I went into Mad Max: Fury Road with no particular expectations, just some curiosity over all the attention it got for being feminist, including a reporter asking Tom Hardy (Max) if he wondered why there were so many women in the film (he didn’t). I’ve never seen any of the original Mad Max movies, so that may have informed my opinion, though I couldn’t say.
As the film started, I just thought it was a bit strange and I wasn’t really sure what I was watching. The titular character (Tom Hardy) is kidnapped by some really weird people and has his blood taken. He tries to escape, but is unsuccessful. He then ends up tied to the front of a vehicle as it’s driving through the desert in a relatively intense car chase scene, the entirety of which he spends in that same position. Other than a voice over, I don’t think he had even spoken to that point. Throughout the rest of the film, he isn’t a big talker, either.
At the same time, a woman called Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), the first part of which I think is a title, who seems to have a high position within these people who paint their faces like skulls and steal blood from random passerby that they have kidnapped, is going out on a mission. During the mission, she goes a different way than planned, and it turns out that the emperor has a group of very young wives that Furiosa is freeing by taking them to the “green place”.
From the moment Furiosa drives out of the compound, the entire film takes place in what is basically one long car chase. However, even though that doesn’t necessarily sound good, it actually really is.
To go back to that description of the film as being feminist, it is. Feminism, the belief in the equal rights and treatment of men and women, is very present in this film, in a fantastic way. The film kind of flips the action movie tropes around, with Furiosa in the role that would normally be played by a man. Initially, I thought the wives were going to be the action movie trope of the damsel in distress, but it turns out they can take care of themselves, too. They aren’t soldiers, but they hold their own.
After a sandstorm, Max and one of the men who paint their faces like skulls, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) end up helping Furiosa and the wives escape. The majority of the film consists of them driving across a barren planet as they run from the emperor and his vehicles and men with guns. The action never lets up, but it still leaves room for a surprising amount of character development, particularly for a film with relatively little dialogue.
Furiosa and Max trade off on driving the vehicle and shooting at the bad guys, which is symbolic of the way the film treats the characters, as if they are all capable, full people. It is highly refreshing to watch a film, particularly an action film, that doesn’t treat the women like fragile, second class characters that are just there to look pretty. Furiosa kicks ass. So does Max. And that’s the point.
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