I have been trying to write this review type thing for the longest time. I should have written it right after I saw it but alas, I was lazy. So hopefully this all makes sense and I remember all the points I wanted to make along the way. This movie blew my mind so I hope I can do it some justice. *Warning: very minor spoilers throughout*
To start off, when Mad Max: Fury Road first hit the theaters, my brother saw it with his best friend. When he came back he told me I needed to see it because I would love it. He gave me the whole premise of the movie and I got hooked. Unfortunately, I got lazy (Again. Surprise, surprise.) and didn’t watch it. However, after the movie won a crap ton of Oscars, I decided to make it a priority.
Then even after the Oscars I didn’t watch it until my friend from work gave it to me to watch while I recovered from surgery.
And let me tell you about this movie, guys.
It takes place in a post apocalyptic desert world. The people are held in check by Immortan Joe, the tyrannical warlord. Everything goes as normal until Imperator Furiosa takes a War Rig in what was supposed to be a gas and ammunition run, and turns it into an escape attempt; taking Immortan Joe’s 5 wives with her.
Before I get into story and character, I want to talk briefly about the movie and its cinematography and design and overall aesthetic. The film brought in Oscars for costume design, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, production design, sound editing, and sound mixing. And let me tell you, it deserved all of them. The whole design of the movie is stunning. Despite it taking place in the desert, the colors are so vivid and wild. Everything has this larger than life quality to it. The way it’s filmed is super interesting too. The very first scene seems to be sped up, giving it a high intensity feel. Another thing to mention is that the soundtrack is just perfection. The music was gorgeous and fitting. Truthfully, you could appreciate the movie for just these reasons alone. You could just watch it and be fascinated by the artistic nature of the whole thing.
World building is something I was very impressed with as well. The people in the Citadel live in a completely different society than we do. I mean, everything is different. They have their own slang, their own religious beliefs, their own systems. The writers went all out with this one. Their world is so believable. Yet, even though nothing is explicitly explained, you manage to understand what’s going on. Their systems are different but comprehendable. You get the sense of honor and duty and thirst for adventure from the War Boys. You understand the different towns. You see how their society runs. All those tedious details really worked together well.
However, I mostly wanted to talk story and characters here. But I couldn’t ignore how remarkable those details were.
What made Mad Max so beautiful to me was the plot. When I first started seeing trailers I wasn’t impressed. It seemed to me like one of those movies that only existed to blow things up and have high action car chases. I wasn’t expecting a movie with actual depth. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
At the very beginning, when Immortan Joe realizes Furiosa isn’t just going to Gas Town, he runs back to his room, which is kept locked by a vault door. To his dismay, he notices that Furiosa has taken his wives, and left him messages on his floor and walls. I swear I got chills during this scene. The first message he arrives to says “Our babies will not be warlords.” And the second he uncovers a moment later. “We are not things.”
Allow me to repeat that.
We are not things.
Immortan Joe was using these woman and keeping them as his possession. He was raping them and taking their children to be raised as monsters and war fighters. Then the woman had had enough and Furiosa chose to be their savior.
Throughout Mad Max you see so many messed up things and hear so many things that make you cringe. And I’m not talking about the blood and gore, although there’s plenty of that. I’m talking about the extreme poverty of the people in the Citadel and how they can only drink water when Immortan Joe lets the water out. I’m talking about rivalry among the War Boys that makes them fight each other. I’m talking about the way woman are treated by literally every male in the movie except for Max. It made me angry, but then it made me feel empowered.
Because Furiosa steps in and makes a difference. She sees a need and she answers it; despite fear, despite doubt, and despite the fact that she is literally disabled and missing an arm. None of these things stop her. You can see that she cares for these woman. She aches for them in their pain. She helps them.
Never have I seen feminism displayed in such a way in a movie before. If you want to understand what feminism is, watch Mad Max. And even if you don’t, watch it anyway. This movie is so important. It takes a very real issue and blows it up to this giant size but in the end, its just like today and what woman are going through right now. I love Furiosa because she is fierce and strong, but she is soft. The wives are gentle, but they are not helpless. They are all feminine, but they are not weak. They refuse to be objects for Immortan Joe. I admire them so much for that.
Now, normally when there are feminist qualities in something, it falsely shows hate for men. It’s completely misunderstand that those two things go hand in hand. Mad Max doesn’t make this mistake. While the woman are on the run, Max ends up joining them. They are wary of him at first for obvious reasons, but you grow to see them accept him and learn to trust him. Towards the middle of the film, they are accompanied by another man as well. In one scene, someone asks who the men are, and Furiosa responds, “They’re reliable. They helped us get here.” That line is so beautiful to me. Could they have gotten there without the men? Yes. Did accepting their help make them weak? No. Because both the two men and the five woman had mutual respect for each other because they were all humans trying to reach the same goal. They never put each other down or thing one is more capable than the other. There’s no gender war. It’s just a rig full of people trying to make their way together. I think that’s beautiful.
Now, you’re probably wondering what I have to say about Max; the guy in the title of the movie. Well, I hope this makes sense to you. You get very little on his backstory, and even though I would have loved to know more and, you know, actually seen a movie that was about him, I can’t complain. In a weird way, I think Max would have approved of Furiosa stealing his movie. At the beginning, I think Max has a very narrow view of the world. I think he’s simply trying to take care of himself and maybe stop seeing flashbacks of dead people. But on this journey, you can start to see his eyes become more open. He starts to see that maybe the world doesn’t revolve around him, even though he thinks it does. You can see that in the way he looks at Furiosa and the women. You can see it in how he is willing to give his life for them. You can see it in how he protects them. I think he realizes that there are people worth fighting for. I love his relationship to Furiosa because it’s love, but its not romantic. He cares for her, he would die for her, but he is not in love with her. In a world full of disgusting men, Max can actually see these woman as people. I love him for that.
Besides extreme feminism, there’s one more important element to Mad Max that I wanted to talk about. And that’s the theme of redemption. *Warning: This is where minor spoilers turn into major spoilers*
Furiosa claims to be seeking redemption when they start their journey. She seeks her old home, what she calls The Green Place. However, when she gets there, she finds it has been gone for a long time. Only crows remain there. She is devastated. She tells her crew that they should ride on for as long as they can, it’s Max that chimes in with a different plan.
He proposes they go back to the Citadel. After everything they went through, he says to go back. Furiosa doesn’t take too well to this idea. But he insists it’s the only way. He tells her the only thing that’s ahead is wasteland. Going back is there only hope. “We might be able to, together.” he says, “come across some kind of redemption.”
To me, the symbolism in that is incredible. That the only way to find redemption is to go back to the very thing they had escaped. They had to stop running and face it. We do that a lot, as humans, We try to outrun our pain and then we are left with nothing in this wasteland that we thought would be a paradise. We think that forgetting our problems is the way to get better. But, as Max says, “You have to fix what’s broken, or else you’ll go insane.”
So they take the Citadel. They take back their lives. They get their redemption. They fight. They run no more and they find what they are looking for in the same place they experienced the most pain. To me, that is one profoundly powerful message.
Mad Max is a story of redemption, of hope, and of feminism. There’s action and explosions and all those things that make a movie epic, but there is meaning and depth as well. I would go so far as to say it might be one of my favorite movies now. So do yourself a favor and go see this masterpiece of a movie.