I was originally planning to write something funny about my first week as an unemployed writer but it turns out writing and thinking about writing isn’t necessarily funny at all. So instead I’m going to say that you should all go see Mad Max: Fury Road right away if not sooner. The movie is in a word breathtaking. It’s a relentless ride with very little dialogue but more characterization than any of your typical action movie has. The action is relentless, the plot fun and feminist, even poignant at times. It’s fresh in the same way as Terminator was fresh back in the day while also retaining a lot of what makes the Mad Max franchise awesome. This is definitely a movie everyone NEEDS to see. And not least because its success is bugging the life out of MRAs. A more comprehensive squeefest with all the spoilers below the trailer. For a spoiler free review, see for example io9 or The Mary Sue
I loved, loved, loved this movie. It became an instant favorite and I am no doubt going to see it many more times before it closes in cinemas, not to mention once it comes out on Blu-Ray. The script was so chock-full of writerly tricks that I’m going to have lots learn from for quite a few watchings yet.
One of the things I really liked was how different all the women were. The five women Furiosa took to go along with her are the very definition of a McGuffin; enslaved essentially because they’re young, pretty and able bodied. The five are outwardly very similar, all of them lithe, young and beautiful. A Finnish review noted that they all look like they came right out of the cast of America’s Next Top Model. At first they’re just a huddled mass but over the course of the movie each of them manages to assert their own personality even with minimal individual screen-time.
Interestingly, the same can’t be said about the men. The three men in charge of the three fortresses (Citadel, Bullet Farm and Gas Town) are outwardly all very different from each other but I can’t tell you how they’re different from each other as people. I have no idea. The three of them are essentially entirely defined by what they look like and to an entirely marginal degree by what they do. The Warboys form another mass even visually from which only one individual can be discerned with any sort of accuracy.
Nux is another interesting writer trick. You feel for him even before he becomes one of the underdogs on Furiosa’s quest of redemption. And to tell you the truth, I’m not entirely certain how they did that. Sure, he gets more screen-time than his buddies but it’s more than that. Nux wants so bad to please Immortan Joe. His worldview starts to shake right before he’s thrown off the war rig for the first time but it’s not until Immortan Joe dismisses him out of hand that he really and truly becomes someone to root for.
But even before that, when Nux decides to make his car into a suicide strike against the war rig, there’s a part of you that feels bad for him when you think he dies. There’s something oddly compelling about him shouting “Witness me, Bloodbag!” right before riding the bomb into what’s supposed to be his death. He’s such a geek that you can’t help but love him even though he’s part of a horrific machinery of oppression.
And that’s part of the film’s feminist subtext. Despite being a part of the problem, the Warboys are also oppressed. They are used as cannon fodder to keep the oppressors powerful, their fervent lives cut pitifully short apparently due to overuse. And make no mistake; the film is just as feminist as the MRA’s are afraid it would be. But somehow I don’t see that as a bad thing. In my opinion stories are always supposed to teach us to take control of our own destiny, take responsibility for our actions and be kinder to each other. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the very few Hollywood movies, let alone action movies that acknowledges that women are capable of doing that too.