Having seen the previous Mad Max movies, I decided, reluctantly, to go see the most recent installment of that franchise, coming many years after ‘Beyond Thunderdome’. I was reluctant because I don’t like extremely violent movies anyway, or movies that glorify violence, and the previews I had seen didn’t encourage me to think this movie could rise above that sort of primal threshold of acceptability. I was wrong. This movie is not just another excuse to show things being blown up or destroyed. It really is a post-apocalyptic thriller, and it is very well done indeed, holding your attention and keeping you in suspense to the very end. The two major actors— Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, are both excellent in this film, the former playing the half crazed PTSD Max, and the latter playing Furiosa, determined to escape the oppressive patriarchal world of ‘the savior’. George Miller deserves full marks for elevating this whole storyline into fresh and impressive new directions.
Like so many post-apocalyptic thrillers, it is a dog eat dog, survivalist world, and like the Book of Eli, the world that remains is desert, with little water, no greenery, no granary either. It is truly a survival of the fittest world that even Darwin could not have imagined. Like the Book of Eli, the story involves a long trek through the desert, but whereas in the Book of Eli, the goal or promised land is a library (on Alcatraz no less!) because the goal is to preserve the Good Book the source of truth. The goal of the road trip in Fury Road however is to find the realm of the green space, a real possible home for humankind.
In these kinds of movies one does not expect lots of dialogue, though in the Book of Eli there are some excellent exchanges between Gary Olds and Denzel Washington as the antagonist and protagonist. This movie does not have that sort of redeeming feature, but what it does have is a rather profound reflection of what happens when you reduce women to mere breeders and sex objects. Furiosa is not having it, she escapes that world, which is why some reviewers have asked if this is some sort of feminist manifesto in story form. No…. it’s not, but it does have a message about not degrading women, and it seeks to show their strength of character, resolve, capacity to solve problems, ingenuity, ability to fight and so on. Furiosa just wants to go home…. but what happens if home is not what it used to be? This is why Thomas Wolfe once famously said ‘You can never go home again’. The relationship between Max and Furiosa is full of tension and frisson as the French would say. It bears watching closely. Indeed, it is the story within the story which becomes more than a survivalist road trip.
Visually, this movie is an assault on the senses, and the only colors in the painter’s palette seem to be desert yellow or gold, fireball red-orange, and black and white. There are the half-lifes who are lilly white, and the fully alive who paint themselves in black. It is interesting that a Norse theme creeps in when salvation and the savior are brought up, for there is talk of tickets to Valhalla, and one of the main characters seeks to be worthy of such a ticket from the savior.
I predict this movie will become a cult classic, like say Apocalypse Now, only this movie could be dubbed Apocalypse Later, Road Trip Now. In the journey from here to there, Furiosa loses some of her fury, and Mad Max loses some of his madness, both humanized by love and self-sacrifice.
I would also say, this movie is definitely not suitable for children, especially young children. There is too much noise, too much fighting, too many graphic images and scenes, too fierce a cast of characters. But as an adult film, it is really something. It doesn’t leave you comfortably numb from too many explosions. It leaves you looking over your shoulder, lest something might be gaining on you. It leaves you saying wow— glad I survived that.