When I left the cinema after watching Mad Max: Fury Road, I had no idea what had hit me… so much so that I had to go and drink a considerable amount of alcohol to process what I had just seen. I have been a Mad Max fan for sometime now, and so often, when you watch sequels of really good movies from your childhood, they often fail to meet expectations or match the level of excitement. Not this time. Even after a second viewing, it is still a movie that has stuck with me.
Why? Because I have not seen anything like it in such a long time, and I know that I’m not the only person to think that. It was truly a movie that went beyond being “just another action movie” and really became something else. A world that was truly engrossing and truly believable. For two hours, George Miller dragged us through a violent, dusty apocalyptic landscape and didn’t let go. You know that a movie has really done its job when the credits roll and its total silence in the cinema from the audience being so gobsmacked and not wanting it to end.
By the end of its theatrical run, there will be three kinds of people in the world: people are fans of action movies, who have seen Mad Max: Fury Road and love it, people who dislike action movies (for which I wouldn’t recommend this movie), and people who love action movies, haven’t seen Mad Max and do not know what they are missing out on. Hence why I coupled together five reasons that may entice you to watch it, or to reaffirm to you how amazing it is.
Now this is no official list whatsoever, and some points you may disagree with. These are written by just me, as a fan. Warning: there will be some very light spoilers ahead.
I’ll get the most obvious aspect out of the way first. The action! You just have to look at the trailer above to see at how incredible it is. The best part is that over 90% of all the action within the movie is done for real, with a very minimal usage of CGI. It is real actors doing real stunts, with a real risk of danger. So many people were brought on for these sequences, including Cirque du Soleil, one of the best circuses in the world. The fact that the action is filmed so well by Miller, with giant panning shots showing destruction; makes it even better, but I will get to that a little later.
A few months ago, I wrote a small article called “The Avatar Problem” (which, in a shameless cross-promotion, is in the article section of this website), which talked about how so often in movies nowadays (particularly action movies) it aims to be a CGI extravaganza, which I felt really takes away from the movie-going experience when the audience can see it. In it I basically argued that for CGI to be successful, it shouldn’t be noticed, and also should be combined with practical effects to really bring a sense of believability into the world the movie is making.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a masterclass in this. Only one scene, when the chase heads into a giant dust storm (as seen in the trailer above), really stands out for me in terms of noticing how amazing the CGI is; and by this stage you have been so engrossed in the world that you totally go along with it. What the movie does well is overlay shots; doing dangerous action stunts and adding in real cars and environments into the surroundings, and it really makes it look seamless, and much more believable, particularly when compared with CGI.
The action alone is worth the price of admission. It’s absolutely crazy! Seriously, crazy! There’s a guy playing a guitar that turns into a flamethrower! What’s not to like about that for you action junkies out there?
This is the foundation of what makes the movie so brilliant. Miller’s direction, writing and planning of this production is incredible. And it is even more amazing is considering the movie languished in development hell for many years, and even had to move countries due to too much rain in Broken Hill. And even when they began filming, they didn’t even have a finished written script!
Yet, Miller’s direction is what makes this work! He brings us into an apocalyptic world that has so much attention to detail, that we truly believe this place is real. From all the details of the insane “war boys” having inscriptions of engines on their bodies, and the symbol they give to their crazed cult leader, Immortan Joe, mimicking the exhaust funnels of a V8 engine; to the details of the main vehicle, the “War Rig”, with its many weapons and functions that made it feel like its own character, to the grotesque mutations of the characters in such a toxic world; to all the extra details of the beauty of the main citadel where the movie begins. You feel like this place is real. And it is done with very little dialogue!
Miller’s direction of the action is a masterclass; huge wide open shots of carnage and destruction, he directs in a way to show that everything the characters are experiencing hurts hard. No “shaky cam” here like you seen in Clash of the Titans and Batman Begins. Miller planned every single shot within storyboarding, and additionally even positioned the camera to ensure that all the main events of a scene would only take place directly in the centre of the shot, so the audience is not distracted by any focus in the periphery. And it is so refreshing to see all these amazing practical effects and stunts looking so good, because everything has been planned with such detail.
And to think, this has come from the man who gave us Babe? And Happy Feet? And he’s over 70 years old?! He may have started his career creating the Mad Max franchise, but Miller is one of the most diverse and creative directors out that is still going strong today. And he sure isn’t slowing down at the moment.
Miller’s direction feeds into the characters of the story. The plot of Fury Road is actually very simple, it’s basically a single chase scene that is stretched out for nearly the entire duration of the movie. But that doesn’t mean the characters aren’t simple. In the movie there are four main leads, being Tom Hardy’s ‘Max’, Charlize Theron’s ‘Furiosa’ (who is probably the most badass female action hero since Ripley in Aliens), Nicholas Hoult’s ‘Nux’, and the main antagonist of the film, Hugh Keays-Byrne as ‘Immortan Joe’. All of them have unique and different driving forces within the story.
Additionally, the supporting characters as well are diverse, from the crazy ‘war boys’, the cult warriors of Joe, to the badass Vuvalini, a group of ultimate arse-kicking women who arrive near the end of the film once Max and Furiosa arrive at their destination. The movie is well-grounded in these characters, they feel real and its once again Miller’s small details that make the people.
One of the main recurring themes within the movie is asking “who killed the world?”. In answer to that, the movie paints that violent, self-righteous people like Immortan Joe, the stereotype ‘hard-man’ in the story who sees everything and everyone as resources, as responsible. The controlling of resources and subjugation of people, most notably his five ‘wives’, and also his ‘war boys’ for his own needs has led to this control, and really leads to the view that no one can save this world if there are men like him in charge.
Contrast that with Max, who is primarily focused on a single instinct to survive by any means. That is his driving force for everything he does, and his past and previous Mad Max films shows that he does care, and he wants others to survive too. He doesn’t be the indestructible tough-man action hero; he’s much more than that. He’s vulnerable, he’s damaged.
Nux is thrown into this, and his character’s transition is probably the most interesting. As a ‘war boy’, Nux really shows the fanatical side of Joe’s cult, going to war for property (despite being a ‘tool’ for Joe himself), and it makes him to be quite innocent. But then as he joins the journey of the War Rig, he becomes more like Max: that for you to survive, sometimes you need others and you need to share. At the end of it, Nux sees the fanatical ways of Joe and can’t believe that it mattered to him.
And as for Furiosa? She’s awesome. Just. Plain. Awesome. She enables Max to see outside his own head through the bond she has with everyone else. Her motivations, through anger at Joe for hurting her so much, the care that she shows for the wives, and later for Max, and the additional yearning for her homeland, the ‘green place’, is what powers the movie. She is the spark that drives the film (excuse the pun). Furiosa is without doubt the best character, and definitely someone who is equal in every way to Max in terms of physicality and tortured past. Charlize Theron, take a bow! This the role that will probably define your career, and we, the audience, will be so much better off for it.
4. Gender Critiques
The equality of Furiosa and Max as dual leads ties neatly into this next point. I know I have to tread lightly with this one, as I recognise these viewpoints are coming from a man. The responses of gender critiques to Fury Road have been varied, and occasionally completely insane, most notably the ‘misogynist movement’, that people are boycotting the movie due to it being a ‘feminist action movie’ that doesn’t allow men to be the action stereotypes that we have apparently got used to. This argument is completely ridiculous in my opinion, if anything, a ‘feminist action movie’ is something that I’d actually rather go and see.
For me personally, the feminist critiques of this movie have been occasionally frustrating, because to me feminism is a reminder of how our society does mistreat women, and how stupid that this mistreatment and double-standard is. It is fair to say that within the history of cinema, women have always been terribly represented, especially in comparison to men. Being raised in the 21st century, I’m not the only person to think that it should be second nature that women and men are treated equal. Obviously I know that today really shit stereotypes still remain, and I think that Mad Max ties really nicely into this. It shows the complete hypocrisy that is gender inequality, and puts forward the radical (!) notion that women and men are equal.
So yes, Fury Road is a feminist action movie, and we have been seriously long overdue for a movie like this! Within the story, the ‘wives’ of Immortan Joe are seen as property, and walking around in scantily clad attire. These characters have actually been a lightning rod for controversy by many feminists, who viewed these characters as being ‘damsels-in-distress’. This is a point that I don’t agree with; yes they are seen as property by Joe, but the movie shows that view to be completely ludicrous. The fact they were barely given anything to wear is not gratuitous, but was done for a reason within the plot. They were seen as ‘trophies’ by Joe, and being made to wear clothing like that to satisfy Joe’s desires only highlights the stupid idea of ‘women-as-property’ more. And these girls were no damsels-in-distress in the movie, they could more than hold their own and look after themselves. Hell, if they were rescued at all in this movie, they were never rescued by any men, but by other women! Additionally, the Vuvalini, a tribal group of women that Furiosa was once a part of, themselves do a lot of arse kicking within the story. But apart from that they felt like people like Max, who were just trying to survive by any means necessary in their environment. Really, what the movie does show is the ridiculousness of gender inequality, and the not-so-surprising fact that women are totally equal and more than a match for men. And for a movie that is so testosterone-filled, it’s the ladies who are doing the most arse-kicking!
As for the men, the ‘misogynist’s movement’s main argument is that men are almost completely emasculated in this movie as a result. I call bullshit on that too. The men sure do plenty of arse-kicking themselves. I narrow this argument down to a comparison between Max and Immortan Joe, which I already touched on. The reason that the world has become the way it is, is because of men like Joe, who led the world to run out of resources, and lead us to extreme ends. These ‘hard-men’, are compared with Max, who is still a strong action hero, but isn’t driven by the need to embody ‘masculinity’ within film, and he certainly isn’t a ‘typical’ action hero. He is driven be a desire to survive. An important scene in the movie, (and one of my favourites) is a scene where Max is trying to use a sniper to shoot someone through fog, however he has very little ammunition. Knowing Furiosa is a better shot, he hands the gun to her and props it up for her on his shoulder. This is not done out of being emasculated, or through the notion of bringing ‘power-to-women’, it is done because Max wants himself, and everyone else, to survive, and realistically knows that she has a much better chance of hitting the target than he does. No gender roles come into it. It is purely about survival. And also about trust between Max and Furiosa. And in Max’s eyes, he knows that Furiosa is someone worth trusting, and it doesn’t whether she is a woman or not. The movie doesn’t speak about just how women should be, but also how men should be.
Finally, a small final point to make in this case, is that many feminist critiques that I looked at highlighted frustrations that both women and men only use violence to achieve their means. True, most of the movie comprises of a single, long fight chase. But I personally disagree with these arguments. Within the story and the setting, the context is pretty dire, and it is more likely that sharing of resources in this extreme environment will be decided through the barrel of a gun than through talking and negotiation, particularly within the world that we are shown through Miller’s direction. To those arguments, I say, get some perspective! It’s the fucking apocalypse! You have to fight to survive!
5. Its an Aussie movie!
Yes, it is! And I’m not one to be patriotic, but in this case I think I can afford to be. Mad Max itself is an Aussie creation, launching the careers of Miller and Mel Gibson. It also further contributed to the 1970s-80s renaissance in Australian wave cinema, which led to other movies like Crocodile Dundee, Gallipolli and Dead Calm become more exposed on the world stage.
Fury Road was supposed to be filmed in Australia, along with all previous Mad Max movies, but due to high rainfall and the transforming of the desert into lush, green flowery pastures they had to move to Namibia to complete the film. But the film was still organised by an Australian Company in Village Roadshow, nearly the entire crew was Australian, most of the supporting actors were Australian, the director was Australian, and many of the visual effects were done by Dr. D Studios, an Australian VFX company that has unfortunately now closed down. Despite it’s A-list Hollywood stars, this was an Aussie movie. Miller even added the sounds of Aussie magpies to scenes as the War Rig drives through the tough desert environment. For a Hollywood blockbuster, this certainly has an Aussie feel to it.
Unsurprisingly, its box office returns have led it to become Australia’s most commercially successful film, surpassing Crocodile Dundee. The critics have been raving about it, and every person I’ve spoken to who has seen it has loved it. Feeling a bit patriotic now? We should, and hopefully we may get more of these movies, as Miller has openly said he has two more stories to tell.
Obviously, I have barely touched the surface of this movie, such as many of the amazing themes in the movie, or the amount of relevance that it certainly has in today's context, such as with talk of climate change and human impact. There is so much more that I can talk about with it. But if examining this as a movie-going experience, if this post has enticed you in any way to see this amazing movie before it leaves the cinemas, then I absolutely recommend it. That being said, obviously this movie is definitely not for everyone, and if you’re not a fan of action movies, you probably may not enjoy it. But hey, what is the point of a diverse world if we cannot have differing opinions?
For those still on the fence, here’s another trailer…. Go and see it. You know you want to….