Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Yes, The Beloved Spouse and I physically departed Castle Schadenfreude to see a movie. Not just any movie, Mad Max: Fury Road. We left with mixed emotions, though an estimate of our overall impression is made clear by our agreement that she will pick our next movie adventure.

(Editor’s Note: Spoilers abound.)

One problem with the film was the chase scenes, which is a serious matter when talking about a movie that isn’t much more than a series of chases. (I referred to it as “action porn,” with just enough story to serve as a combination bridge and excuse for the next chase.) The chases are substantial cinematic achievements—especially when taking into account less than 20% of the action was CGI-enhanced—but a couple went on past the point of sustaining excitement into the land of “It looks they had one more stunt they wanted to try.” True porn would also not have confused the money shot. Things are so hectic—and the editing so frantic—when Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) kills Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) the viewer can’t tell how she got to him, how she killed him, how she got back, nor how they retrieved his body. Too much depends on adrenaline overdoses getting viewers to overlook oversights, or, as my father would say of an imperfection in cutting the grass, “No one’s going to notice driving by at sixty miles an hour.”

The ending is also weak. When Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa return victorious, displaying Immortan Joe’s body to the masses, the entire power structure rolls over, and life will now be different. We’re expected to believe people whose power and enhanced living conditions depended on the status quo are now just going to bow down and accept what’s coming to them. It’s too na├»ve an ending for such a borderline nihilistic movie.

There are plusses to balance the ledger. Director George Miller and his co-writers (Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris) don’t insult the audience’s intelligence. You’re left alone to figure out the backstory and key plot motivators without much explanation. Everything you need is there, but you have to pay attention. A lot of films that claim to be more intellectually-motivated would do well to follow this example.

The chemistry between Max and Furiosa—wait, I should have said “Furiosa and Max:” it’s really her movie—is spot on. Theron and Hardy are perfectly cast, and pace the evolution of their characters’ relationship from mistrust / having to trust / trusting / willing to die for effortlessly. The depth of their bonding is brought home, not with over the top dialog or a sexually-charged (and inappropriate) scene, but by how they exchange eye contact at the end. Again, more done with less said.

The real plus-plus—and the primary reason I went to see it—is that Fury Road makes men’s rights
activists’ heads explode. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is the girl next door compared to Theron’s Furiosa. Hair cut almost to the scalp, missing half a forearm, bound up and dressed for desert battle, she sets the new standard for badass, regardless of gender. And she’s Charlize Theron, for Crissakes. She’s hot. She can’t help it. Furiosa could be a litmus test for MRAs. Real men respected her strength, and were still aroused at some level. MRAs were terrified, their tiny little dicks crawling even farther back inside than usual.

And it’s not just her. All the women kick ass. The escaping wives look soft and cuddly and sex-objecty, but all do whatever needs to be done. The tribe of women they encounter before starting back have had everything taken away and survive by working together, while the male-dominated society back in the Citadel holds power by controlling all the water and food and parceling it out however best suits their needs to remain in power. (Talk about your one percent.)

On balance, two-and-a-half stars out of five, but I’m glad I went. I’ve done quite a bit of research into the men’s rights movement for the work-in-progress, and there is not a more detestable bunch of self-serving, weak, cowardly, bullying, dickless pieces of shit to be found drawing breath. (And yes, honey badgers, I’m talking about you, too.) Anything that riles them up and gets them to voice their opinions outside the manosphere where they can be exposed is a good thing. I don’t know if this was the intent of Fury Road—I’m inclined to think it was an unintended consequence of the film’s equal treatment of the sexes—but it was worth leaving the house for just for that.


John McFetridge said...

"We’re expected to believe people whose power and enhanced living conditions depended on the status quo are now just going to bow down and accept what’s coming to them."

I disagree. I joked when we were leaving the theatre, It'll be a happy anarcho-syndacalist commune in no time." But we know it won't be. It's closer to the fall of Rome, the army is now very depleted and the ruling class also depleted. Of course, the slave revolt won't go well, but that's what sequels are for.

The main thing I liked about this movie is it's one of the few post-apocalyptic stories that seems to understand the destruction of the world will drive people, well, mad. They are all clearly insane.

Dana King said...

I hadn't thought of that--setting up the sequel-but you're right. (As usual.)

I thought of the insanity aspect, as well, but not consciously. You made me think of it here, but the movie handled it so matter of factly, I realize now I was watching it the same way. "Of course they've all gone insane. What else could they do?"

pattinase (abbott) said...

We went with no expectations because we both dislike this sort of movie. But the feminist text won us over somewhat. Enough to say it was the best action movie we had seen in a long time. We'd weigh in around 3.5. But those low expectations were worth a point.