Gateway Gazette

Reel Reflections: The New Action Hero

Mad Max: Fury Road

By E. P. Whinters

MadMaxFuryRoadAn action movie up for Best Picture this year? Are they serious? Many people thought other, more “worthy” films should have been nominated instead of this film … maybe Straight Outta Compton? Or Carol? Or Sicario? Or even Star Wars?? But no – Mad Max: Fury Road gets a nod for Best Picture, as well as 9 other nods, all in the production and directing areas. And after seeing it on the big screen, I agree … this movie is a force to be reckoned with in many ways.

First, let me say, I have not seen any of the former Mad Max movies. I knew about them, but never saw one, so in a lot of ways, I came to this movie with nothing to live up to. Neither can I give testament to how this movie links with the ones before it. At the age of 71, George Miller is the writer / producer / director of the all the Mad Max films and is again the passion behind this one. He even got his wife, with no previous editing experience, to edit this film, and what she helped create is something rarely, if ever, seen in an action genre film, especially one of this magnitude.

On the surface, this R-rated movie is one big chase full of fireballs and flying bodies … at first, running away from the bad guys and then returning to where they started. Most people will get swept away with the crazy vehicles, the explosions, the energy of the chase, as the film explodes with apocalyptic anarchy – a journey of fire and blood (of which little is seen) through which the action genre is razed to the ground and reborn. It is this, and below the surface, a story that is perhaps one of the most surprisingly empowering stories for women of all the films up for Best Picture this year and Miller tells it with a searing eye, shining light on details that both energize us and push us into new places for this genre: the sweeping vistas with the vehicles like bugs racing across the unending desert to a close-up of an unborn child still in his mother. The movie says it is about redemption, but I believe it is also about rebirth.

The movie is rated R for the explosive violence, but there is surprisingly little gore, swearing and no gratuitous sex or violence. In fact, what is there, found in the characters of Mad Max (played by Tom Hardy) and Imperator Furiosa (Charlise Theron) are worthy of discussion long after the film ends, especially with younger viewers. This is one of the few R-rated movies I will ever condone for teenagers and even older mature pre-teen viewers, provided discussion comes with it. There are many that disliked this film, for whatever reason, but I am not one of them.

In borrowing from online comments as well as my own observations, consider the following before dismissing this as another mind-numbing action movie with no purpose:

  • The women in this film are like few others I have ever seen in a movie of this genre; they are women, they are powerful, and they are not sexualized. The sex-slaves, when first kidnapped, might appear more frail, but by the end of the film, you cannot use that descriptor for them any more.
  • Furiosa is more the main character, I think, than Mad Max, and she is a wonderful role model for young women today. She risks her life for what is right, she is smart and strong and fights for justice, for those who need defending, for other women. She is determined to rescue them and free them from slavery.
  • Older women are shown as strong, action characters – a “grandmother” is riding a motorcycle, others of many ages are fighting for freedom, knowing how to rebirth their world. As mentioned before, the viewer knows women are being used for sexual purposes, but it is never shown to the viewer. Instead, what we do see are words of rebellion: “We are not things!” In addition, a great part of the action is real, not CGI or special effects.
  • The protagonist male characters (Mad Max and Nux) are not the rescuers; they do not swoop in and save the damsels in distress, nor does Max become Furiosa’s love interest. Instead, he becomes her ally, their help; he does not take over and even defers to Furiosa when it is best. Both Max and Nux start the movie in opposition to the rescue, but become allies as the film progresses and each participate in and sacrifice for the freedom of the women, each in his own way.
  • There are strong themes of sacrifice for freedom, redemption for those who need it and signs of rebirth at the end of the film: unlimited water, equality among people, a baby unborn, freedom for the people, seeds not yet planted. The viewer can feel that the age of tyranny that starts the film is over and the hope of humanity and restoration of order is soon to return.

Dare I say it? Wouldn’t it be interesting if Miller took home Best Director for this film? I am sure it will get a few Golden Statues for technical / production achievements but a statue for Miller would be nice. And, I will add my vote for a spin-off movie about Furiosa, with Theron in the role! In a lot of ways, it really was more her story than Max’s, and I would love to see a movie where she does legitimately take center stage for herself. Now, there would be an Action Hero for a new generation!

 

Academy Award Nominations for:

  • Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Best Achievement in Directing: George Miller
  • Best Achievement in Cinematography: John Seale
  • Best Achievement in Film Editing: Margaret Sixel (Miller’s wife)
  • Best Achievement in Costume and Design: Jenny Beaven
  • Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Best Achievement in Production Design

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