Mistress Kay and I recently saw the newest installment in the Mad Max film franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road. Being the socially conscious feminist crusader that she is, Mistress had a lot to say about the movie, most of it good. She also had a lot of questions. As a science fiction fan, and action film fan, and fan of the original Mad Max franchise, I have a lot of good things to say about the movie as well. Not so many questions. So maybe my post title is a little misleading although technically true. I loved the film. But i’m still a mad Max. That’s my secret. I’m always angry. I’m just not mad about this particular bit of cinema. Without being too spoilery, from a feminist standpoint the film does a lot of things well that most Hollywood movies get dreadfully wrong.
Fact – The film’s nominal lead, Max Rockatansky, takes a warranted figurative back seat to a truly bad ass female character.
Fact – That bad ass female, Imperator Furiosa, is a legitimately multidimensional character, and despite being played by the beautiful Charlize Theron, is never overtly sexualized like most other “bad ass” female characters I can think of. (I’m looking at you Kate Beckinsale in Underworld) (mostly at that booty) (mmm mmm mmm girl). In a preposterously over the top post-apocalyptic dystopian world where everyone definitely smells like unwashed butt crack, Furiosa’s character is refreshingly realistically unsexy.
Fact – The film contains wrinkly old women who also kick ass and take names. Gasp! I know. Aged women on screen? What’s the point? They don’t make my pants tighter.
Fact – The basic conflict in the movie revolves around the mistreatment and enslavement of beautiful young women for breeding purposes by a despotic ruler and his warrior cult followers. Honestly, it’s pretty believable, knowing what I know about human history. And, you know, my own plans for the future.
Look, so if you choose to interpret Fury Road like a feminist movie, it’s got the chops. But is it a good movie for real? Absolutely, yes.
Visually, its gorgeous. Thematically, it’s classic Mad Max. Big explosions, car chases, hilarious outfits, crazy lunatic characters. Impossible, implausible, unlikely characters. Really bizarre, weird, outrageous confusing characters. Like I said, classic Mad Max.
So why did Mistress have so many questions afterward? Answer: She’s never seen the original three Mad Maxs. Oh. Oh?
Not watching the movies which feature the character who was somehow named after me years before I was even born is obviously a divorcable offense. Also, it’s just sad. Listen to me. Before you go see Fury Road, watch the original Australian movies. Watch Mad Max. Watch The Road Warrior. Watch Beyond the Thunderdome. You’ll get more out of the Fury Road experience. These days the gritty, post apocalyptic, leather clad goth punk warrior western is a science fiction trope. Before Mad Max, it didn’t exist.
For most Mad Max fans, before Fury Road was produced, Road Warrior was the pinnacle of the series, and Thunderdome was an embarrassment, but as a hilarious time capsule for everything the 1980’s stood for, Thunderdome is a work of pure cinematic genius. Doing lines of coke off the dashboard of an IROC-Z Camaro while Bon Jovi plays on the 8-track stereo and a young woman in acid-washed mom jeans with teased out hair gyrates on the hood is less 80’s than this movie.
If you want to watch Mad Max: Fury road, and treat it like a feminist masterpiece, go ahead. If you want to watch it for the exciting car chases and big explosions and mind boggling cinematography, go ahead. Me, i’ll be watching it again and again for those reasons, but also because it’s the long awaited successor of three of the most beloved and influential films in modern science fiction, movies which spawned countless imitators and really made the genre what it is today.