A World Gone Mad: Mad Max: Fury Road (Review)
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
Mad Max: Fury Road is, visually, one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. All that remains in this post-apocalyptic world is a desert landscape that mesmerizes in shades of gold, brown and bronze during the day and dazzles in greys, blues and whites at night. Juxtaposed against this ironically gorgeous setting is the last of humanity, many of whom wear the mark of the nuclear war that killed the world. They are disfigured, dirty and desperate, trapped beneath the thumb of a monstrous dictator who controls everything from water to gasoline. The war boys, the dictator’s army of sorts, are stony white and batshit crazy. Their war vehicles are mechanical Frankensteins, sporting everything from tank tread, to massive engines to sharp metal spikes. It all crashes together in a car chase that spans the movie from beginning to end. Everything moves at a wild pace, as if in an endless frenzy. There is fire and explosions, lightning and tornadoes, chaos and fury. The world has gone mad.
It is everything you’d want from a car chase movie, but also so much that you would never expect. Beneath the madness of everything else I’ve described is a movie that challenges so much of what we know, believe and accept. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) band of escaping wives offer some of the strongest female leads I’ve ever seen in a move of this genre. The literal casting off of sexual limitations as they throw away their chastity belts and dirty their white garments in battle, challenges sexist ideals about women’s purity, strength, and positon in the world. These women are both beautiful and bad ass, and absolutely central to the plot, representing an anti-misogynist feminist message that is subtle but undeniable.
Not to worry though, feminism has not totally co-opted this “man’s movie” (as some have complained). Many themes are addressed by strong and interesting male characters. The antagonist, Immortan Joe represents the absolute corruption that comes with absolute power (to quote Shakespeare). Like many a good dictator, he has made himself a god-like figure, keeping people within his control either by withholding resources from the masses or promising glory to the faithful. His loyal war boys, who happily commit themselves to martyrdom, demonstrate the danger of blind faith, religious or otherwise. Nux (Nicholas Hoult) for the first half of the movie was ready to die for the cause of his leader, never having questioned what Immortan Joe really stood for or if what he promised even really existed.
But Nux and the movie’s name sake, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), both get a chance to correct the errors of their past. They share a parallel experience of a battle with regret, engagement in rebellion, and the hunt for redemption, showing that the wrongs of the past don’t have to dictate the direction of the future or the legacy you leave behind.
Ultimately, Mad Max asks the question, in a mad world, who is really mad? Are Immortan Joe’s wives mad for leaving the only source of life, water and oil they’ve ever known to exist in search of a “green place?” Is Nux really mad for being so willing to die for a cause he truly believes in, for wanting to go to Valhalla at any cost? Are the masses of people at Immortan Joe’s mercy really mad for choosing subservience to a madman over rebellion? Is Max really mad for the voices in his head that haunt him? Are any of us mad for choosing to hold on to things that make sense only to us because they’re what it takes for us to survive? By that token, perhaps we are all a little mad.
Of course, you can most definitely watch this movie for nothing but the crazy car chase and the stunning visuals. It is, truly, a masterpiece of a film and it’s hard to take your eyes away from the screen. Take my advice: use the bathroom before it starts and skip the large drink because there is no point of this movie that you can stand to not see for yourself. If you’re looking for more though, you’ll find it, a quiet message about how mad the world is, and not just the world in the movie. However you choose to watch this movie, you will not leave the theatre disappointed. Mad Max: Fury Road is worth every dollar it cost to make and every dollar it’ll cost you to see it.