Silver Screen Resolution: Mad Max: Fury Road

This year, I resolved to see twelve new-to-me spec fic movies in a no-doubt vain attempt at catching up with popular culture. One movie per month, the results of watching said movie discussed at the beginning of the next month. So I made myself some rules:

  1. It must be spec-fic. For review here on Spec-Chic and for myself. I just prefer it. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror. Even kid’s movies if they fit one of those genres!
  2. For the most part, the movie must be popular spec-fic. Something people around me have been talking about.
  3. I have to see at least a third of them in the theater, for the truest “in the moment” connection. (This rule has since been modified, since most of the in-the-theater movies I plan to see will show up on Sound-Off rather than as a Silver Screen Resolution review.)

Also, this is the mid-point of the year so I need to choose six more movies to watch. I will take feedback. Right now the for-sure movies are:

  • Arrival
  • Attack the Block
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Options I am considering:

  • Moana
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Midnight Special
  • Tomorrowland

And for giggles’ sake: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I am also considering a double feature of Snow White & the Huntsman/Huntsman: Winter War

But for May, I watched Fury Road.


Why I chose it: When I started this movie resolution project, Mad Max: Fury Road was exactly the kind of movie I had in mind. Something super popular, something people couldn’t stop raving about, something that spawned tumblr memes and catch phrases. Something, in other words, that was not only part of the zeitgeist, but something that deserved to be there. Fury Road was always going to be on this list. I was looking forward to it, like whoa. And Furiosa…. She just sounded flat-out awesome.

Why I didn’t go see it in the theaters: I meant to. I always meant to, and it lingered in the theaters long enough, but somehow the time never materialized. I saw the trailers and thrilled at the setting and the driving of ridiculous cars into a red sand dust storm.

What I think now that I’ve seen it: I was surprised and appalled to realize I had a really hard time getting through this. The first hour made me want to give up, repeatedly. It took me four days to get through that much of the movie.

To be fair, this is not Fury Road’s fault. All the things up above that people raved about? The cast, the tight story, the stunning setting, the wonderful “women are not things, not property” theme? All of those things were true.

My sin in watching was that I forgot that I loathe post-apocalyptic movies. I watched all the Mad Max movies as they came out, and the only thing positive I took away from them was Tina Turner was super cool.

I am, at my core, a pragmatic optimist. If something is broken and you can fix it, why wouldn’t you? So post-apocalyptic landscapes where the characters have managed to keep a surprisingly high quality of engineering technology, where they can control water in the midst of a desert, where they can build machines that can shift tons of earth, where they have enough medicine to keep desperately ill people alive and mobile…. Why would you build a psychotic cult? And for god’s sake, where are you getting all that silver spray paint? The concept is so alien to me, it makes me crazy trying to watch obviously clever, strong, determined people doing such bullshit things. It starts to feel nihilistic, too Lord of the Flies (which I loathed at length in a middle-grade paper).

I could just give you water, but instead I’ll pour it into the dirt and watch you fight over it. That’s fun, right?

I also wonder what effect watching it at home on a tiny screen with adequate sound had versus watching it on a ginormous screen in a darkened theater with surround-sound, alongside an audience paying rapt attention. On the one hand, there’s no arguing at all that the setting would have been so much more amazing on the big screen, and that the action might have swept me up into it. On the other hand, it’s quite possible I would have wandered out of the theater in that first hour and then just gone home.

Oddly, the turning point for me was The Splendid Angharad’s death. After that moment, the movie finally slowed down from demonstrating man’s inhumanity to man and high speed car chases. I enjoyed the movie a lot when it was just Furiosa, Max, and the wives (and a stowaway Nux) traveling through the night. I really loved the way that Max (as is his wont in these movies) slowly transitions from, “I’m a pure survivor, I don’t care for anyone but me,” to “I will die trying to help others.” I loved Max and Furiosa getting each others’ measures, and Max’s willingness to step back and let her take charge.

I loved that a potentially “cool” moment for Max wasn’t filmed. He goes off to fight a pursuing car and the movie stays with the less action-oriented group who are repairing the rig. He comes back bloody and successful, and that’s all we need to know. And he’s dad enough to bring a boot for Nux. His moments of kindness are more important than any violence. These characters, in dire straits, are still capable of compassion. So yay for them. Boo for the rest of Immortan Joe’s cult-warrior crazy people.

I also liked Max being haunted by literal ghosts. I choose to assume they are actual ghosts. It’s Australia. I believe there are ghosts in Australia. I liked Max being nearly non-verbal. I loved Furiosa and the women all being quick on the uptake. No one sits around and explains things to them. Max mentions fragments of an idea and they all take turns filling the blanks. I liked all the wives being fierce enough to fight in any way they can.

I loved the casting. I’m glad for Tom Hardy to wipe away Mel Gibson. I like Charlize Theron in just about anything. And Nicholas Hoult made Nux’s personal journey poignant and believable.

Basically, as long as Immortan Joe and his people weren’t on the screen, I enjoyed the movie just fine.

All screencap credit to Shadow of Reflection.

10 Comments

  • steelvictory June 7, 2017 at 8:33 am

    I had a hard time sitting through this film, too (watching it at home, like you). I think there’s a point where post-apocalyptic stops being “realistic” and it’s hard to take. Also, a pretty story board does not a script make. 😉

    Reply
    • Lane Robins June 7, 2017 at 11:13 am

      I liked the middle act quite a lot where people were being creative and interacting in peaceable ways and making plans for the future. But yeah, post apoc is just not my jam. The story was really simple, but eh, the characters were complex enough to make up for it.

      Reply
  • Merrin June 7, 2017 at 8:59 am

    I love this movie with all the passion of a thousand fiery suns but I can understand why some wouldn’t. If it’s not your bag, it’s not your bag.

    Reply
    • Lane Robins June 7, 2017 at 11:12 am

      What’s crazy is that I really did like it past that turning point. But I’ve racked and racked my brains trying to think of a way to make the script get there faster, without leaving out anything essential, and… nope! It’s really ridiculously tight. I think the only thing that could go would be the Mad Max voiceover and capture in the very beginning. I’m glad I watched it.

      Reply
    • Nicole Taft June 7, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      Agreed. I *adore* this movie and am still sad I never got to see it in theaters a 3rd time. If it ever shows up again (like maybe after the next Mad Max movie – double showing?) I am in 100%.

      However, I’m the opposite of Lane in that I have this weird obsession with post-apocalyptic movies. What makes it worse is that they’re so rare, and most of the ones that do exist are basically awful.

      Reply
  • Ron Edison June 7, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    I generally like post-apocalyptic themes but agree with your criticism of how most are implemented. I liked the earlier Mad Max movies but this one left me feeling empty, despite the great visuals. Too many blank spots in the narrative–I don’t like to work that hard for an action movie.

    Reply
  • Ron Edison June 7, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    BTW, surprisingly, we really enjoyed PP & Zombies, but I’d consider it more of a parody than genuine spec fic.

    Reply
  • Shara White June 7, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    I never did care for the original Mad Max trilogy. I have some serious hate for the first movie, actually, and it’s the one I’ve seen the most. I approached this one with trepidation because the trailers made it look over-the-top stupid (flaming guitar, really?) but ended up loving it. The reasons for loving it were the same reasons I hated the first: the treatment of women. Amazing how that works.

    Reply
    • Nicole Taft June 7, 2017 at 8:54 pm

      Haha! The guitar was actually what made me super-interested. Since I hadn’t seen that trailer, I didn’t even know what the main plot was or anything like that. One of my friends knows what I like, and after he saw it, he just said, “Nicole, you have to see this movie. That’s all I’m going to say. You need to see this movie. Actually, I’ll say one thing – flamethrower guitar.”

      Me (internally): “I NEED TO KNOW HOW THIS IS INCLUDED.”

      Reply
  • Nicole Taft June 7, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    I also just realized – I never once saw that particular trailer and I’m glad I didn’t.

    And I have to say the soundtrack is so freaking top notch it’s ridiculous. *drools a little*

    Reply

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