This review is about a week late, but my excuse is that seeing two films in a row can be exhausting.
Last week, I double featured Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road in what I called a “patriarchy smashing double feature.” While Pitch Perfect 2 was generally a fun movie (and I somehow missed The Ravishing Russian Lana in the film’s climax as a Legacy Bella), there was still some awkward and offensive jokes that made me facepalm multiple times. At least the soundtrack was good and sounds like something I would curate and I’m rather happy with the fact it did so well because hey, guess what? Films aimed towards and starring women DO sell.
Fury Road, on the other hand…
I should start from the top that I’ve never seen a Mad Max movie and I was likely going to skip over Fury Road because of that fact. Then I saw that the film was pissing off Men’s Rights Activists and since I live a life to piss off sexists, I knew I had to see it.
Best $18 bucks I have spent in a while.First off, the film is a visual treat, especially if you’re watching it on a large format screen like RPX or IMAX. Just the scope of the chase scenes is enough to take my breath away. I love dumb action movies more than I would like to admit, but Fury Road takes chase scenes and explosions to a new level. Plus, do any of the Fast and Furious movies feature a guitar player in red long johns playing a flaming guitar non stop on a vehicle made of speakers and war drums? No, no they do not.
Really though, this film belonged to the women. While Tom Hardy does a great job of being the gruff Max and Nicholas Hoult as Nux is a wonderful example of how to put a character through a redemption arc without it feeling forced, there are no characters I loved in this film more than The Wives and Imperator Furiosa.
The Wives are characters that could have easily been cast off to the side as sexy lamps. They’re also characters that due to the context of their lives before could have been accompanied by visual sexual violence. Instead, we get five characters that are never sexually assaulted on screen, who make the statement of “We are not things” to their abuser, struggle with said statement, are never shown through a male gaze-y lens, and have their own distinct characteristics visually and through their actions. Even though Immortan Joe was nearly impossible to understand as he shouted their names, the five young women were all distinct from each other that it didn’t matter that I didn’t know their names until the end of the film. My personal favorite was Toast the Knowing (Zoë Kravitz), a genius with guns that spat in the face of Joe towards the end of the movie.
If one character in this film has my heart in her hands though, it’s Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. More than Max, Furiosa is the “Get Shit Done Now, Talk Later” action hero of this film. Without her, none of this movie would have happened. She’s the one who rescues the wives and books it across the desert on the run from Joe. She’s the one who installs killswitches on her rig so that no one else can drive it. She’s the one who seeks redemption. She’s the one with the gaze that could melt steel. She carries the hope of the Wives and her own hope of finding her clan of the Vuvalini again (don’t even get me started on how rad the Vuvalini were because this post will go on for another 500 words), and while she may lose that hope briefly, she never loses the way she carries herself.Oh, and did I mentioned that she’s disabled? Yeah, she’s an amputee with a homemade robot arm. The central narrative of this film is a disabled woman saves five other women from their abuser.
As for the point the MRAs were trying to make that Furiosa was bossing around Max, they seem to miss the point that a couple of orders is not “bossing around” and that the two slowly gain each others trust as the film goes on. They’re both hurt from their pasts and they understand that about each other. This is usually such a trope that ends in romance if it involves people of two different genders, so it was amazing to see it play out without it. It was straight up mutual respect.
If you’re looking for a badass action film to start your summer off right with a bevy of women heroes, a flaming guitar, and enough cars that you can practically smell the gasoline coming off the screen, you owe it to yourself to see Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a feast for your eyes and your soul.