Mad Max: Fury Road

 

I have a theory: People go to movies to see things they’ve never seen before.

It’s a terrible theory on the surface, because sequels permeate the theater.  And a lot of people want comfort.  But when you look at the big blockbuster films, the ones that dominate, they’re full of sights you cannot get in any other movie. Say what you will about Avatar, the visuals are uniquely itself. Say what you will about Gone with the Wind, the spectacle there has never been beaten.

And Mad Max: Fury Road is like entering a whole other world.

You’d think the “dystopian post-collapse society” has been mined, but no – Fury Road is ablaze with bizarre concepts, ushering you into this car-worshipping nightmare where suicide bombers spray their face with chrome paint before entering Valhalla, where the flares are glorious puffs of dust like fireworks, where the conveys of killer cars bring their own musicians swinging from chains before walls of speakers.

If you’re looking for an experience you can’t get anywhere else, Fury Road is the only place to get this.

And the action is unrelenting.  Fury Road seems to delight in throwing such insurmountable odds at the characters that when the camera pans back to show you all the massive resources of each warlord setting out, you have zero idea how our heroes can survive.  And then the assault comes, and it’s overwhelming, and enough scars get inflicted every time that the resources keep diminishing, and how will they live?

Fury Road’s acquired some bizarre reviews, though, which I don’t get.  Some people have said that Fury Road has no story, which is bizarre because – like last year’s reaction to “Gravity” – they’re confusing “Complexity” with “Storytelling.”  Max is a simple story, basically a two-hour car chase, but in it there’s character growth and conflict and commentary buried in that pedal-to-the-metal plot.

Saying that Fury Road is some sort of abandonment of storytelling is like saying that Calvin and Hobbes had no meaningful stories because the linework was simple. You can tell great stories off of simple threads, and if you disagree, well, Old Man and the Sea would like to have a word with you.

As for the other criticism, people keep telling me that Fury Road is a feminist movie, and, well, I’m not seeing it. It’s ostensibly feminist in that Max is escorting some women out of a breeding facility, but we’ve seen that story before when Big Tough Man escorts women out of a rape factory.  Or one man, standing against a dystopia that has incalculable power.  In the end, it’s mostly women against men, but that’s just because the women aren’t in power.

No, to me, Mad Max is the lowest possible bar for feminism, and it sort of bothers me that this is seen as a feminist movie, when in a sane world having female characters with their own agendas would be, well, just a movie.  It’s kind of like how in America, Hillary Clinton is ZOMG SOCIALIST whereas in a sane society she’d be a slightly right-of-center politician – it’s just that we’ve shifted so far that actually not wanting to tear down infrastructure is a leftist attitude.

Mad Max is a very good movie.  Which happens to have female characters who get just as much (simple) characterization as the guys.  I wish that could be unusual, but it is.

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