I give up. I tried to remain silent but I failed. I have read enough stupid commentary on Mad Max to make my soul cry, so I think its about time to let my interpretation and criticism out into the world. I will not be kind and pull punches. I'm gonna rain on a lot of parades, so bring an umbrella and remember that I love all of you little snowflakes.
I'm going to put forward the bold premises that Mad Max Fury Road is both good and bad, feminist and anti-feminist, pro-government and anti-government, violent and yet non-violent, explanatory and yet vague, prophetic and yet old-hat. In other words, it is a big ball of crazy and I'm tired of how people claim to have captured its existential truth.
Nor do I care about spoiling anything, so if you are worried about spoilers here is your warning
spoilers below this line
My review of Mad Max: Weird Ass Fucking Road, extra-long edition
Point 1: This movie is only 120 minutes but feels Peter Jackson-esque in length due to excessive repetiveness. Chase, chase, chase, then..... more chase. Book of Eli is 118 minutes long, has much less action, and covered way way more ground dramatically. It also had cool cars and shit. I love action movies. I do. But this is like the Matrix Reloaded freeway scene. You can have too much adrenaline being pushed into the brain. At a certain point, you gotta slow down and give the audience a chance to process things.
We spent what, 10 minutes in the Citadel? There was that cool scene where he tried to escape and hung from the crane hook? So much potential in that location, thrown aside in favor of the road.
There are literally five locations in this movie: the Citadel, open road, canyon chokepoint, the storm, and muddy road. I'm tempted to count Salt Flats but jeez... what was that? 2 minutes of screen time? Now you can do an entire movie in basically one location, if there is variation and complexity (see Nakatomi tower). Or you can do desolate locations if there is character complexity ( Flight of the Phoenix ). But the same locations, with very little complexity (or dialogue), just gets boring after a while. Even with the most expensive special effects in the history of man.
Point 2: There is broken communication with the audience about the world. What is the relationship between Immortan Joe and his people? How does he actually interact with them? He says almost no dialogue. What is his relationship with his son? Is his son going to succeed him? What is the plan? Why risk both himself and his son to chase down the girls? Why not leave someone with power behind at the Citadel? What is the nature of his alliance with the two other warlords? Why do they both continue to support him even as things go sour? Are they reliant upon his food supplies or water? What is being traded here?
The film is stuffed full of hundreds of hints about interesting possible pieces of information, but fails to provide them. So many questions. No answers. Aggravating.
For all its flaws, even Waterworld really developed setting details (and relationships). There are free people living in atolls, but they are plagued by smoker pirates trying to extort and steal from them. The smokers have their own internal problems, their leader is struggling to find a permanent resource base to live on, etc. That's the reason why I actually watch Waterworld, for that cool setting. Which brings me to.....
Point 3: What do the characters in this movie care about? Nobody knows. They have no love, no bonds, nothing. They are feral animals. They only have primitive drives; freedom from pain, food, water, etc. LOL, I almost added sex to that list but NOPE. Except for Immortan Joe, it's a cast of near-mute eunuchs.
And when they die? When they are threatened? I give zero shits. These people elicit empathy from me on par with Gungans and Battle Droids.
Compare again to Waterworld; when he goes back for the little girl and Deacon asks him why and he replies sheepishly "she's my friend". There is a bond between them. The Mariner is a loner with supposedly no bonds (like Max) but he actually loves the little girl. He spends time with her. He argues with her. She is a frustrating little kid but she taps into his masculinity and fatherhood drives. By the end of the film, he LOVES the girl and he will die to protect her.
Who does Max love? Who does he truly KNOW? Nobody. Nothing. He exchanges a few furtive glances with Furiosa, but that's it.
Point 4: Nicholas Hoult is not a human. Just look at his main pic on IMBD. That's not right. And his accent in this movie is insanely annoying. He was great in About a Boy, but the boy is no road warrior. This is probably the only casting decision that really bothered me. Speaking of which....
Point 5: Tom Hardy is in this movie. Which might surprise people who have watched it. I thought Tom Hardy was under-utilized in Inception but oh boy, I was wrong about the scale of possibilities. He was the STAR of Inception compared to this movie. Such a great actor, so little chance to shine. Shameful.
Point 6: Pouring water out of the three giant holes in a cliff = an inefficient method of distributing resources. Waste not, want not!
Point 7: Male-Female relations in this movie are incoherent and absurd. The main reason for this is that there are basically no regular folk. Aside from Furiosa and the harem wives, the only other women I recall seeing in the entire movie were elderly ladies; either in the crowd of dusty poor people or in the tribe of mothers at the end of the road. Where are the normal women? Are there no families of any kind in this society? Is that lack of families part of its main dysfunction? Someone is producing the little kids that are at the Citadel. Certainly those are not entirely the progeny of Furiosa and the harem wives. Are there women in the other towns? What is going on?
The Citadel is not structured like a society, at least as far as can be discerned from what was revealed to us. It is structured like a military organization, almost entirely male with a mass of camp follower hangers on and one Joan of Arc on duty. The gender relationships are incoherent because it is a NON-FUNCTIONAL society. How could you possibly have that many violent men in one place with no regular women? This structure is extremely unstable and temporary.
This movie has about as much to say about gender in society as The Longest Day.
Point 8: This is a story about a battle-hardened woman who makes rash decisions, ultimately including a shaky deal with a near-mute thug whom she knows nothing about, travels down a long road at enormous sacrifice to ultimately discover the final destination is desolate as well. The reaction of a group of women to this situation is to decide to ride off into the sunset without even knowing what awaits them at the end of the journey, only to be advised by a man that the best course of action is <insert well-thought-out strategic plan>, which she then agrees is better than her plan.
At multiple points in the narrative, she is dependent upon a man to survive. She is saved from injury multiple times by a man. She is grievously injured by a man. She is healed by a man. When they arrive at the Citadel at movie's end, she is allowed up the elevator by men who act voluntarily to give her power.
A feminist hero, she should not be. She is dependent upon the help of men. She does not stand alone, like a male hero does. John McClean didn't get help from his wife while he was waging a guerrilla war on Hans Gruber. For a woman action hero to rise to that level, more competence and self-reliance is needed. She is not equal to her male counterparts in other movies.
Point 9: Furiosa is still a powerful character. She is presumably hardened in battle for a long time, long enough to rise to a trusted position in the otherwise male hierarchy. She ultimately breaks from that hierarchy to do what she believes is right. She becomes emotional and reacts in a masculine way, by going off on her own and screaming it out (common male hero behavior, for sure). She has a cool robot arm that lets her be scarred by life, but still functional.
A traditional princess damsel in distress, she is not.
Point 10: I don't know what the collective seems to struggle with this, but the movie has attractive women in almost no clothing in a hot desert environment where covering up would be advantageous. My girlfriend pointed out to me that this was clearly pandering to the male viewer.
Point 11: There was a society of women who rejected men and started their own matriarchy out in the desert. They encountered technical/engineering problems they couldn't solve and were then whittled down by the nearby violent males. In the end, they were reduced to using their only remaining attractive female as naked bait. I think this is pretty insulting to the intellectual capacities of women, but I am confused as to how they can be "mothers" if they reject all men. Were they using a few of them as breeding slaves, like Immortan Joe but in reverse? Maybe there is more data here. Anyway, I think that showing matriarchy as an abysmal failure isn't very progressive.
Point 12: Based on points 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11: no conclusions can be drawn about whether this movie is "good" or "bad" according to the social theory of gender that you subscribe. Live with the conflicts! Move on with your lives!
Point 13: This is possibly the most bloodless action movie that I have seen in the past 3 decades of film.There is hardly any blood. The face-mask-rip-off-scene was actually a bit shocking because it DID contain blood. I'm actually glad to see this. I was worried the entire action genre was headed towards increasing levels of gore. Everything doesn't need to be Game of Thrones level violent.
Point 14: Considering the above, did we really have to cut open a pregnant lady and remove a dead baby? That was.... sad.
Point 15: If there is a social statement in this movie, it seems to be that having at least SOME government is pretty cool. Let's NOT go back to stateless bands of wandering murderers looking to kill us for fun. Law and order are worthy goals. Lets not be those people who "broke the world" so that we end up living like savages.
Point 16: I've seen some people making arguments that Furiosa's victory at the end represents the drive towards a welfare state (free water for everyone, etc). I think you also have to consider it to be an anti-monopolist position along the lines of Adam Smith. I think drawing any connection between Furiosa and socialism is.... bizarre. And revealing of your own inner agenda.
Point 17: The gonzo in this movie was a little cray cray. I admit chuckling to myself at times when it went over the top. I love post-apoc and I am open-minded, but many people are not. This movie definitely has an audience that is not "all folks".
Point 18: This is a gimmick movie. The gimmick is to take the car chase in a violent wasteland out to its most extreme form. That's cool. The visuals are incredible. But it leaves the movies as just that; visuals. No depth. Little Drama.
Boyhood is also a gimmick movie. It won awards. It was cool to take the same actors through multiple years of filming. But it was ultimately boring and I wouldn't rewatch it. Gimmicks do not MAKE the movie, you need more that just gimmicks. You need soul.
Despite my nerd complaining above, I did enjoy the movie for what it was. I love action and it had a lot of it. I saw this as my birthday present and it was worth the money to me.
I recommend 3D viewing to post-apocalypse enthusiasts, gamers, nerds, and other weirdos. I recommend Netflix or Premium Channel viewing to anyone mildly curious but not willing to put down the coin. If you don't like unusual settings, steer clear.