Okay, y’all, Mad Max: Fury Road (MMFR) is the Mad Max film that we’ve all be waiting 30 years for.
(I am thoroughly flummoxed that it’s been 30 years.)
But, more importantly, this is the Mad Max film that George Miller has been waiting 30 years to make, and it shows. The level of attention lavished upon every frame of MMFR is astonishing and wonderful and as brilliant as it is disturbing.
This is the dieselpunk, gearhead, post-apocalyptic, dystopian world that we’ve been waiting for, and it’s everything that we could have asked for.
MMFR’s gorgeously constructed world has the weight of long, lived history and HISTORY clearly drawing from the previous four films while expanding, revising, and tailoring that history to create an installment that is, at once, apart and a-piece of the previous mythos.
Because rather than this being a Mad Max film about oil shortages and governments crumbling—chaos ruling the world just for fun—this is a world that has been rebuilt and , redrawn so that shortages of oil and water and food are choreographed by a dynastic dictatorship, buttressed by a Cult of Personality-cum-death cult, to ensure the continued poverty of the people and the continued enslavement of women—either as breeders of War Boys and Warlords or as producers of “Mother’s Milk”.
And, all of it is lead by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne; Sleeping Beauty, Farscape, and Mad Max), whose “wives” (i.e., slaves whose only value is in their ability to produce children “perfect in every way”)—Cheedo the Fragile (Courtney Eaton), The Dag (Abbey Lee), Capable (Riley Keough; Dixieland, Kiss of the Damned, and Magic Mike), Toast the Knowing (Zoe Kravitz; Divergent series, X-Men: First Class, and Californication), and The Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley; Tranformers: Dark of the Moon)—elicit the help of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron; Dark Places, Prometheus, and Snow White and the Huntsman) to escape to a place where they won’t be objects, won’t be slaves, anymore.
A place where they and their children can be free.
*cue 120 minutes of glorious, gratuitous, vehicular-based warfare*
Yeah, we get the return of Max Universal-Donor-Blood-Bag-Where-Has-My-Left-Boot-Gotten-To-This-Time Rockantansky (Tom Hardy; Chill 44, The Dark Knight Rises, and Inception), but Max is—as he’s been for much of the time he’s spent in the Mad Max series—peripheral.
And, that’s the thing that all the MRA haters don’t seem to understand: the Mad Max series has never been about Max. It’s always been about the people that Max tries to help—usually for less than altruistic reasons—which is why he’s always isolated and alienated.
Max’s PTSD-flash hallucinations—which are apparently supposed to be his dead daughter except that Max never had a daughter, so I kept assuming that she was supposed to be one of the Tomorrow-morrow Land kids from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (or an amalgam of the other people who Max has helped throughout the character’s history)—tell us this story in a grand total of maybe two minutes because MMFR shows us so much more than it tells, and beneath each thing that we’re told, there’s a hundred other things waiting.
And, the emphasis on agency and caretaking—of each other and the world—sneaks in everywhere—from Immortan Joe’s people who hatehatehate him (except for the War Boys who are convinced Immortan Joe is some kind of god and Valhalla awaits them in death) for his reckless disregard for, well, everything to The Splendid Angharad positioning herself to save Furiosa and her sister-wives to the Vuvalini who lend their aid and dwindling numbers in order to help Furiosa and the Wives take the Citadel from Immortan Joe to the Keeper of Seeds (Melissa Jaffer; All Saints, Farscape, and Head Start), who plants bits and bobs anywhere and anytime and in anything that she can—and becomes an unsubtle but thoroughly effective and well-acted treatise on the societal norms and expectations that molded the world into this sand-hell of longing and oppression.
The same norms and expectations that are pulling the world apart at the seams now.
MMFR is one of those scifi-action films where meaning, action, and beauty are not mutually exclusive, and honestly, I’m not sure why all of our scifi-action films aren’t just as complicated and complex and important.
They all have this potential after all.
But, MMFR is an incredibly well-thought feminist meditation and dismantlement of heteropatriarchical constructions of capitalism that subsequently posits a future post-capitalist, egalitarian model of value and production.
That people—particularly women—aren’t products to be consumed or to create more products—objects creating more objects—rather in this post-capitalist, feminist mode of production, agency and self work in concert for the betterment of all.
That the feminist-Marxist post-capitalism of the Wives and Furiosa infects others through kindness and caring and treating people like Nux (Nicholas Hoult; Dark Places, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Warm Bodies) as if they are people—potentially for the first time in their entire lives—and that they’re not just bodies to be thrown at a not-war.
That, if they are to die, they are to die on their own terms, in their own ways, doing what is right—like Nux who dies Historical and fulfilling his mission in returning the Wives to the Citadel.
Just—not the way Immortan Joe had intended.
But—we’ll have to wait until Mad Max: Furiosa to know for certain.