I do not write reviews. Is a particular film or book worth your time? I don’t know. It depends on what you like, doesn’t it? To one friend, I’d say, “Go see Mad Max!” Another friend, I’d say, “Umm…maybe not?”
But I like to read reviews. This may make me a hypocrite. I don’t know. But I’ve wanted to see movies in spite of bad reviews. I still want to see Jupiter Ascending, and I’ve read many negative reviews of that movie. And some movies get glowing reviews, and I can’t muster up the energy to see them. But I like reviews anyway. I like some sense of the kind of movie I’m seeing. I know someone who never reads reviews. This would be great if she were open to any genre, but she doesn’t want certain things in her movies. So, she ends up seeing movies that she has to walk out of.
Do you ever walk out of movies? I’ve walked out of only one movie in my life, and that’s because it was too depressing. I even knew it would be depressing when I walked in because I’d read the book. So, more the fool me. I just got part way through the movie and wondered why I was subjecting myself to the horror.
All that said, I want to figure out why I like what I do (or hate what I hate). Maybe this will help me understand my own interests and my own writing. I don’t know. But I’ll give it a shot.
Since Mad Max: Fury Road is a big thing right now, I’ll start there.
When I saw the first trailer for Mad Max, I had no intention of seeing it even though I found myself taken with the imagery. But my husband said he was thinking of seeing it, which surprised me, and nudged me to entertain making the effort to go. We hardly ever go to the cinema. Very few movies get us out of the house.
I was nervous before the movie started. I’m squeamish, and I was worried about the violence. Keep your slasher films, people. I’ve actually started shaking at some scenes in violent films.
I’ve seen the film three times now, and I didn’t love the film until the second time. [Caution: Spoilers, sweetie!]
There are old women in this film. Tough old women. I love all the women in the film, and there are more women in this action film than it seems you ever see in an action. And these women do things. There are young beautiful women and old beautiful women. The old women are survivors. They ride motorcycles and fight. They’re good shots.
I like that Furiosa has a disability and no mention is made of it. It is just a fact. It doesn’t hold her back or make her sad. We never learn how she lost her arm. I was reminded of Louise in the film Thelma and Louise. We never know what happened to her Texas. We know it was bad and it motivates her to make the decisions she does, but she never explains it. We learn a little about Furiosa’s past–very little. But given the world she lives in, I could imagine. And how did she gain so much trust of Immortan Joe that she could drive the war rig? Don’t know. But that has to be a helluva tale. And when she first turns the war rig off course, the war boys with her do not question. They don’t get in a huff about a woman being in charge. They don’t doubt. They do what they’re told.
The wives are beautiful, of course. They are treasures. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first, but Immortan Joe wants an heir. That’s his immortality. And how many stories do we know of people driven to horrible things for their immortality? The wives weren’t taken from Joe as much as they left. They asked to leave. They must have begged Furiosa to take them. They had to have planned and connive to smuggle themselves into that war rig. I’m glad they didn’t need to show us the horrors the wives must have experienced. All those women in a post-apocalyptic story and no rape scenes! How refreshing is that?
What else? I liked the weird religion built around Immortan Joe and the way the war boys would demand witness to their deaths and the bizarre spraying of silver paint, like the chrome of a car. I liked the way one wife, grief stricken and exhausted, tries to go back to slavery, but in the end, she helps Furiosa in her final fight. And I just got a kick out of the insanity of the drummers and guitarist. I remember seeing paintings of a drummer going along with the Red Coats in the American Revolution, and films of Zulu warriors using music to intimidate their enemies. George Miller took that to the Nth degree, and I have a soft spot for people who take things to the Nth degree. Maybe because I never do so myself.
I liked when Nux doesn’t know what a tree is. It’s a quick moment, but it captures his life. I liked when Max is trying to shoot that lunatic driving toward them in the dark, and with one bullet left, he hands the gun to Furiosa. She gets to make the shot, and he’s a hero because he doesn’t let his ego get in the way.
It may seem weird to say this about an over-the-top, car chase movie, but it’s beautiful. I love the colors and the composition of many scenes. The scene in the wasteland with the crows reminded me of the Dark Crystal–the figures on stilts, to be precise. Even the choreography of the war boys who got tossed in the air by crashes and explosions was balletic–to me anyway.
The movie is loud. The plot isn’t complicated. Some might even say the plot is thin. The title hero really doesn’t do that much. And if you think about the structure of the world Miller created, a lot of it doesn’t make any sense. As a friend pointed out–they have to scavenge for parts for their cars, but they car make all those finely crafted metal skulls? Indeed. But, I’m a sucker. I go into a film wanting to like it. I want to buy in and to suspend disbelief. Maybe it’s nice to think that the post-apocalypse still has artisans.
Some people may want to argue that Ellen Ripley from Alien or Sarah Connor from Terminator are tougher or more awesome or whatever. To which I can only sigh. Is that how far we have go back to find this kind of female character? Heresy this may be, but I never cared about Alien or Terminator. Alien is too gross for me anyway.
Hey, please share some other great female characters you love.
I’m not interested in getting into a debate about which woman is more kickass. Seriously. I don’t care. But I liked how many women are in Mad Max, and their goal is not love. They’re aren’t jealous of each other. They are not bitchy. They want to be in charge of their own lives, and that is all.
Next week, I think I’ll write about The Wizard of Oz…
Thanks for reading.