At the end of Mad Max Fury Road, I looked over at Stretch and HJ jr as the closing credits crawled. What caught my eye and the observation I had to share with them was the credit given to the movie’s writers.
“Someone wrote this thing?” I asked.
Those four words may be the perfect summary of my feelings regarding Mad Max Fury Road.
I couldn’t follow the movie at all unless all I was supposed to understand was an epic motocross, car chase across a post-apocalyptic landscape. If that was all I was supposed to gather from the movie, then job well done!
I don’t think that was all I was supposed to gather.
No, when images of water and breast milk and a maimed woman and the search for “The Garden” and … need I go on? When images like these which are, frankly, pretty powerful, are thrown onscreen, I understand that I am supposed to understand something.
I didn’t understand much.
Here’s what I did understand. Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa was the main character of the movie. Was that intentional? Go ahead and forget this Mad Max guy – he’s window dressing at best – it’s Furiosa who drives (quite literally) the action. Her mission. Her goals. Her movie. And, even though I didn’t quite ever figure out what she was trying to do (it couldn’t really be the simplistic plot cribbed from Logan’s Run, could it?) Theron was very good in the movie.
I understood that someone decided Tom Hardy did sound ridiculous in The Dark Knight Rises and thought that the best way to avoid him sounding silly in Mad Max Fury Road was to not let him speak much. Without question, Hardy grunted more than he spoke in the movie. I guess he was good, but it was really hard to tell. Everything Mad Max did was in reaction to what other characters did. After watching the movie, I have no idea what he wanted and what his motivations were. I gathered he was scarred by his past, but the film presented absolutely no prospects about his future.
I understood that women are strong and this is a message I like very much. There is a significant theme about women’s empowerment in the movie – not exactly what I was expecting – and I liked that.
And that’s the end of what I understood.
What I got out of Mad Max Fury Road was a series of violent action set pieces, some clever and some absolutely grotesque, strung together in the frame work of a Cannonball Run-like caravan in a desert landscape. I got that there were bad guys. I got that there were anti-heroes. Surely there were no actual heroes I missed. I got that the evil regime fell at the movie’s end – I don’t think that’s a spoiler – and that, like all good westerns, the main character slunk off to his next adventure.
What I suppose is this: Mad Max Fury Road was gestating so long that there were many, many cooks in the kitchen who added ingredients to the final product. I mean someone must have said “Hey, let’s have a guy playing metal guitar tied to the front of one of the big rigs” and someone else read that and responded “Yeah! And what if his guitar shoots fire?” Someone must have suggested a tanker truck full of breast milk, right? And someone else had to figure out how to put that into the “plot.”
As a two hour women’s empowerment message, Mad Max Fury Road has something to say. As a narrative, it’s a mess. As a visual spectacle of violence and truck crashes, it is poetry. As a fun summer movie, it misfires. Greatly.
Mad Max Fury Road might be good science fiction. It creates a fully realized world, that’s for sure, it’s simply not a world I wish to visit.
The Junior Senator sent me an article that pointed out that filming started without a complete script. I believe it.
MAD MAX FURY ROAD receives ONE BLOOD BAG (because Charlize Theron is so good) out of a possible FIVE.