Fast and Furiosa, Or: Foiling this Fiend’s Foul Plots

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

Just to be clear, the Mad Max of the title should not be confused with that other Max.

But basically we have a feature-length episode of Wacky Races directed by whoever did those Lynx adverts. Only feminist. Honest.

Because that woman who did The Vagina Monologues helped out.

In Road Runner country — although actually it’s a whitewashed Namibia.

It’s post apocalypse time and Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is kidnapped and dragged back to a citadel that produces water and mother’s milk to be used as a blood bank to Tony from Skins (OK, Nux (Nicholas Hoult)).  Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has been employed to drive a tanker to a refinery, only this is an escape bid for her and the wives of citadel leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). The citadel sends out its best warriors and drivers to catch them.

Presumably one of the genetic abnormalities caused by the apocalypse is pale skin, because almost everyone at the citadel looks pasty. The women are of various ethnicities, and presumably mutant free, and I’m guessing they had been kidnapped.

The chasers include Dux, with Max doing a Bane impersonation on the front of his vehicle and a guy with a flame-throwing, double-necked Fender guitar because, hey, in this scarcity world we can afford to waste gas like that. And someone’s been looking at too many heavy metal album covers. Seeing a means of escape, Max jumps ship from the notably rubbish chasers and joins Furiosa, along with Nux.

There’s a bizarre encounter in a canyon — somehow Furiosa has communicated long distance that she can have free passage in return for gasoline, and nobody noticed that she set off to the refinery with a lot of gasoline — and then a pretty sandstorm and then a mudflat (gloriously macabre) and then a meeting with more women, I assume the surviving lifetime subscribers to Spare Rib. And then everyone heads home, somehow avoiding the mudflat.

The action hardly gives you a chance to breathe, although it is mostly followable even if it takes a big dollops of suspension of disbelief. Max is reluctant to give his name, but then I caught barely any of the women’s names.

And somewhere, as you try to work out if the Bechdel Test might be passed in a multi-million dollar franchise, you wonder whether it might not be a much better movie without young Max. He’s clearly heroic and knows both ends of a Glasgow kiss, grunts appealingly and can’t make eye contact in a Heather Ledger/Brad-Pitt-in-Twelve Monkeys kind of way,  but is he necessary for anything other than getting the project green lit, twenty years after first mooted. There’s Ethan Edwards and Shane in the mix of course, as well as the man with no name.

However, whilst the plot is about women being more than baby factories, there is a tendency to slide back to being the hope for the future and the seeds of life to come and female as nature. There is a degree of objectification — but less so than say Princess elia by the time of being chained up in Return of the Jedi. They do seem to be able to hold their own in a fight and there is a minimum of love interest as characterisation. If there’s little character development for them then that’s true of all but Furiosa.

Curious this: a film in which at least three characters find redemption, one way or another, but no character is especially changed.

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