Saturday, May 16, 2015

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Originally posted at kingyak.com:

I remember enjoying the Mad Max movies, but am not exactly a rabid fan. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve even seen them since high school. If I did watch them in the last 20 years or so, I must have been drinking because I don’t remember much about them. I vaguely recall some of the characters and maybe a scene or two, but plot-wise I just remember that there were a lot of car chases and fights over gas. I should probably watch them again. The point is, I didn’t go see Fury Road because it was a Mad Max movie, I went to see it because the trailer looked cool. If the movie perverted the franchise in any way and my review fails to reflect that, blame it on Guinness.

After some opening narration and lizard eating, Mad Max gets captured by a tribe of people with highly impractical but extremely cool-looking dieselpunk technology. He tries and fails to escape, but the focus shifts pretty quickly to Imperator Furiosa, who’s got a mechanical arm and is about to leave town on a mission in a post-apocalyptic war truck. As I watched Furiosa’s introduction, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but once I recognized that Furiossa was being played by Charlize Theron, the problem was obvious. “Oh my God!” I said, clearly startling my fellow movie-goers, “IMPERATOR FURIOSA DOESN’T HAVE A PENIS!”

I got kicked out of the theater. I spent the next two hours wandering around an abandoned garden gnome factory trying to work out what the filmmakers were thinking. They had clearly implied that Imperator Furiosa was kind of a badass who could drive a big truck and shoot guns, and probably fight off armies of radioactive kangaroos if necessary, but it was also abundantly clear that Furiosa was a girl. I was stumped at first, but the radioactive kangaroo thing reminded me of Tank Girl and then I remembered that I’d actually seen a ton of movies with badass women who could actually do stuff. In addition to Lori Petty in Tank Girl…

...Sorry, I was just thinking about Lori Petty in Tank Girl…  

 ...Oh, right. Review. Badass women. There was Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku in Buffy, Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games, Michelle Rodriguez in...well, pretty much any movie with Michelle Rodriguez. Actually, women who kick ass are pretty common in fiction. Now that I think about it, there are even quite a few badass non-fictional women who drive trucks and shoot guns and fight radioactive kangaroos [citation needed]. I wasn’t sure why I got so weirded out, and suddenly really wanted to see the rest of Fury Road. I crafted a clever disguise out of some old Twix wrappers and spirit gum and was able  to purchase a ticket for the next showing and make my way to the auditorium without being recognized by the theater’s elite staff of highly trained teenagers. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Actually, that’s probably it.

After leaving town, Furiosa, despite her schlonglessness, abandons her mission because she’s secretly smuggling some women out of town. Before being smuggled, the women were unwilling concubines of the tribe’s creepy leader guy. Once creepy leader guy realizes what’s going on, he and his army load up into their mechanically implausible (but really awesome-looking) vehicles and go after her. Since one of the war boys (weird bald white guys who are just every damn where) was in the middle of getting a blood transfusion from Mad Max (for some reason I apparently missed) when the call to arms came, Max ends up chained to a pole on the front of one of the warbuggies. He spends most of the first chase scene there, but eventually manages to get free and enter into a sort-of alliance with Furiosa. The rest of the movie is essentially an ongoing  (but not continuous) chase scene with lots of action, crazy cars and weapons, and even a little plot and character development. I’ve heard a few people complain about Max taking orders from Furiosa, but since he’s the one joining her gang and she’s the one who knows what’s going on, it makes sense for her to be in charge even though he has a weiner and she doesn’t. Besides, there are a lot of scenes in the movie where Furiosa does what Max says, so it’s not like he’s her buttmonkey or anything. Once the inevitable competitive pissing has run its course, it’s almost like having enough mutual respect to acknowledge one another’s strengths allows Max and Furiosa to accomplish some pretty impressive (and violent and bloody and often really cool) things. Weird, huh?

I enjoyed Fury Road, but it wasn’t quite everything I’d hoped for. For one thing, Tom Hardy talks weird and it’s sometime a little off-putting. More importantly, the movie is only “one big chase scene” in the sense that the bad guys are always somewhere close behind. There are a lot more breaks in the action that I anticipated. I expected the movie to be one big chase scene in the same way Shoot ‘Em Up is one big gun fight, but it isn’t. Even though it’s not quite non-stop action, there’s still plenty of Big Damn Action. It’s also well worth seeing on the big screen just for the visuals. All the characters, equipment, and sets walk a fine line between awesomely badass and bafflingly weird, so even when your attention wanders there’s still a lot of cool stuff to look at. As long as you can get over that “major character with no dong” hurdle, you’ll probably enjoy the movie.
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