Mad Max: Fury Road Isn’t Just Car Chases and Explosions

In post-apocalyptic Australia, Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is captured by the War Boys, an army from a society called The Citadel, which is ruled by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who owns the only water source in the area and is viewed as a god by his subjects. After Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Joe’s best war machine drivers, deviates from her course on the road to get gasoline, Joe realizes she’s helping his breeding wives escape and sends out his War Boys to capture her. When Max is strapped up to one of the war machines on the hunt for Furiosa, he and War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult) suddenly find themselves caught up in helping Furiosa protect the wives from Joe and the War Boys.

One of the best things about Mad Max: Fury Road is that you don’t need to see George Miller’s previous films (Mad Max, Mad Max: Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) to understand what’s going on. I mean, watching them would give you more background on the fall of the world and why Max is a lone wolf (TL:DR: Australia is a desert wasteland after a nuclear war, water is a luxury, and Max watched his family get run down by a gang, so now he does his own thing and kicks ass because f*** you that’s why). But this film does function as a perfectly good standalone action film. And what a film indeed. It might actually be one of the best movies of this summer.

I knew I’d enjoy this movie because the trailer alone was absolutely insane (Seriously, can we talk about that visual masterpiece? The quick editing paired with Verdi’s “Requiem, Dies irae” was sublime). And unlike other films that turn out to be nothing like what their trailers promised, Fury Road is exactly what the trailer promised. It’s intense and campy with badass characters, incredible special effects, a story about survival, and fast-paced sequences of hand-to-hand (or gun-to-gun) combat, car chases, and explosions (which explains why the budget was a constant issue during the filming of this movie). In other words, it’s a summer blockbuster done right, guys.

As for the characters, I really dug the dynamic between Charlize Theron’s Furiosa (who surprisingly nabs most of the focus in the movie) and Tom Hardy’s Max. They’re both loners in their own right, and neither of them has any reason to work together (In this world, you don’t make friends; you survive), yet they’re both champions of humanity and morality, which unites them. Not to mention, they’re both handicapped in a way, too. She doesn’t have an arm, and he is mentally unstable and practically mute. Does that stop them from being heroic? Hell no. (I also find their dynamic interesting because it’s rumored that Theron and Hardy didn’t get along while filming).

Also, can we talk about how poetic Nicholas Hoult’s Nux is? When we first meet him, he’s hooked up to Max (his “blood bag”) since he’s dying. Then, he heads out to capture Furiosa and the wives, during which he either wants to impress Immortan Joe by succeeding or go down in glorious flames and enter the “chrome Valhalla” (Valhalla is the Norse heaven for those who die in combat, by the way). Nux is close to death many times but never dies, which he believes is because he isn’t worthy. After accidentally joining Furiosa and Max, the wives show him that Joe isn’t a god and doesn’t care about him or the other War Boys. So what happens? Nux dies saving them, of course. It’s beautiful. And talk about a character arc! To go from wanting to die for a man he falsely believed was a god to dying for the heroes who encapsulate basic humanity—you can’t tell me that’s not goddamn Shakespeare.

And, of course, we have to address the feminist elephant in the room (that’s really not an elephant because everyone is talking about it). Is Fury Road feminist? It’s arguable (even among feminists), but the reason it’s being discussed is because Fury Road does something other action movies don’t—it treats female characters like people, not objects. Hence Furiosa’s major role and the plot surrounding Joe’s wives not being “things” (i.e., sex toys and carriers for his babies). For a plot based in sex slavery, I will say it’s impressive that the female characters are never sexually brutalized onscreen nor damsels in distress; also, the male heroes (Max and Nux) never view them sexually or expect sex from them in return for helping them. (Okay, I’ve added my two cents. Now here’s some recommended reading on Fury Road’gender politics and subverted sexism.)

On a final note, I have to tell you about the best part. The f***ing guitar guy just jamming out on a war machine made of amps. It’s awesome. AND the dude who played him was actually playing a real guitar that shot flames while filming at breakneck speeds. Can we come up with an Oscar category for most amazing performance? Because, seriously, guitar guy was just living it the hell up.

Overall, Mad Max: Fury Road is a two-hour filmmaking orgy of car chases and explosions. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story about survival, gender politics, gods vs. humanity, and heroes who fight for life above all else. Other action movies pretend to touch on those subjects, but few of them actually do. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of those few. I would watch this again, especially for guitar guy.

Mad Max: Fury Road: A

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