I vividly remember the first time I saw Mad Max: Fury Road in the cinema.
Following the opening half hour of complete chaos, George Miller’s film finally draws breath; allowing the audience to do the same.
An audible sigh could be heard from the seats around me; we’d been holding our breath for so long as Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) escapes jail, and ends up strapped to the front of a pimped out war car like a mermaid at the front of a ship. And thus, our journey begins.
The film is essentially one big car chase, but it never gets old. The chase is catalysed when Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the gruesome ruler of a sky-high desert citadel, discovers that his five healthiest ‘wives’ have escaped their confines in the belly of a petrol tanker driven by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron).
Fury Road became a divisive piece of work for audiences upon its release in 2015, due to its unexpectedly progressive and subtle feminism.
It’s easy to expect a high-octane macho action adventure, which is largely exactly what you get but without any of the overbearing masculinity.
However, Miller manages a tricky balance; the women and their call to arms is not tokenistic, instead feeling entirely believable in the world he has created.
When the wives escape they leave behind a message on the walls for their captor; ‘we are not things.’ This is the beating heart of Fury Road’s plot; five young sex slaves escaping their captor and fighting back against an oppressive patriarch.
This is in a world where Furiosa found power and strength, one where women are milked like cows and kept as breeders, and she wants to help these women do the same.
Many argue that it is in fact Furiosa who is our lead protagonist in Fury Road, and I would have to agree. Max simply gets caught up in their fight for freedom and chooses to join the cause.
However, this female-centered story wasn’t without it’s backlash. Countless reviews claimed that Fury Road was a ‘trojan horse’ feminist movie disguising itself as a ‘guy’s flick’ – to this I ask, why can’t it be both?
Why can’t it be that it is one of the all-time great action films that everyone can enjoy, and also poses a provocative message about how, you know, women are kind of strong too?
The film’s subtle feminism lies not in it’s portrayal of sex slaves escaping their captor (as Immortan Joe follows and furiously screams ‘that’s my property!’) but in the overwhelming presence and power of women.
To those who boycotted the film, feeling so emasculated that Furiosa had a couple lines more than Mad Max himself, the power of Fury Road is that the men stand alongside the women. One of the greatest and most simple examples of this is when Max hands Furiosa his rifle because he knows she is the better shot, and she proceeds to use his shoulder to steady herself before firing.
Of course, the mind-blowing action steals the show at every moment, and endless credit should be given to the stunt team.
The whole production team crafted a beautifully bizarre look at the dystopian world of Immortan Joe and his war boys, with their spiky cars and desperation to die in battle on the titular Fury Road.
Another highlight that simply can’t go unmentioned is the fabulously unhinged Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who goes on and on about how he can’t wait to arrive at the ‘gates of Valhalla’ with his leader when he dies.
30 years after his last Mad Max feature, Miller cooked up the perfect mix of style, substance, and dusty storms to create the obscene and chaotic Mad Max: Fury Road, one of the most memorable films of the decade.
It invites women into the historically macho-man action narrative in exciting yet subtle ways, without pandering to the audience.
It’s hours of seat-clutching, exhilarating chases, wall-to-wall explosions and a flame throwing guitar: pure, unadulterated fun.
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