Another of the movies of 2015 I did not think I would have the spirit in me to actually review but I found the resolve. Though most of this is not a review but a deconstruction of the movie….
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is the most visually interesting film that came out last year. Every vehicle, costume, and location shot oozes with visual personality. It won basically all the Oscars related to visuals and sound and deserved to do so. Its tone is consistent, its action primarily made of real people doing real stunts with computer effects used to ramp up the splendor instead of replacing it.
The world is imaginative with a sort of fantasy logic applied to a post apocalypse allowing for plenty of mental flow, the evil king in the tower with the captured princesses must be saved by the knight (Furiosa), the ranger (Max), and the soldier (Nux). I don’t know how but the movie manages to stay grounded even while the reality of it is heightened. It is a good movie that I think lots of people should watch and appreciate.
With that all in mind I am going to write something that will make me sound like a loon. Maybe I should consider it part of a series of social commentary blogs along with the “Ghost in the Shell” one from earlier this week. Either way, go see the movie first because SPOILERS beyond this point.
You know, I have seen “Mad Max:Fury Road” described as a feminist movie, but I actually find problems with that.
The main villain, Immortan Joe has founded a religion, has a functioning stronghold, produces enough food and water to commoditize them with the other surrounding city-states of Gas Town and the Bullet Farm, and clearly has some technical knowledge evidenced by how much machinery he has lashed together to make a working civilization in the middle of a desert. Most of which appears to be muscle powered by lots and lots of people working the gears by walking on them.
Joe ostensibly operates on a meritocracy based system (outside of his own sons being given preferential treatment), as his second in command is a handicapped woman whose leadership is not questioned or commented upon (her gender is never commented on). A woman with one arm was taught by someone to drive and fight and rose to a position of honor and authority in his military. That can’t even happen in our society.
|Though our society doesn't have such sweet cyborg parts either.|
By contrast the god guys of the movie, the Motor Grandmas were unable to maintain the green environment they started with, and aside from a satchel of seeds have no resources of value. The grannies make a living baiting and robbing people in the desert. They build and contribute jack all to the world and actively take from others who have something to take.
And while Joe is sexist in many ways (not the least of which being keeping a god-damn harem) the Grandmas are also sexist. When one of the brides worries that they will give birth to another warlord, rather than saying something like, "he or she will grow to be who you raise it to be" the grandma instead says, "Maybe it will be a girl". I don’t know why that character automatically assigns such motives to a gender, but there it is. No background about their menfolk abusing them, or causing the issues that destroyed the green place, no story about the loss of the men of their culture in a war. They just say it and it hangs there in the air.
Ultimately the Grandma’s plan is to drive off in a random direction in hopes of finding something before running out of food. They have no armies, no fortress, no food, no water, and no goals. If it were not for the titular Mad Max they the story would have ended on that ambiguous (but certainly downer) note. Instead Max’s idea is, “Why don’t we just slip in and usurp Joe’s ruler ship?”
|"So the plan is to NOT wander off in a random direction till dead? Could that work?"|
They succeed in taking over what can only be described as post-apocalyptic Castle Grey Skull. But there is something important at the end: these people have no idea what they are doing. The movie shows them giving away the one resource they have a monopoly on and destabilizing the economy the whole thing was built on. Water and food is what they have, and having murdered (rightfully in self-defense) the leaders of Gas Town and the Bullet Farm, and blocking out all of the best troops, weapons, and vehicles they have no way of holding onto what they have.
|Joe could have definitely worked on a better way of distributing it to the masses.|
They now have nothing to sell or barter with as they are now just giving it away. And having killed what is effectively the War Pope of the wasteland they have no ability to keep the army fighting on their side.
Joe was an asshole who kept slaves for his own enjoyment, but he was also a nation builder. His designs had much more long term promise at rebuilding humanity as a species than the grandmas' governance promises. Is that the point? To end on a note of, “maybe it will all work out?” It is undoubtedly happy, the bad guy is dead and his evil minions are scattered in hostile territory but this is not a substantive or long term victory. There is no clear, “Men bad women good” message and there isn’t any, “men and women equal” message either.
I got this fresh perspective from a discussion of another post-apocalypse, water is important, and conventional morality applies less in these instances: the “Fallout” franchise. In “Fallout” there is an evil organization called the Enclave and… Asshole has a point. This video goes into greater depth, but overall it made me question “Fury Road” because of the settings.
And on a related note, but separate from my themes discussion: where does Max think he is going to go at the end of the movie? He has no car, just gave a lot of blood, and he just walks off into the amassed throng of peasants. Max, buddy, you should maybe at least take one of the motorcycles and a side car full of guns and water before you go.
(I actually got a “Conan: The Barbarian” vibe off the ending, like the wizard Mako starts narrating, “In time, Conan--- Max, I meant Max. In time, Max would become a king by his own hand, this story shall also be told…” Which is fine, I like that movie.)