Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road
By Abbie Doyle, Editorial Director
Hello, George Miller, one easy question for you: Where are the persons of color in Mad Max: Fury Road? Did they go missing along with the plot of your story? Did something catastrophic happen to the two during your 45-minute desert chase scene?
Alright, so there’s more than one question for the director of Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy. The stylization of this movie is magnificent, rivaling the aesthetic of movies like 300, Sin City or Bronson (also starring Hardy). The post-production is, dare I say it, nearly flawless. And yes, it is incredibly impressive that a huge portion--a whopping 80%--of the stunts/explosions/cardiac arrest-inducing action sequences in this movie were not simulated but very, very real.
This is an entertaining movie. It is thrilling, exciting and has kept more than a few million viewers on the edges of their seats. But seriously, where was the story?
George Miller has addressed this topic; he wanted as little dialogue as possible and did not want to rehash Max’s story, explaining his background or where he came from. However, considering the original Mad Max franchise began in 1979 and Mad Max: Fury Road’s target audience is individuals aging between 18 and 30, a little backstory would have been helpful! A huge percentage of those who have seen Mad Max: Fury Road in theaters weren’t even born when the original films were released. The everyday viewer shouldn’t have to be a practiced movie-buff to understand the plotline of a film.
Violence clearly spoke louder than words in the latest Mad Max installation. Theron’s character Furiosa is obviously up to something she shouldn’t be, and this is clear even before Immortan Joe realizes his wives have gone missing. Theron’s acting is superb, that is indisputable. And hot damn, it is pretty spectacular when she and the wives gang up on Max and his parasite Nux (played by Nicholas Hoult).
The performances of Theron, Hardy and Hoult are top-notch. Accustomed to seeing Hoult as Tony Stonem from Skins, it was almost shocking to see him play an animalistic warmonger so well. And to be entirely truthful, Hoult’s performance as Nux moved me. I cared far more about what happened to Nux than Max, because I knew almost nothing about Max. I knew Max had his demons, I knew he was strong and I knew he was not a bad guy. But that’s not an exciting storyline! There was no character development in Hardy’s role, which cannot be said for Hoult.
Furiosa is almost as well constructed as Nux. She is just as interesting, but we’re given hardly any information about her until over an hour into the movie. Even then, we get the scraps of a story--she was taken as a child, her people were far more preferable than Immortan Joe’s, and she has spent her life trying to get back home. And...?
And that’s all we get. It would have been spectacular to hear more about the Vuvalini of Many Mothers. How have they managed to survive all the calamities? Where do they get their fuel and ammunition? How does their existence in the middle of nowhere make sense?
Instead of any answers to these questions, we receive another terrifyingly tense fight scene in which almost all of those women are killed. It's awesome to see some badass women bravely fighting the evil forces that be, and the feminist streak in Mad Max is glaringly obvious. Just a tad smudged and misguided.
Eve Ensler, of The Vagina Monologues, was brought in for consultation during production. Miller wanted a feminist perspective to hash out his on-screen feminists. Ensler, in case you don’t know, is the real deal. Ensler is part of many campaigns that demand various forms of liberation for women of color, and there’s no doubt in my mind that she spoke of the importance of racial intersectionality when visually representing feminists.
So why are a majority of Immortan Joe’s wives gorgeous white supermodels? Zoe Kravitz is cast as Toast the Knowing, and she’s pretty tough. She has a fair amount of lines, but Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has quite a few more.
Justification for whiteness abounds; we can assume that Immortan Joe is a racist dirtbag who wants to create a “perfect race” to inhabit the Citadel. Hitler had the same idea. We can somewhat ignore the deficit of women of color. Even Furiosa could only excel in Immortan Joe’s ranks if he found her nice to look at. After all, we almost have to assume she was abducted in the interest of sex trafficking.
But what about Max? He’s an outlaw, a prisoner of the absolute lowest social standard. If Immortan Joe is racist enough to want (mostly) white, conventionally attractive sons, we can assume he is not a fan of men of color. There is no reason George Miller could not have given the lead male role to a man of color, instead of just another A-list Caucasian male.
For a mildly progressive plot revolving around men and oil corrupting the earth, then leaving it in ruins for women to inherit, Mad Max: Fury Road leaves quite a bit of substance to be desired. Let’s just cross our fingers that Mad Max: The Wasteland can satisfy.