show you what he’s trying to conceal and make it obvious that his character is hurt but trying not to say a word about it—without using any dialogue. As Max, though, the director (George Miller, same director of the other three entries), just doesn’t give him that much to do. He’s much more an audience surrogate than anything else. And, given the excitement of the entire movie, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I just feel like more could have been done with him, especially given that he’s Tom friggin’ Hardy.
Charlize Theron, as Furiosa, is the film’s real star. She initiates the chase that lasts through the entire film. She’s a rogue driver who’s looking for redemption. She is absolutely fantastic in this role and the movie would have been a complete bore without her.
The more movies spend on effects and the more they divorce themselves reality, the more you miss character-driven movies. And then, every so often, a big-budget spectacle like Mad Max: Fury Road will come alone and show you that good movies are still being churned out by the Hollywood system. Fury Road cares about its characters and it knows that if you want to be thrilled by a story, if you want to be invested in the drama, it has to be all about the characters. Sure, you can show a car explode, but who cares if the person driving it is a cardboard cut-out? Isn’t it much more exciting if you care about the people and you wrench your hands nervously, hoping that they make it out okay?
There are two big stars in this movie: Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Nicholas Hoult and Zoë Kravitz lend supporting roles. Fury Road is refreshing in that it isn’t jam-packed to the absolute brim with A-list actors all vying for screen time. Because of its focus to the spectacle and the plot, it contains all of the fun and imagination that the newest Avengers movie should have had.
Also, at the box office, I got free temporary tattoos. It’s a long story, but I ended up seeing the movie alone and the guy working behind the register was like, “Do you want these, or…?” and I was all, “Gimme!”
Fury Road is a movie that’s about something. It’s about finding redemption and it’s about doing what you know to be true and just, no matter the consequences. In such a dire world, is it more important to merely survive or is it more important to do what you can to change the world?