This may be the internet’s millionth post about Mad Max: Fury Road and how extremely awesome it is, but hey, I just set up a blog, so why not add one more? There be spoilers ahead.
Yes, the stunts, assorted machines and effects are incredible. As soon as the movie starts, it stands on the gas pedal and doesn’t let up until it’s over. It’s a top-notch production in every aspect. And who wasn’t happy to see the Doof Warrior ride again? No one. So yes, it more than delivered on the Mad Max promises of insanity, crazy-ass vehicles and costumes, violence and lots of explosions. For all that alone, it’s definitely worth seeing in a theater. But there’s so much more to it.
Much of the buzz surrounding the movie — and very rightly so — is on Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa and her badassery and the portrayal of women in general. It really is a remarkable thing in that regard. More remarkable even, in that Furiosa herself is an amputee, sporting a metal arm she probably put together from spare parts. Also – SHE HAS NO STUPID LOVE STORY ARC. !!! A lady in a movie, without a love plot. What a thing!
Beyond Furiosa, there are the abominable Imortan Joe’s “wives” she’s trying to take with her to freedom. They’re his “treasures” because they are beautiful and he’s keeping them captive for his raping and breeding pleasure. We know all this because it’s pretty obvious, not because writer/director George Miller felt the need to show any actual sexual assault. He gives his audience credit and treats us as though we’re intelligent enough to understand what’s happening and that’s horrifying enough. This lovely little NPR piece reveals he had Eve Ensler, who’s worked with sex slaves & abused women around the world, to consult on their backstories and with the actresses. Glory be to all the gods, someone (a white man, no less) got help from someone who knows about a sensitive subject to treat it with care and respect instead of just writing yet another “shocking” scene of a woman getting raped.
The wives themselves are not simply pretty things that must be rescued. These distressed damsels are fierce, strong women who are actual developed characters with their own personalities. They fight, they climb around the war rig making repairs and they save Furiosa and Max a couple of times while they’re at it. They bolster each other when one is afraid with the mantra “We are not things!” In so many other movies, they would’ve been just that: pretty things in the background, stolen property to be shuttled around, fought over, protected, with no voices or agency of their own.
When our intrepid band of lady badasses and Max reach Furiosa’s original home, the Green Place of the Many Mothers, they are met with a small group of older women who prove to be just as badass as the rest of them. In a time when older women are barely even seen on screen, this movie gives us a motorcycle gang of senior citizen valkyries. It gives us 78-year-old Melissa Jaffer doing her own stunts.
You know what else this movie gives us? Two manly macho men who don’t even give the slightest hint that they think any of these women are anything but the badass warriors they are. Max and Nux the war boy are as much rescued by the ladies as they are integral in saving them. They simply react to them as formidable adversaries then capable partners and then, as humans worth helping/saving. The men share ideas with the women and happily take orders from them, even.
It is Max himself who comes up with the idea to return to the unguarded Citadel to free its citizens. He brings it to the fiery women and presents it as hope, a future, a bloody battle he knows they can win. To him, they are road warriors to be reckoned with, not a bunch of delicate little ladies who could never kick the shit out of three war parties filled with over-testosteroned entitled rich dudes and their drugged-up war boys. Max and Nux, who are clearly smart, feminist men, are in no way diminished by teaming up with the ladies. It’s exactly the opposite, in fact, they are made stronger, more heroic by it. The other idiots get their faces ripped off, as it should be. Nux sacrifices himself, getting the thing he’s always wanted — a hero’s death in battle. Max saves Furiosa’s life by giving her his own blood and is last seen working his way through the crowd, returning to his lone wolf ways.
When it was over, I had a huge idiot grin on my face, literally clapped in a rather seal-like manner and said “Again!” I would love to live in a world where I don’t have to be surprised or find it refreshing that a movie like this exists and is doing so well. And maybe it’s because Max himself decided hope was not a mistake, but I’m hoping a little that pop culture might shift. We’ve got to start somewhere and that war rig is a pretty good way to get there.