(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
One Sentence Plot Summary: What starts as another adventure in the Mad Max franchise becomes a stealth story about a new female protagonist and the importance of fighting for your own place and not running away.
Why It’s on the List:
I want to focus on the story of this film to contrast about the future podcast Brian and I are doing on Pantheon Plus. What I think makes this movie work is the simplistic story. There’s a literal clear path as to what the characters are looking for, a destination that is a green and a respite from the hellscape that is a place with no water or gasoline. As the movie progresses, we see that our heroes cannot find a utopian place. They have to go back from where they came. They have to go literal hell and war to make the place they live in better. There is a clear connection that can be made between what’s happening in this fictional desert and our current circumstance. We can’t leave our country or the planet. We have to fight for what we have.
This was pitched as a continuation of the Mad Max franchise with Tom Hardy replacing the problematic Mel Gibson. I don’t want to soil this write-up by talking about the human piece of garbage that is old Mel, but suffice to say George Miller injected this franchise with the kind of new life that Disney only wishes it could do to Star Wars. Every time I sit down to watch this movie, the first 30 minutes always take my breath away. It’s basically an extended action sequence where we the audience have to figure out everything on our own. Mr. Miller is not stopping the vehicles to explain the language, why people are spraying themselves in silver, or who Furiosa is.
Charlize Theron is an incredible performer, someone who probably doesn’t get the credit she deserves despite winning awards and excelling in any genre she’s participated in. Furiosa is someone we know almost nothing about, but she engages us with her empathy for the breeders and her willingness to sacrifice. She is a smart action hero who doesn’t just kill for the sake of killing, a real dichotomy from so many action movies. Margret Sixel, who won best editor and happens to be Miller’s wife, gives this a real flare. She did not want this to feel like any other action movie, and it definitely does not. Calling this movie kinetic feels trite, but it’s genuinely one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had in a theater. I’m still not sure the plot or story adds up in total, but I love how bombastic this movie feels compared to so many blockbusters.
This is a movie that will be timeless. With the exception of a couple awkwardly placed CGI shots, this movie is going to age extremely well. The minimal amount of dialogue means the visuals tell so much of the story. Its message about fighting for a place and not allowing one’s self to be controlled by greedy men is one we should really be thinking about right now, especially since the antagonist’s hair and skin tone is reminiscent of a certain government leader whose name I’ve banned myself from using online as much as possible.
*With the exception of Zoe Kravitz, there are no major characters of color, and despite how great of a message this film has, ignoring the racial components should be considered problematic.
*While the breeders are allowed some agency, there’s still a lot of male gaze going on in the way they’re shot.
MVP: George Miller was 70 when this movie finally came out in 2015, in his late 60s as the movie was shot. It’s amazing to think someone of his age could create something so crazy. A lot of directors tend to trail and do some of their weakest work late in life. Something gets lost. In this case, Miller may have crescendo’d with the fourth film of this film series. He went against the grain by using a lot of colorful imagery and incorporating very little CGI. I still can’t believe how some of the shots I saw happened. I’ve been told movie sets are extremely boring places to be. I would love to go back in time and watch this movie being made because I remain curious how so much of this movie came to the screen…and only like 10% surrounds the flaming electric guitarists.
Best Performance: I think it’s really close. Nicholas Hoult as Nux probably undergoes the most growth. He starts out as a pissant and elevates himself in the first hour only to realize he’s a pawn in Immortan Joe’s games. He changes sides and eventually sacrifices himself to the cause of taking over the Citadel. However, the answer is Charlize Theron. She owns this movie and basically turns this into the Furiosa show. Credit undoubtedly has to go to the editing, but Theron seems much more engaged than Tom Hardy. She also isn’t bogged down by the only aspect of the film that doesn’t work, which is Gloria, the person who is in Max’s head throughout the movie.
Best Quote: The dialogue is basically irrelevant. Let’s just say Furiosa’s screaming the in the desert is iconic and the moment I think most people think of when they think of this film.
Is there a sequel? Rumors abound about a Furiosa prequel and a possible sequel but nothing official has happened.
Follow Jerome on Twitter, and check out Reel Bad, The Superhero Pantheon and his new podcast Pantheon Plus.