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Yay! Thank you abi!
This seems a good place to file the revelation I had last night, thinking back over the movie.
Basically, in a traditional action-packed movie with a female lead, at some point a man will yell a feminized slur at her. Usually this works to communicate that the man finds her femaleness an added insult to the injury of her opposing or defeating him. It's bad enough that he was bested, but bested by a *woman*... The script writer may not be consciously thinking that; the script writer may only be thinking, "What would a man yell at a female opponent in the heat of battle, that would also show that this man is The Bad Guy?" But I infer it.
None of that in Mad Max: Fury Road. Not a single indication that anyone from the Warlord on down the hierarchy found Furiosa's opposition doubly galling for her being a woman. Not a b-word nor a c-word left a single man's mouth that I could hear, despite there being ample opportunity that a lesser script writer would have pounced on. Not even a single use of the b-word in its cringeworthy but somehow universally acceptable prison-rape-dominance sense (I'm looking at you, Dudebros of the Galaxy).
Did I miss something, or was Fury Road actually even that awesome?
It seems of a part with the observation that "women are inferior" is nowhere in the explicit tenets of Immortan Joe Worship. Therefore, there's no male pride to be punctured by Furiosa's victory. Rather, Furiosa is violating the principal of "all people of the Citadel belong to Joe, to be used as he sees fit" so that in the heat of battle you get Joe yelling "That's my property!" at the very pregnant Wife.
On another subject, I'd like to recommend more attention on Leah Miller @ 182 in the previous thread. Her exegesis of Nux's character arc is splendid.
As I said over on Twitter, apparently my favorite thing in movies this year is serious looks at personal autonomy and consent in defiance against oppressive power structures, coupled with lots of awesome explosions. (And in another venue I'd go into a long comparison with Jupiter Ascending, but that is, as they say, another panel.) And I love how thoroughly that was worked into the movie. It wasn't "women, therefore sexual exploitation", but "breakdown of social contract, therefore treating people as things."
So Max's use as a blood donor parallels to the milk-producing women and to the escaping "breeders" who are all having their bodily control and products taken away and used for someone else's benefit. And there is this full range--Max as an outsider who's being deliberately used up to support someone else's slightly extended lifespan, all the way to the women with the clean, well-lit room with the piano and chairs and who are cherished (as objects) in their own way--and the movie goes, okay, this is all wrong. It doesn't matter how pretty you make treating people as things. It's still wrong.
I have a lot of feelings about this movie, honestly. I'm definitely going to go see it again.
In Mad Max: Fury Road everything explodes, including cinema's default narrative structures. When it comes out on video, I'm going to watch it through and count how many rules it breaks.
Max and Furiosa never have that "look, I'm a good person, you're a good person, let's stop fighting and be on the same team!" conversation. Instead, they process each other's actions and mannerisms, and you can see the mutual respect notch up incrementally. And that's all it is: respect, admiration, and friendship. While I've seen a few people say "they decide to work together for no reason but whatever," most people just processed it. The movie really respects its audience, and is willing to do things differently.
And then there's Nux. They take that stock minion character that the Mad Max series has made famous and so many other media properties have capitalized on, the screaming maniac who takes outrageous explosive risks to attack the protagonist. It takes that guy and makes us love him, shows us his soul.
I wish I could find the tumblr post that summed him up so well, but someone basically said they spent the first third of the movie thinking "Oh no. Don't get hurt. Don't die. Don't hurt Max. Don't catch the girls."
It was different from the commonly recognized "Loki Feels" genre of villain sympathy, where you see someone who has been hurt and made a conscious decision to go in a destructive direction as a result. This is someone who has been raised in a culture where these ARE the good choices, the moral choices, and they are completely and fundamentally unaware of any other way to be.
Nux's story is about breaking free of a culture of toxic masculinity.
When we meet Nux, he is 100% in favor of the systems of this world, the mayhem, the destructive adherence to patriarchal structure and goals. He's not shown as a sensitive soul who is a victim to the systems he inhabits... he glories in them even as they hasten his death. He is as personally invested in this system as any of the other screaming minions who kill and die for the antagonist, unthinkingly treating people as objects... Max is nothing but a bag of blood to fuel his historic death drive on the Fury Road.
And yet, Nicholas Holt's performance gives this character an undercurrent of sympathetic joy, like a kid trying out skateboard tricks or playing video games. In addition, the wives urge us to empathize with him even as he seeks to return them to a life of slavery, acknowledging that his ignorance and complicity are the result of the same system that costs them their own agency.
His conversion away from evil comes when a catastrophic personal failure brings home the idea that he hasn't lived up to the unachievable standards set by his society, and that he never will. Even then, he doesn't have the tools to see any other option, so he just curls up in a corner and waits to die. When Capable discovers him there, he is supremely vulnerable, entirely given over to his hurt and despair. She appropriates the themes and language of his toxic narrative to deliver a message of genuine compassion.
Almost any other action movie would have given us a gratuitous sex scene. Instead we get basic physical closeness and mutual comfort in a way that is absolutely gentle and adorable. We watch Nux gently bloom in the presence of people who actually care about him and value him for reasons beyond his utility as disposable canon fodder. His reckless enthusiasm and gleeful daring are still there, but now they're used in service of a newfound community that sees him as a person rather than a disposable commodity.
And then he sacrifices himself, not for the false gods that are killing him but for the community that actually cares about him and will mourn him.
I understand why from a narrative standpoint that kinda had to happen to complete his arc. He's already dying, and his goal for the entire first half of the movie is to go out in a blaze of glory doing something he will be remembered for always. But a big part of me wishes that we could have had an ending where he moved away from that culture of self-sacrifice, and actually got to enjoy life... in part because it makes a more powerful message about what you get when you free yourself from toxic masculinity.
But hey, fandom has already latched on to the idea that a WHOLE LOT of stuff that did not look survivable turned out to be survivable in this movie. You never know.
Rebecca Onion via wagRT
I admit I have had surreptitious thoughts about "Look, given other things people survived..." fanfic for Nux. I mean, yes, that kid is doomed. But he could be doomed later! There are a whole lot of challenges for the community yet to face, and Furiosa could use an interpreter between her and the Warboys anyway.
I loved that Nux says, "Witness me," so quietly, because this time it's important and not, "HEY WATCH THIS!" and Capable and the others make the you-are-gone-but-I-bring-you-home-in-my-heart gesture.
I still want to know when "Teardrop" shows up. People who are watching it again, could you listen out for it?
I loved the conspicuous consumption of resources because this isn't an army movie, it's a pirate movie. Your goal is to capture and loot, not to destroy. So if you can posture well enough, if you can look scary enough, you'll get a surrender (I mean, in a more functional postscarcity postapocalypse, like business as usual). That's what the guitarist is for. You see a guy who can explode his resources and also has a flamethrowing taiko-drum-backed-up furiously enthusiastic deathbard? You surrender because that's what's going to happen in the end anyway.
This movie is about when 'normal' breaks. It's the last hour and a half of a four-hour Furiosa epic, the one with the more conventional arc and explaining things and probably a really male-gazey scene involving a spongebath, there's always a spongebath. This is just the big climax of Furiosa's story.
And the Toast's interpretation is spot damn on.
Submitted for your approval: Unbreakable Imperator Furiosa.
One of my favorite parts of this movie was how completely matter of fact people were about Furiosa only having one hand. Yeah, she's got a sci-fi prosthetic that's a little too functional, but there are plenty of scenes--including a fight scene!--where she's not wearing it, and nobody even mentions it. This is a world where people get parts of themselves taken from them, sometimes literally, and it's something to be endured, but not fundamental to their identity and place in society. A more traditional movie would link some big terrible psychological trauma to her loss of her hand, put all sorts of really overwrought symbolism into her prosthetic, but no, we get none of that nonsense.
She also takes it off a few times, which is a nice little nod to a real-life problem with prosthetics which is that they are often not very comfortable to wear. When she heads out into the desert to scream and mourn her lost home, she leaves the prosthetic behind. When she's seeking comfort or feeling hurt, she doesn't want that thing on her. It's a nice little nod to her attitude towards her disability, without letting that disability become the totality of her characterization.
It's just so, so good, such a great way to handle her disability, and it's good precisely because of how understated it is.
I am absolutely certain there is a backstory to that lost arm. And I am entirely grateful that they didn't try to shove it all into this movie.
It was a very exposition-light movie. The characters all take certain things for granted, which means not much explanation for the benefit of the audience, which means the audience is just expected to keep up.
And it's awesome. I felt trusted. I felt that my competence as a "reader" was simply assumed. I loved it.
One thing I am curious about:
When Furiosa finally kills Joe, she says, "Remember me?" And my first thought was, "Yes, I'm sure he remembers the person he has been chasing for the last day and a half. He only mustered up the entire battle-ready force of the Citadel to hunt you down. I think he remembers you!"
My second thought was, "Ooh, is this a backstory thing? Is 'Imperator Furiosa' not the first identity under which she was known to him? Is this more like, 'Remember that little girl you stole from her home--that was me'?" Except his reaction when she said it didn't reveal much of anything. Just mortal terror because she was about shoot him in the face.
Anyway, I eagerly await sequels in which further clues to this enigmatic interaction will be dribbled into my eager ears.
Do we think Angharad's fall was attributable to the bullet that grazed her leg (er, that is to say, attributable to being shot by Max)? I've seen the film three times (I know) and I'm still not sure. The leg is bleeding when she goes down, which is one indicator, but it also looked to me as though the uninjured leg was the one that slipped.
I don't think we should overstate the "Everyone is a slave to Immortan Joe, the women aren't treated any differently" narrative.
Because the women ARE treated differently by Joe. They're kept in a literal vault, they're fitted with jagged metal chastity belts, they're dressed up like pretty pretty princesses.
The lookout for the Many Mothers is young and pretty and naked and bait. That's not just getting a nice tan.
I will agree that Max doesn't underestimate any of the women. But I think Max would hold a gun on a ham sandwich that he made himself.
I think that some of the greatness of this movie (haven't seen the others, save a bit of Thunderdome) is that it leaves space for our own mythologies. What we create is going to be more interesting than what Miller creates. One can approach the story, and its backstory, as a collaborative history and mythology between the characters, who make up their own things, and us, who make up our own things to explain their own things.
I'm a little disappointed that Angharad is named Angharad because now I've heard it pronounced and it's not as cool as it is in my head. But the human shield!
@3 *wild applause*
@10 I absolutely read the bloody-foot-slipping as being Max's fault. As in "Look, being a paranoid a-hole gets people killed." with a side order of "Good people die for no reason."
Even if it wasn't actually, rationally, objectively his fault, I think he thought it was, and her death got wrapped up with the flashbacks to the horrors he'd already seen and the rest of his guilt.
Which is why he kept driving. Not just "oh we have to get away," but his total unwillingness to ever, ever stop running from the things he's done & the things he's failed to do.
Which in turn makes his "let's go back to Warboy Town" even more interesting.
This movie gets better the more I think about it. That's unusual.
And on a random note, how friking awesome was the choreography? The bit I keep telling people about is the part where Max shoots a dude with the muzzle-loader that still has its ramrod in it. That gun is never fired again because the people who made the film cared about the logic of the fights.
In re: the second clause, I definitely wouldn't say the women aren't treated any differently. But I think the difference is attributable to the different uses Joe has for different categories of people. I'm not going to argue that there is no sexist effect; the differences do result in women being locked up, shackled, milked, and/or raped, while the sickly war boy clones at least get the illusion of agency and a dream of Valhalla to believe in. Yeah, there's definitely some bog-standard sexist results from this system.
But I find it striking that this treatment of women doesn't stem from such bog-standard overt statements like "women are weaker," "women are intellectually inferior," "women are evil and untrustworthy," etc. etc. etc. Instead, it's from assumptions about how men and (fertile) women are considered differently useful. It's a fine distinction between species of sexism, I'll grant that.
For what it's worth, I find it difficult to believe that Furiosa is (or has been) the only female general in Joe's army. We don't see any other generals (imperators?) at all; there may even only be one at a time, given the assumption that the Citadel is currently defenseless. I wonder if Furiosa's status as general and not coerced breeder indicates that she's not able to have children herself, and that this is the use Joe has for women who aren't "useful" in reproductive ways?
@14 Or she's not sufficiently "perfect in every way" for him.
Leah Miller @7: That video is amazing and now I need to share it with everyone I know.
Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @9: I read the "Remember me?" as being about...her whole work for Joe, really. It's clear that he's at a degree of isolation from most of even his loyal minions (see Nux's thrill at Joe looking briefly in his direction, and his lancer teasing that it wasn't even that much of a connection), but an Imperator has a title, a position of command--all those Warboys following her, and trusting her lead until it's entirely clear they've been betrayed--and thus probably some previous contact with Joe on a regular basis.
And I think that whatever she did to earn that position of power and trust is what she's talking about when she says she's looking for redemption. She's not ashamed of what happened to her, she's ashamed of what she's done. "Remember me" is echoing the "Witness me" of Nux, in the opposite direction. Not "Look at the thing I'm about to do gloriously," but "Remember the terrible things I did for you? These are the consequences."
And maybe Joe doesn't remember. Or doesn't care. He certainly knows who she is, and did before she set off on the journey--he wouldn't give those resources to lead if he didn't know that much, and she must've been trusted enough to have gotten access to very guarded 'wives'--but part of his character build-up is, in fact, his complete lack of seeing people outside his immediate family (and barely those) as human, much less equals.
The bit where he walks into the room the women have abandoned, and they've painted their messages of defiance everywhere, and he...doesn't even seem to read them. He's not paying attention to that. That they are missing is important: that they left deliberately is meaningless, that they had reasons to leave is meaningless, that they are still shouting at him in their absence is meaningless. The message he takes away is "They've been stolen," not "They've conspired to flee me," because he doesn't see them as people who want things. The voice of the oppressed is meaningless to the oppressor.
...and now I want fic about Furiosa's relationship with those women before they left. (Was she allowed in to socialize occasionally the way a eunuch might be, as a 'safe' trusted high-ranking person? Did the very old woman have more freedom of movement and pass messages? I want to know how it happened.) There's a whole implicit running theme about women conspiring while men don't even consider that they might be.
During the movie I thought Furiosa's "remember me" was an imperative and not a question: "When you enter the afterlife, remember me, your trusted general that rebelled against you for your tyranny and inhumanity, then made you pay for it with your life when you refused to let go." Sic semper tyrannis.
Must go back and pay attention this weekend.
It had me pumped, the way that Max and Furiosa attempted to bring the fight to Immortan Joe by attacking him where he was weakest, wound up attacking him where he was strongest, and nonetheless achieved victory. The change in the Wives and the Many Mothers' victory condition from flight to deposing their former oppressor was incredible. Fascinating. I can't wait to read other takes on it.
I loved the way that all the War Boys were bare-chested to show their ritual scarification and their tumors and so on, and likewise Immortan Joe's armor was clear, as if a mold, in order to mimic their mode of dress.
Copying from something I said elsewhere, regarding the refrain of "Who broke the world?" and Nux's "We didn't do it" (working from collective memory, not the exact lines), which someone had mentioned seemed like a non-sequitur to them when Nux was talking with the wives:
The way I read it is that "Who broke the world?", especially as a refrain, is putting the blame on the people whose greed, exploitation, and violence brought the world to the place where it is now. Nux's response, in turn, is the foot soldier's lament: it wasn't me! it wasn't my fault! I wasn't even there!
And he's right and he's wrong. He's right, because he's an indoctrinated child soldier/cultist who probably wasn't even born when the world was broken. It's not his fault. He wasn't there and he didn't do it. And he's wrong because he's part of the same machine that broke the world before, and that's still grinding people down to concentrate resources (wastefully, even) in the hands of the few, and he's helping the same kind of people who broke the world before. Joe probably never dropped a nuclear bomb, and he's exactly the sort of person who would, and it would be built by people like Nux. Nux is innocent and Nux is part of the problem, all at once. It's an argument where both sides are right.
And--I love that this big loud relentless low-exposition action movie is actually able to handle that complexity. You don't need to get that complexity to enjoy the movie, but it's right there, if you do go looking for it. Culpability is complicated. Survival is complicated. Redemption is complicated. We can be terribly complicit while in all innocence. We are born into systems that are already terrible, and grow up believing that's the way of the world, and it's so very, very hard to step back and try to figure out what to change. Especially when it seems like that's the only way to keep going, and that it's the only route to survival.
If Nux stops using other human beings as blood bags, he's going to die. No two ways about it. He's guilty. He was brought up in that, forced into it, came into a pre-broken world and tried to be as good as he could within it. He's innocent.
And the story still gives him a way to step outside of the system and do something that changes it for the better.
Both things at once, and still a way out. I love this movie. I need to go see it again.
Your post is such a refreshing one to read. This is such an interesting and informative article to share with others. Keep up the good work and more power. Thanks
Not even trying, @19.
At risk of belaboring the obvious, should we be noting down this movie for nomination in Best Presentation, Long Form for 2016?
One partly-formed thought which I've been bouncing around:
Everyone in a Mad Max movie is important.
One thing I noticed [having rewatched The Road Warrior just before going to Fury Road] is that people almost never "just die". The guy that got nailed to the car door? He's going to live long enough for Max to cut him loose and bring him back to camp. Someone gets lit on fire? They can put it out and go try to save their friend. Who got shot with four arrows, is hanging off the side of the trailer and still trying to get back up. You got shot, fell off a truck, you're not dead unless someone sees you go under the wheels. One-shot kills are pretty much only if it's "through the medulla."
Some of that is probably George Miller's training and experience as an ER doctor. Some of that is people in the post-apocalypse don't die easily or they'd be dead by now. Some of that is "everyone is important." (for comparison, in John Wick nobody is important and they die by the dozen.)
Hardly anyone is referred to by name in these movies, because there are hardly ever enough people around that introductions are required. Max is only ASKED his name, like, an hour in. There's more people at a networking lunch than in the chase scenes that make up 90% of the movie.
Everyone gets treated like a person- Max, Splendid, Nux, Capable, Joe's bigger son [Rictus Erectus, I think].
It's a nice change.
Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ #14, Sarah @ #15:
I haven't even seen the movie yet, but from what people have said here and elsewhere, the Warboys all have cancer and are pretty much cannon fodder by definition, while completely healthy people are too valuable as breeding stock or blood donors to risk in battle -- is it not logical then that Furiosa might have been born missing an arm, and the Citadel has an officer class made up of people with non-lethal birth defects? Since it would be immediately obvious what caste to put her in, she could have begun fight training early, and since she wasn't going to die from the condition, it would be worth the additional time investment.
Um, so does it pass the Bechdel Test?
I think it explodes the Bechdel test. With fire and metal guitars that spit flame.
I also don't think the Bechdel test is a useful metric for measuring its value as a piece of work, because damn, hardly anyone in this film says more than two words to each other at a time.
@16: The bit where he walks into the room the women have abandoned, and they've painted their messages of defiance everywhere, and he...doesn't even seem to read them.
Yes! I hadn't thought about it, but I remember having a moment of doubt about the significance of those painted messages--"Did I see what I thought I saw? Is it new to Joe or has it always been there?"--simply because the only character so far visible in the room wasn't commenting on them.
It's a powerful indictment of him, and I think you've put your finger right on it.
@21: At risk of belaboring the obvious, should we be noting down this movie for nomination in Best Presentation, Long Form for 2016?
It's definitely on my list for nomination. I'd love to see it balloted.
@23 That very well could be. And it's also possible that belief in maternal impression has persisted, so that simply being an amputee is enough, regardless of why. (I actually know at least one rational-seeming adult person IRL who still believes in that old theory).
I would guess that the Warboys are suffering from all kinds of diseases in addition to cancer. Everything from typhus to heavy metal poisoning. Probably some nutritional deficiencies, too, and of course the ritual huffing of paint isn't good for anyone's mental function.
That's an excellent observation, thank you
Liz Bourke @25
While I agree that the Bechdel test isn't useful in this case, the movie does pretty handily pass (I mean, provided we're replacing "conversation" with "laconic exchange and/or observation"). Two discussions among the escapees are triggered by Angharad's death, Furiosa with the Vuvalini, the other women with the Vuvalini, the exchange with the keeper of seeds, the stuff about satellites, the "gee I think she might be hurt" when the keeper of seeds gets hit with...powered gardening sheers, very likely other stuff I'm forgetting.
Uh. Does "One man, one bullet" count as having a discussion about men?
That's why I said it explodes the Bechdel test. So many women. Doing things. Talking to each other. Being OLD and still utterly competent. (Snap. Right in the medulla.)
And can I just say how very much I appreciate that at no point does the camera frame them as consumable objects?
Ah, of course, my mistake.
Excellent review (and very positive) in this week's issue of The New Yorker. With no hint of genre cooties.
It's certainly on my running list of things to nominate for the Hugos next year. It's also on my list of things to do next week, because I'm going back to see the movie at least once more. Maybe twice. And of course buying the DVD, because I want commentaries and to be able to watch slowly with pausing at the appropriate moments to catch background details and be sure of dialogue.
I've been struggling for some time to express why this worked so well for me as a film. As I've said in the Open Thread, I'm not a film person at all, but went to see it out of sheer curiosity and found that I enjoyed it immensely. I didn't get stressed or overloaded, although there was a lot of action going on.
It didn't take me too long to realise that the overload I usually get is caused by having too much exposition too fast, rather than too much action; in order to make a film work within the allotted time, events are heavily telescoped, so I end up scrabbling to pick up details when I haven't finished processing the last lot that were thrown at me. I may be a quick learner, but I am and always have been a slow processor. Mad Max, as several people have commented, is heavy on action but very light on exposition, and so I never felt I was being dragged along too fast.
But it took me until this morning to realise exactly how I'd experienced it. I had, effectively, read the film like a comic book. Because you can. Whether intentionally or not, the film is made like that.
Obviously, there are good and bad comic books. I thought this film was a superb comic book: strong clear storyline, wonderful characters, lots of room for thought and analysis (and, honestly, I don't think I've ever encountered a film that has generated so much analysis online). And, let's face it, the visuals wouldn't have been at all out of place in something like Judge Dredd.
I understand there is going to be a mini-series of four comics which will provide back story for the major characters in the film. That seems like such a totally natural extension that if they hadn't already existed, it was inevitable that some fan, somewhere, would have drawn them.
There's a tiny bit of male-gaziness in that initial wet-tshirt scene with the girls hosing themselves off, but otherwise very little gratuitous stuff. When discussing this, my boyfriend noted that there also didn't seem to be any female gaze stuff, but I think I could argue that Nux fits the bill. He's nice to look at, and has that dewy-eyed vulnerability that just makes me want to cuddle him. It reminds me of that comic with the girl drawing Batman in a way attractive to her that her boyfriend just didn't get. Not all ladies want gleaming muscles (though I admit I do like the occasional pandering Marvel gives us with topless superheroes)
Nux's nose, though. *shudder*
I thought the male-gaze bit in the wet t-shirt scene was there to be subverted. Max, our POV character, takes it all in... and then pulls a gun on them because he's still in paranoid a-hole mode and this is obviously a trap (then there's a callback when they find the Biker Grannies of the Apocalypse -- "that's bait.").
And then the girls do their best to help Furiosa beat him up.
Nothing in that scene goes the way it is "supposed" to.
For what it's worth, the "female gaze stuff" in the movie for a certain portion of the fanbase is the first half hour, when Max is being gagged, shaved, and tied to various things. Though Nux is a weird little cutie himself, it's true.
And I agree about the subversion of the trope in the 'filmy dresses and water' sequence. I thought that the long slow shot on the belly of the pregnant woman walking forward, with the clingy white fabric, was communicating that what Max was caught by was the water. So much water they could wash in it! Water enough to soak through fabric! He didn't even try to take one of the pretty young woman as a hostage, much less a prize, on his first attempt to run off with that truck.
Fade: Good point about the water. I was pretty boggled by that, too. I wonder if the girls weren't aware they might be wasting something precious, since they undoubtedly got all the water they needed at the Citadel.
The escapees seemed to have received an excellent education, given their circumstances, for which they credited Ms. Giddy. So I suspect they knew exactly how precious water is.
But I would note that the tanker had a clearly substantial supply of water and they were a day's drive away from a location they believed had a surfeit of water*. Wasteful, sure, but if you've got it waste, what's the problem?
*Well, I'm assuming. "The green place" sure sounds like it's got plenty of whatever you need, doesn't it?
The gauzy clothes also serve to keep the women imprisoned. You can't go into the desert like that, not if you're the blonde one.
Which reminds me that someone pointed out an obvious fact about the Warboys, which I hadn't picked up on: full-body white clay warpaint is sunscreen. I'm so used to easily available commercial sunblock that I didn't even think about it, until someone elsewhere talked about smearing themselves with clay before playing in the sun as children in Australia. If most people are huddling around the high, high cliffs that provide shade for most of the day, and still clearly weatherbeaten... Of course the fighting elite inside the cliffs will be not only paler and more in need of sunblock, but the ones who adopt that protection against yet more radiation as their uniform.
#40 That's a fascinating analysis. Very cool. I thought they were trying for a racial purity vibe.
I was kneading and grabbing at the seat cushion through most of the second half. I breathed a sigh of exhaustion and relief at the end of the movie. Audience members near me chuckled knowingly.
What Leah said about Nux. Poor giddy-adolescent sap, turned hero at the end.
I didn't catch the name of the character, but I initially thought one of the badasses, the one who led the tracked vehicle into the crow-wetlands, was Bruce Spence . . . the Gyro Captain of Road Warrior. Apparently not, though.
I guess the thing that struck me was that the net result of cutting out all the tell-not-show bits is that you're left with what's basically a silent film: it'd work perfectly well with intertitles, and not that many of them.
I got back from the film thinking how very much I'd love to see Fade cosplay Furiosa. She'd be awesome.
More seriously, I loved the bit with Nux, the chain and the door. It reminded me of the end of Mad Max (the original): what to do about being chained to a big awkward lump when a person needs to move right now? And the subsequent fight was great, as the various characters used the resultant tangle against each other and the alliances shifted and shuffled about.
But watching Nux open up was magical. He learned to value himself justly, and then honorably offer that value for what he cared about. I witness you, dude; if there's a Valhalla, you're in it.
(I kind of imprinted on the Mad Max films in high school. It's hard for me not to be all fangirlsqueeee about such a worthy member of the species.)
I think the white clay is uniform and sunscreen and racial purity symbol all at once, really; it's notable that they picked white clay, after all, and not red clay or brown. (Though I'm sure some of it is also because it pops really well on screen, which is important when your movie is about many dirty people moving rapidly on metal items against a fairly one-color landscape.)
And, heck, that reminds me of another thing I like about this movie: that all the symbolic stuff is brilliantly symbolic, and yet also practical and sensible within the logic of the story itself. Nothing shows up just to be a Symbol Of X, but the story is written with such craft that things that happen because they must--like blood transfusions, or certain characters being pregnant--end up as vivid symbols as well. And then it gets a third layer when some of those are ICly symbolic! A man does not go into war with a ginormous truck playing four timpanis and a flame-throwing guitar just for the heck of it.
Oh, and I'm trying to assemble group cosplay with abi (Valkyrie) and me (Furiosa) and Arkady Martine (Capable), if I could just find a cosplay-appropriate convention we'd all actually be at... I have to say it's awfully fun to think about cosplaying a character who already has my haircut, and whose outfit looks downright comfortable. The tricky bit would be figuring out how to represent that arm.
I find myself thinking about the truly amazing amount of time Max spends upside down in the film, for one reason or another. Is it a visual echo of the Hanged Man tarot card? Don't know.
My first thought about Immortan Joe's setup was Minecraft.
By which I meant that Minecraft online play culture tends toward a kind of monoculture manufacturing: one setup to produce grain, another to produce iron, etc. Immortan Joe did the same thing: a little factory for greenery here, one for human milk there, cannon fodder thataway, and over here, our healthy baby factory. The guys in the next settlement over did gasoline, and that other lot did bullets, so rather than do those things himself, he traded for them.
One of the bits that I loved was the usefulness of everything. The spiky bits on a car got used to shred tires. The tall poles were used to drop people onto other cars, and the shorter ones were weapons. The wedge on the War Wagon lowers to send up sand to put out fires, and the bolted-on bits of construction vehicles were used as anchors. It spoke of a careful collaboration between the various artists working on the movie, and it let me trust the movie to tell me the story in a way that I'm not always able to do.
I'm also not sure that I breathed during the last half of the movie. I know I didn't move because I was shoved up back into the chair as if bracing for impact. Excellent, excellent film that was just what I wanted.
Question for those who have seen the other Mad Max films: are they worth the watch? I missed them when I was a teen and have never caught up. Yes? No?
I did really like the movie but oh, the economics. I cannot make them work.
On the other hand, it's been a long time since I saw so many people with so much agency. Real agency, making choices that mattered to them and the people around them. Loved that piece of it.
I saw plot parallels with another movie.
There was a Soviet film called White Heat of the Desert, which was like a western in some ways.
During or just after the Russian revolution, in one of the remote Soviet republics, the lone-wolf good-guy character is tasked with the job of protecting the harem of an outlaw warlord, and bringing them to safety.
#49: I could take or leave "Mad Max," which was a cop-vs-bikers revenge drama when things were still holding together.
"The Road Warrior" is the one that really got folks' attention. Brutally violent but oddly . . . artsy? My father, an armchair movie scholar who hated genre stuff, was really impressed.
"Beyond Thunderdome" is comparatively tame and took a lot of heat for that, but it has memorable characters and scenes and I'd include it in a "watch."
@49 I wouldn't bother with Mad Max. Road Warrior is probably worth seeing, but most everything it did Fury Road did better. There's also the fairly graphic rape that Max and the gyrocopter captain observe through a telescope, which IIRC only served to say "Hey, those bad guys? Yeah, they're bad guys."
Somebody at slashfilm claimed they spoke with Miller and Miller stated he'd "demanded" that there be a black and white version included with the Blu-Ray which would also enable the view to "to hear just the isolated score as the only soundtrack" which I think means without dialogue or sound effects, but not sure. Also not clear whether Miller demanding it means it'll actually be there.
That Slashfilm link.
Also: Some of the vehicles from the film, constructed in LEGO for your delight.
I've been trying repeatedly to go back and see the movie a second time. First scheduling got in the way; then, the theater's power was out, because of heavy thunderstorms in the area; then, a heavy thunderstorm kept me at home, and then frantically pushing water out of the house.
I can't quite figure out if this is ironic or not. The apocalypse is trying to catch up with me, but apparently I get the ice instead of the fire version of the world's end.
Finally saw it yesterday. One of the (ten thousand!) things that struck me was the theme of "keep that, it might be useful". It applies at the level of the characters' attitudes towards objects, their attitudes towards each other, and the writers' attitudes towards things previously established.
For example: Max is useful as a blood donor. Max hangs onto the IV tube and needle (he's wearing it on his shoulder for most of the movie) and therefore has it when Furiosa needs blood.
#24 It also passes the Mako Mori test with flying colours.
> #24 It also passes the Mako Mori test with flying colours.
I have a problem with Mako Mori, and the problem is this: the film's story and narrative tensions would have worked a lot better if Mako Mori had been a bloke.
Fury Road doesn't have these sorts of problems, I think.
@59 Tell me more.
Yep, classic Chekov's Gun which does fire well.
Smaller bit, the counting of the bullets of the sniper rifle, leading to Max later handing it off to Furiosa for the last shot because she's the better gunner.
@61 'E's not a sniper rifle. 'E's an SKS with a wildly optimistic scope bolted to 'im. ;)
And it's Furiosa's rifle. It's been fitted to her body (she even built up the forend to fit her prosthetic). She's going to be able to get more accuracy out of it than anyone else.
But I do love that there is precious little stupid gun stuff in Fury Road. I especially appreciated the bit where Max shoots a dude with a muzzleloader that still has its ramrod in the barrel. They never fire that rifle again, because someone was paying attention!
Oh what a spray! What a lovely spray!.
> @59 Tell me more.
There's not a lot to say, I think. The basic problem with Pacific Rim is that the ambiguity and the problematic aspects [age, power, etc] of the relationship between Mako and Raleigh are supposed to be front-and-centre...
... but they don't work, because our cinematographic language -- newspeak-style -- doesn't really have ways of showing "this relationship between boy and girl has issues" without it dominating the picture, and has extreme difficulty with "this needn't be a sexual relationship". Make'em both boys, strip away the conventional "romance" plot-tramlines, and suddenly all that snaps right into focus.
Is how I see it.
I was actually a little pissed off at Max for wasting two [or three] of the last four rounds for that gun. It was a hell of a gun and she'd been making every shot all day.
On my Things To Do Next Time I See It list is to make sure that the guy who was blinded and spraying bullets everywhere was, in fact, the guy who ran the Bullet Farm. Do we know that the Bullet Farm and Gas Town are independent of Joe? I sort of had the impression it was feudal, and they are like his barons.
@53, I saw Road Warrior in the morning and Fury Road in the afternoon. I am a little out of my comfort zone playing film critic, but that rape scene, in general, seemed to be accomplishing a few things:
1) Max and the Gyro Captain reacted the same way: they are in some way bonded through that. More chance of trying to stop the horror later.
2) Those are bad guys, they are brutal, and some are specifically anti-female. (Looks to me like some dated "coding for gay" stuff in there, aside from that one actual couple, but I'm well beyond my area of expertise.)
3) The guy from the scene lived a while(though nailed to the door), Max returned him to the refinery and that got him inside.
Peripherally, the actual rape scene may be less graphic than you remember; there's a lot of watching Max and Gyro's facial expressions.
@40-44: I'd totally missed the white clay. I thought they were all that pale because they had a red blood cell shortage. Could be both, I suppose. I did wonder how the nude bait woman stayed unburnt up there, which led me to wonder how the War Boys did, and I decided to go VRROOOM DOOGA DOOGA and let it ride.
Sandy B. @65: Yes, that was the Bullet Farmer.
My take is that the three settlements form a sort of a feudal alliance: the Citadel provides food and water, the Bullet Farm provides ammo and weapons, and the Gas Town provides fuel. They trade between each other, protect their fiefdoms from outlying scavenger tribes, and occasionally raid other settlements. Immortan Joe is in charge of the whole thing, because he's the smartest and most ruthless, he has got the most population and the vital water supply, and because the Citadel is the most defensible of the three settlements.
I wish I could remember who made this observation at WisCon, but it was so good I'll pass it along anyway and cede credit to an unnamed congoer - the film does a wonderful job of reversing violation into agency. Max is made into a bloodbag at the beginning; in the end he gives Furiosa his blood. Nux goes out to die as Immortan Joe's cannon fodder but ends up sacrificing himself for the women building a better future. The wives escape the Citadel but return to take it over - even the milk mothers go from being farmed to giving water to the people. It is, beginning to end, a story about empowerment.
@64: Make'em both boys, strip away the conventional "romance" plot-tramlines, and suddenly all that snaps right into focus.
That would have been a long-term loss for the sake of a short-term gain. Not to mention making the perfect the enemy of the good.
However clumsily it did it, Pacific Rim gave us an example of a non-romantic male/female relationship in film, and I treasure it for that. We need more of those, not less, if we're ever going to solve the problem you describe here:
our cinematographic language -- newspeak-style -- doesn't really have ways of showing "this relationship between boy and girl has issues" without it dominating the picture, and has extreme difficulty with "this needn't be a sexual relationship".
The main reason, I think, that our film tradition has difficulties with "this needn't be a sexual relationship," is because years of films in which 'woman + man = romance' have trained audiences to expect romance between the leading man and the leading lady. The only way you undo that is reset expectations. You don't do that if you "make 'em both boys".
(And, arguably, "make 'em both boys" will be less effective at countering expectations for romance as same-sex romance becomes more normalized--which is happening faster than I think previous generations would have expected, and thank goodness.)
As absurdly happy as I was with Pacific Rim for daring to have a non-romantic relationship between its leads, I do see where a lot of its cinematography does signal "Annnnd kiss." I won't argue that it was a clumsy example of a non-romantic opposite-sex relationishp. But it was an example, which I value highly enough to forgive it its mistakes.
Mad Max: Fury Road, of course, gives us another, more skilled example of a leading couple who don't have to be a romantic couple.
(It occurs to me that the Max/Furiosa relationship may be an outlier species of the "unwilling beat partners" relationship from any number of police dramas.)
I thank Lee Miller @ 7 for Unbreakable Furiosa--in return I offer the Amazon page for Wilton Silver Color Mist.
Q: Will this product ensure my path to Valhalla? Do I need to be witnessed as well?
A: We cannot guarantee that this product with ensure your path to Valhalla. However, we can guarantee that it will make your desserts look really cool!
A: We cannot guarantee that this product with ensure your path to Valhalla. However, we can guarantee that it will make your desserts look really cool!
Sandy B @65
Well, I haven't exactly seen a lot of films that depict rape on screen, which was why I went with the qualifier before graphic. My thought was that given that in the scene we see the woman stripped, we see her attacker on top of her, we see just how brutal the attack was when she's unable to move after the attacker gets up, and then we see the attacker put a crossbow bolt into her, I thought it was probably something to mention to people who were pleased by the way Fury Road handled feminism and sexual assault and etc so they wouldn't be blindsided.
MaxL: Fair points all. Levels of "graphic" vary from person to person quite a lot.
Just saw it yesterday. That was the most metal thing I have ever seen in my life. Husband and I gibbered all the way home. "Did you see--" "With the flamethrower!" "And then--with the explosives---and the old ladies--" "I KNOW RIGHT?!"
Gaaaaaaah so awesome!
I thought the Warboys wore white clay partly as sunblock but also that they were anemic, hence the transfusion model. But probably mostly because it made the whole thing look even more like a Brom painting.
Oddly, I was -- and this is an awful phrase to use, but impressed they killed the pregnant woman. I twitched when they were showing the implied c-section later because oh great, now we're back to the Eighties, save the baby by all means.
And they didn't do it. And pregnant women are ALWAYS sacrosanct in movies right up until they have the baby, at which point they are expected to die immediately but hey, the baby always lives and gets to start life with a built-in Women-in-Refrigerator backstory, which is a great time savings for the young hero on the go.
When they started the C-section, I leaned over to my husband and muttered "Well, I just lost respect for this movie," because I could see the narrative coming, and was pretty much resigned to Furiosa holding an infant in the sunset in the final scene....and then oh my god, somebody actually knows that just because you're showing doesn't mean viablity, holy crap.
I have had a bad time lately in movies of seeing all the beats coming. (Watching a lot of Marvel hasn't helped.) Fury Road surprised me a couple times. (I knew Nux was a goner once they had the redemption arc going, but I did not see that arc coming in the first place, so that was awesome.)
For those of you who like longform nonfiction audio, the Overthinking It team did a great ep on Fury Road: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2015/05/18/otip359/
tl;dr: they agree with Ursula. :->
heresiarch @ #70, the best of those product reviews was the one that simply gave it three stars and the one-word comment: "Mediocre."
UrsulaV: YES. WASN'T THAT AWESOME.
I mean, it feels weird to go "And they killed the pregnant woman! And the baby!", especially because I am so over the brick fantasy/FPS thing of Man Driven To Terrible Extremes Because Of Sad Murdered Family Consisting Of One Woman And One To Two Young Children, but...yes. It felt like the grim (but not grimdark) conclusion of the first point at which I fell in love with that character: when she swung out on that door to shield Furiosa with her own body, at the risk to herself more from falling at that point than from the bullets, because she damn well knew the value of what she had in her womb.
And the 'value' was not "I intensely treasure this child" but "The man we hate, who considers us commodities, who wants us back, values this part of my body and my body itself." And damn well she would use that as shield in front of someone she valued. That was the scene, in fact, where I decided I could trust this movie to be as good about certain things as people had told me it would be.
Here's a really awesome piece written by a woman with a similar disability to Furiosa.
DUDE THE HUMAN SHIELD especially contrasted with the warboy doing the same immediately after. The look on her face, the dare-you of it, was phenomenal.
@ 76 & 78 - YES! And I have a hard time crowing about this on-line because yeah, it sounds really weird to be all "Dude! They killed the pregnant woman and not the way they usually kill pregnant women!" but--well--
It was like the first time I've seen a pregnant woman used in an action movie as a character where their entire function is NOT to be Mother Of Plot-Devices, you know? She was an actual character, not Generic Tragic Backstory Trope (Pre-Mortem.) And it was like Furiosa and the others were protecting HER, not just her uterus, and I can't think of the last time I saw that. It's always "Save the uterus! Also, there's a person around it at the moment, bring them along if it's not too much trouble."
(I wonder sometimes if that's a male-gaze trope because the (usually male) writers feel that way, or if it's like Women Laughing Alone With Salad, and they think women must feel that way, so they'll cater to it. Or both. But that's probably a more complex discussion than I am capable of nuancing at.)
I was worried when Angharad was looking briefly like she was having a contraction, because that's the standard "Let's ratchet up the tension!" move--it's not ENOUGH that there are explosions, let's put somebody in labor! The Celts are setting the village on fire, let's have the baby now! Etc!
And then they didn't and I was just so relieved they hadn't done the stupid thing again.
The human shield moment is something I was actually spoiled on before going to see the movie, and part of what convinced me I should go, and--it was still even more awesome to see than I had expected! Like, I had vaguely pictured some sort of "step dramatically in front", you know, the way women sometimes get to fling themselves in front of a beloved man in a weepy protective way before being cast aside.
Opening a car door and standing on it, out in the wind, on a fast-moving vehicle, while people are actively shooting, with the other women helping her hold in place? SO MUCH MORE AWESOME THAN EXPECTED. Seriously, the entire movie experience was "Oh, I heard a spoiler about X, that sounds pretty cool" and then X would show up and it would be more complicated, cool, or just plain METAL than I had anticipated.
Yeah, boy howdy. I went into it not knowing a thing other than "it has kickass women." Goodness, yes.
The forced milking made me vaguely ill, and it never really went away, but Angharad saying "Fuck you" to all convention that would put the baby over her own life made me SO HAPPY, I cannot even tell you.
The tradition is /so strong/, and so very damn pervasive, and I was shocked (in a good way) at both the human shield thing, /and/ the c-section failing part.
Also, in unrelated news, I need that soundtrack yesterday.
I am this close to writing a Fury Road thinkpiece.
What's rolling around my head right now is based on an observation of two camps. Some percentage of people who see Fury Road are like "that didn't have much of a plot or much character development" while another percentage is like "THE BEST PLOT AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!"
I think you're more likely to find the story in Fury Road if you're a Story Hunter, and I think marginalized people are more likely to have that skill. We've spent our whole life looking for stories in the background characters, digging into the subtext of a glance or inferring a personality from one character's handful of lines. Every single character in Mad Max is written in glance and gesture, even Max... especially Max.
The "sheepish dad thumbs up" Max gives the Splendid Angharad is absolutely core to his character. I've only got a small sample size so far, but everyone who thinks Fury Road didn't have much plot or character development doesn't even remember that thumbs up. A certain demographic curated those moments, didn't let them slip from memory.
Now I've just got to figure out if there's a way to write about that longform without becoming insufferable.
Leah, I'm another data point in your "noticed the thumbs-up" / "thinks movie had awesome plot and character development" camp.
Something I've seen mentioned multiple places is that this movie was written in storyboards. Entirely in storyboards. Ten years of storyboard tweaking and editing.
The studio insisted on a script, so eventually one was written, but it didn't make much sense or look like anything.
This is not a movie written to be a screenplay, it's far more intensely visual than that, and all its communication is designed to come at you FIRST through your eyes (and your kinesthetic empathy), and only third or fourth involving your language centers.
Expanding what I said earlier about collaborative folklore:
So you have the post-postapocalypse. You have all these different groups with their stories. You have folk heroes and oral histories. You have Mad Max, who is like Robin Hood or King Arthur or any of the trickster gods.
So of course those stories get embellished and whittled down to basics, then embellished again because you have to keep the kids entertained while you teach them, don't you. Some of them are true in the sense that the events actually happened, like Arthur defending Britain against the Saxons, Normans, or whoever, who did invade but honestly he wasn't there. Some of them are true in the sense that someone did that. Some of them are true in the sense that we need that allegory, that history, that hero.
What we, the people we are, watch, are the movies of those stories.
And so we find the stories in them. We analyze and dissect and theorize, we collaborate on the stories under the stories, we create the folklore that the post-postapocalypse built over generations. It's collaborative folklore on both sides. And yes, the people who are best at figuring it out are the ones who have the training from being marginal characters in most of *our* folklore/movies.
Before seeing this movie again, I'd like a character cheat-sheet. A shiny laminated card of color character photos with names underneath.
While listening to some old songs, I had the sudden thought that "Bargain" might be a good background for a fanvid focusing on Nux's story arc. If anyone who actually makes fanvids agrees, feel free to use the idea.
The score: full and boistrous and nuanced and evocative. I was impressed with how it could go from loud boomy machines exploding with explodey exposions to heartwrenching to hopeful and lyrical. I may have to buy the soundtrack.
Diatryma @6: "Witness me"
I fantasize that George Miller has lurked over here. :-)
MaxL @10: it also looked to me as though the uninjured leg was the one that slipped.
My read was that she slipped in the blood, rather than the injury making her slip.
I think Max would hold a gun on a ham sandwich that he made himself.
Weird little worldbuilding/character detail: In the opening scene, when the two-headed lizard sneaks up on Max, and he stomps on it. Knee-jerk reaction: "Oh damn. He's gratuitously cruel." Then he eats it (its little legs wiggling as it goes into his mouth—ew)—Oh, okay then. First: you eat what you kill. Second: you eat whatever's even remotely edible that happens by.
Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @14: I find it striking that this treatment of women doesn't stem from such bog-standard overt statements like "women are weaker,"
Which they lampshade with the wives' gauzy dresses and supermodel physiques. They spend the first fifteen minutes of their screen-time being passive cargo, but then they start materially contributing to their own rescue.
Fade Manley @16: ...and now I want fic about Furiosa's relationship with those women before they left.
And how long it took (and what it took) for her to convince them that she could and would help them escape.
she's ashamed of what she's done.
She probably had to play a species of "the man's game" to achieve the rank of imperator, I could see her being right there with Nux in thinking that culture was "just the way it is," and only after time (and what life experiences) coming around to "it doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be that way" though one has to bet one's life to change it.
Sarah @15: Or she's not sufficiently "perfect in every way" for him.
picklefactory @17: Furiosa's "remember me"
My headcannon is that she was once a wife, but lost that position when she lost her arm. Joe would have just discarded her, but she somehow demonstrated (demanded?) that he see her as more, and thus worked her way up to imperator.
I could see the old lady in Joe's harem slowly, slowly working on her, schooling her, to get her to rethink the world her place in her in it.
Fade Manley @18: step outside of the system and do something that changes it for the better. Both things at once, and still a way out.
In a way, it's an answer to Madeline Ashby's comment:
They don’t want the depiction of an “optimistic” future. They want a future where their concerns are taken seriously and humanely, with compassion and intelligence and validation. And that’s way harder than optimism.
Mongoose @33: I enjoyed it immensely. I didn't get stressed or overloaded
Yeah, what's up with that? I didn't need my earplugs, despite the nearly wall-to-wall explosions.
the overload I usually get is caused by having too much exposition too fast
The stress I feel in most action movies (well, most movies) comes (now that I think about it) from being pushed to feel something in particular. And it's generally, "Here! Suspense! Anger! Anxiety!" &c.
When they went into the sand storm, I caught myself actually relaxing and enjoying. Just sitting back and going along for the ride. It's like, at that point, I decided I trusted them not to hurt me or overwhelm me. And they trusted me to feel whatever I was feeling.
I had, effectively, read the film like a comic book. Because you can. Whether intentionally or not
Oh, yes. The comic aesthetic was very much in play, here. It was particularly conspicuous to me in the night-time scenes.
Liz Coleman @34: There's a tiny bit of male-gaziness in that initial wet-tshirt scene with the girls hosing themselves off
Which could be seen as a lampshade: "Here, see this? We're not doing that."
Stefan Jones @42: I was kneading and grabbing at the seat cushion through most of the second half.
I was squirming and twisting in my seat—a remarkably athletic experience.
Fade Manley @45: a fairly one-color landscape.
That scene where Max wakes up after the sand-storm, and it takes you, like a full minute, to figure out what you're looking at? And then you realize you're looking at something else? Awsome, the way they played with light and shape and scale.
ginormous truck playing four timpanis
O daiko war drums, FTW.
46: The tricky bit would be figuring out how to represent that arm.
Black-painted balsa rods interspersed with flat mirrors to confuse the eye. Or, if you wanted to get really ridiculous, hack some second-hand smart phones; pull their cameras and wire them to display the view from the other side of the arm. Or maybe a combination.
Lila @57: "keep that, it might be useful"
Which you also see in scarcity-centered societies. In certain slums in India, there is no trash. Because everything is kept, recycled, reused...down to broken Barbie dolls which are collected so the plastic can be recycled.
and therefore has it when Furiosa needs blood
...although I don't want to think about what's been growing in there since Max pulled it out. :-)
UrsulaV @73: When they started the C-section, I leaned over to my husband and muttered "Well, I just lost respect for this movie," because I could see the narrative coming
That was where I was at when Splendid goes into labor. Woman birthing baby during $catastrophe has got to be in the top five of tired, overused, cliches. ...and then I completely forgot about it. Another lampshade?
Or, what UrsulaV said @79.
Now you watch; this is gonna be the next Overused Exploded Trope, only the copycats are gonna get it wrong, because they don't understand what's really going on here. Like the guys who think that the original Star Trek was about the whooshing doors.
Leah Miller @82: Now I've just got to figure out if there's a way to write about that longform without becoming insufferable.
My I specifically request that you cast sufferability to the winds...? I wanna read that.
Lila @83: I'm another data point in your "noticed the thumbs-up" / "thinks movie had awesome plot and character development" camp.
Me, too. May I suggest that them as don't, tend to conflate character development with "dialog"?
Jacque @88: Which they lampshade with the wives' gauzy dresses and supermodel physiques. They spend the first fifteen minutes of their screen-time being passive cargo, but then they start materially contributing to their own rescue.
Even less than the first fifteen minutes, I think, unless you're counting the one line shouted from inside the rig early on. Because when Max shows up, they're clipping off chastity belts, and when he tries to hold them hostage, they do a fine job of "Oh gosh, look at my inability to free you with my puny woman arms" and "Oh gosh, was I standing in your line of sight while Furiosa ran up to attack?" even before they start playing the chain game to help in the fight.
Honestly, on reflection, that fight is one of my favorite action sequences of the movie. It doesn't have the splash and awe factor of a lot of later ones, but it's creative, fast, complicated, and involves several women who clearly have no combat experience or training in the slightest still contributing to what's going on by working together to support their friend who does. And I think I like that even better than just adding more women-who-fight into the mix.
Fade: You know, you're absolutely right. My brain just hadn't really caught up by that point.
It's a movie that rewards multiple viewings! My second time through I spent a lot of it trying to catch cool things other people had pointed out, and I still ended up missing a lot of them because the action has such a clean, engaging throughline it caught me up while I was fully intending to pay attention to background details.
I should go a third time, while it's still in theater.
Fade Manley #89:
"...they do a fine job of "Oh gosh, look at my inability to free you with my puny woman arms" and "Oh gosh, was I standing in your line of sight while Furiosa ran up to attack?"
It worked really well with the center-framed approach used which also had other benefits. Despite a huge amount of action, I never felt lost & confused the way I did with the Michael Bay Transformers movies.
Forgot to revert my name field for this post.
The call to TNH & PNH is for the E Pluribus Hugo: Out of Many, A Hugo thread.
Jacque @ #88: Which you also see in scarcity-centered societies. In certain slums in India, there is no trash. Because everything is kept, recycled, reused...down to broken Barbie dolls which are collected so the plastic can be recycled.
Indeed. Here's a video I found just today about how 100,000 tons of discarded clothing per year from Western countries is shipped to India, shredded, recycled into yarn, and made into blankets for export.
I've finally seen the film, with Karen Anderson (my partner). She pointed out something I haven't seen mentioned anywhere, which gets more interesting the more one looks at it.
This has most of the basic tropes of a private-eye film (rather than a straight thriller or SF). Max is an ex-cop, hated by both the authorities and the rebels. He's brought into the conflict because of his particular abilities, which allow him to have many of the aspects of both the authorities and the rebels. He is essentially unchanged by the action, even though he is the cause (and witness) of extreme change in others. One can even make the case for Nux being the sidekick to the PI, here. Furiosa is the criminal (yes, it's okay to have the criminal be the hero); Immortan Joe and the other warlords represent Authority.
Karen comes out of mystery reviewing, and can expound at length on the differences between PI, police procedural, cozy, amateur detective, and several other kinds of mystery story. This falls firmly in the PI camp.
Huuuuh. I mean, I like the conceit, but a lot of those parallels seem either really vague or inaccurate to me. I would say that Max experiences significant personal growth between the beginning and end of the movie, and he's clearly changed by the action. And being brought in for his "particular abilities" is something of a stretch for him being brought in as generic meat, attached for his blood donor capability, and then engaging with most of the action on grounds other than his blood donor abilities for the vast majority of the movie. And I'm not sure what traits he has of both the authority and the rebels; I guess he shares being male with the authority figures, but Furiosa has a lot more in common with both worlds than he does.
That was a very short exegesis. I think it works well with some expansion, and it really does want a good grounding in classic PI fiction. If I get the time, I'll talk with Karen and work on expanding it -- or we could talk about it at 4th Street.
At Fourth Street sounds like a great place to talk about it in more detail! I'm especially interested in the point about personal growth, since that's the only one where I went "No, wait, that's completely the opposite" rather than "I'm not sure, but I guess I could see it?" or "Yup, that totally makes sense."
I like Nicole @69's "unwilling beat partners" assessment... if not of the film's overall genre, of the relationship between the two characters. In that categorization, Nux is the wacky criminal-turned-witness type, which I think fits.
Overall, though, I think the film defies categorization. That's one of the reasons I like it so much: I've realized recently that all my favorite films have relatively gender-balanced casts and defy (or at least heavily subvert) structural conventions.
Max's arc is odd. Someone somewhere else pointed out that you can tell early on that he's re-learning how to talk: he hasn't said things out loud to other people for so long, so he mumbles and growls and gestures. That clearly parallels the rest of his journey, where he remembers how to be part of a group, part of humanity.
The ending plays on this in an interesting way. We're left uncertain about whether or not Max is going to accept this change, or revert it as soon as it is no longer useful. Is Max's humanity something that is always a part of him, that he only lets out situationally? When he was with Furiosa and the crew, it was a survival asset, but he's removing himself from that situation now. Doing so is necessary for the narrative (it reinforces that Furiosa and the wives represent the new direction, not Max), and to preserve Mad Max's character for future films (if he's got a home base and security, it doesn't leave much room for loner driving adventures), but leaving actually seems to run somewhat counter to Max's central goal of 'do whatever is most conducive to survival'. So outside the confines of narrative causality, what is up with Max now? Why did he make the choice he made to leave?
It's mysterious, and we can't know until the next movie he's in (which may be part of the game... George may not know what story he's going to do next). It's possible that he's still living his mantra of "hope is a mistake," that believing in something other than his basic mode of independent survival would utterly destroy him. This also has to do with his skillset... it's not particularly suited to fixing the kinds of things that are broken at the Citadel. Maybe he's rediscovered his identity as a wanderer/protector; while his skills aren't suited to what they're trying to accomplish at the Citadel, he just succeeded in using them for their original purpose. The last few times he tried to protect someone and be a part of a group, he failed, so he convinced himself it was a mistake. Now that he's actually succeeded, what will he do next?
Max changed or unlocked a part of himself during the movie, but he could very easily revert that change and lock up again. The question is, will he?
These implications have the potential to change based on the relationship of this film to others in the canon, which is... uncertain, to say the least. This doesn't feel like only a few decades after the apocalypse, if even old women speak of these things using terms like "the green place."
There are a bunch of conflicting timelines and theories that deal with this, but instead of thinking too hard about it I just remember what Cameron Lauder wrote on twitter:
"Mad Max is the in-universe Arthur of the distant future. Every story those people tell about the wastes eventually turns into his story. Scholars of the far future despair of trying to disentangle the story of Furiosa and the Citadel from Max, characters centuries apart."
#101: It has been a very long time, but there's a bit at the end of "Beyond Thunderdome" where a narrator -- I forget if it is one of the kids he led to Sydney or one of their descendants -- describes Max as a hero who would return one day. They keep fires going in the ruined towers, to guide him back.
There's an resonance of that in the text passage shown at the end of the movie. I was too wound up after all that action to take it in fully, but it seemed to cast Max as a legendary figure of some sort.
Max can be both a real, damaged guy who has to keep moving to stay ahead of his demons and a legend. The former could fuel the latter.
I am glad I am not the only person interpreting Max as another world's folklore.
Just saw it last night, so have been avoiding this thread. So much good comment here, it's almost as much to take in as the film itself.
I'm glad that Stefan @102 mentions the memorable voiceover at the end of Thunderdome. The Road Warrior also had such an excellent coda, and I miss it here. But I suspect that, if Miller gets to make another, we haven't seen the end of Furiosa, so it may be that this film is not intended to stand alone like the others in the series do.
I haven't processed the film enough to make comments as good as many of those above. I'm just still so pleased that, after a gap of 30 odd years, Hollywood was persuaded to give complete creative control over $150 MILLION DOLLARS to the director of Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City to make a post-apocalyptic feminist road movie in the Namib desert that broke all of their rules on plot, character, action etc. How? How in a world of Return on Equity and superhero safe playing did this ever occur?
I love this comment from Time Out:
a movie that feels like it was made by kidnapping $150 million of studio money, fleeing with it to the Namibian desert, and sending footage back to Hollywood like the amputated body parts of a ransomed hostage.
Arthur Chu has a take on why Max couldn't stay at the end.
Mad Max: how MRAs killed the world.
And it makes sense to me. And is so powerfully put that I cried after I read it.
I cannot find references immediately, but I gather from people elsewhere that there was an issue with the studio regarding another movie Miller was supposed to direct--and which got yanked--that was resolved by giving him full control over this one. I'm not sure how much that translated to finance, but in terms of creative control, he was legally allowed to do whatever his heart led him to.
I am pretty happy with where it led him.
The movie in question was Justice League. Which leaves me rather torn. That version of JL's noble death gave us Fury Road, but also robbed us of a George Miller take on Wonder Woman. Someone needs to do a Imperator Furiosa Wonder Woman cosplay.
Dunno if you know this, but the George Miller Wonder Woman was there - it was Megan Gale, the actress who played Valkyrie (the Vuvalini acting as bait).
I just saw the movie and liked it rather than loved it-- but I had no idea I had so much desired to see the weather beaten old women from the women's utopia. And I still want to see it when it was the green place.
The color palette from the movie shifts from very teal and orange (with a little red) to light blue sky and sandy brown. It was a considerable relief.
It was interesting that we never get a big wash of green.
For whatever reason, I didn't think guitar guy was the coolest thing ever, but I did think using his little platform for a fight scene was very satisfying. Is that a cliche or an example of nothing is wasted?
I kind of instinctively loved it as a crazy amusement park ride. But what has been gratifying for such a big normally-brainless actioner, is the amount of intellectual satisfaction I've gained from thinking about it, reading reviews and reading the analysis of it here afterwards. It moves the action genre on with regard to women. Where I differ from some people, and in particular my favourite critic Mark Kermode, is in the portrayal of the wives, which he found jarring.
I think my view is that I have seen strong female SF action heroes like Furiosa before - notably Ripley and Sarah Connor. But I found the subversion of the hackneyed female tropes of the wives the most powerful transition. Yes: they are presented at first as a hackneyed Vogue cover. And immediately they start ripping that up, asserting themselves, their individuality from one another, their agency in the most unexpected, human ways.
The article Howard links at #106 is spot on.
I also agree with James Harvey #111, about the wives, and they really do distinguish themselves early on. Capable shows her colors in that first scene, where she starts to move forward only to have Furiosa hold her back. The Dag plays up her weakness and "dimness," and you get the idea that she's been doing that forever, using that sort of fake foolishness as a coping mechanism. Cheedo has her doubts, but uses them as a weapon later on, and Toast is just so smart and cynical and practical.
Of course, I could go on all night about Nux and Capable. One interesting note: I've seen a lot of asexual people say this was one of the first on-screen relationships they ever felt comfortable with.
That's another place the movie made unconventional choices. Any other film would have had a sex scene to cement Nux's "investment" in the party, but Fury Road doesn't feel the need to go there. In modern movies, it seems like the pattern in relationships is to establish sexual chemistry first and then have comfortable closeness and trust be the thing you struggle to achieve, something that you only even seek once you're "invested" based on the sex.
Nux and Capable are about respect and being comfortable right from the start. I can't remember seeing a boy/girl relationship in a movie that felt so instantly "good" to me for a long, long time.
Apparently Cheedo and Dag kiss at one point, and given how often they hold each other throughout the movie, that's clearly an intimate relationship.
ROAD WARS - The Imperator Strikes Back.
Mad Max/Star Wars Mashup is more fun than it has any right to be.
Oh wow, just saw Fury Road with my wife last night.
Excellent addition to the franchise, and superior for all the reasons detailed in earlier comments.
As I am a confirmed car nut/gear head, I'm going to look at the tech.
The vehicular creativity on display was simply astounding! Been looking up articles about the filming, the builds, etc. All vehicles were fully functional, driveable, monsters, built from scavenged carcasses dug out of junkyards all over Australia. 150 or so built, of 88 distinct styles - they needed hot spares for re-filming crashes gone wrong or just plain mechanical breakdown in the desert in Namibia. (Gotta see if I can dig up a sometime email contact there who used to run a 2wd Namibian built Uri, which he named "Toecutter" after the character in the earlier Road Warrior)
I bet the folks building those rigs had MONDO FUN. I mean, I would absolutely LOVE to work on/build something like those rigs. So much lo-tech pure grunt, plus so much over-the top GONZO STYLE! I also can tell you from personal experience working on old, rusty rigs that it was likely not at all easy. The really, really cool thing, though, is that they were all functional. It all works. The Doof Warrior band wagon ACTUALLY BLASTED TUNES. These folks LOVED what they were doing, and the filming delays caused by weather changes gave them the time to keep tinkering and get it to work the way it looks like it should. Those pole-cats were real people on real moving rigs for the distance shots.
Building a DOOM BUGGY has been one of the many "wannabuildits" in my life, especially after watching the early Mad Max films. I grew up with muscle car mags, moved to Minnesota, and switched to classic 4wd trucks as the object of my teenaged gear head obsession. Per my 'nick, the early Toyota Land Cruiser FJ-40 was my first truck. Chevy V-8 swapped, dual side-pipe exhaust, loud cranky beast. Not the best first rig for a teenager new to snow driving - rolled it my first winter due to short wheelbase plus glare ice. (No injuries.) Replaced with a more sedate stock-engine'd rig, and put 100k miles on it on and off road. The Beater Boys 4wd club here in MN drive less spiky and non-weaponized rigs that would not be too out of place, at least in the earlier Road Warrior.
I've always wanted to build a go-anywhere, anytime, "getaway vehicle". Mad Max being quite the icon for that. Various "Preppers" have been building "Bug-out trucks" along similar design plans: rugged individual survivalist, macho weaponry, etc. The jacked-up pickup trucks around here, the "coal-rollers" I commute around, all feed off the same vibe. I've had the means to realize some versions of these visions in the past, but never quite got going on them. Other priorities, like family, etc. caused me to take a cautious (probably over-cautious) stance to the expenditure needed for such things.
Over time, my views have changed.
That "Rugged Individualist" meme has shown itself to be so toxic. While I am an introvert and crave my alone-time, I do not do well without the regular connection with other people that Society provides. Plus, I know way too much about supply chains. My best survival strategy is to be useful to a community, as I have no illusions anymore about my ability in a macho fight. The later Mad Max movies show that the better-surviving people had some sort of society around them - broken and flawed, but organized in some fashion.
This movie has that, too. Sure, dictatorial dystopia with warlords at the top, but no real loners other than Max. And he is a supremely broken man. For all their messed-up-ed-ness, the folks in the Citadel are far less broken - they still live as people with people.
A big thing I haven't seen much about: everything runs on gasoline, instead of the far more economical, robust, easier to make from crude oil diesel. Even the big rigs appear to be gasoline-fueled, but I have not found detailed build notes or backstory detail. What does this tell me, the gearhead? The macho types won. Horsepower über alles. This ties into that Wes Chu article linked above. This is what broke the world. The Earth First eco-types who's diesel rig we see abandoned in Road Warrior lost.
Of course, I could also easily make the argument that spark-ignition carbureted vehicles are way simpler and likely to survive with less maintenance and parts, plus there are a heck of a lot more of them around as raw material - but the apparent loss of the technical ability to keep diesel injectors and injector pumps viable also speaks to the triumph of macho over smarts.
I don't want to build a getaway vehicle anymore. As this movie shows, you need at least a group to get by (Vuvulani) going the lightweight route, or a War Party to go big. (War Rig = RV, another sign that the boys with the toys won...)
I'd love to natter on more, and type about the greenhouse tech, the water pumping and cistern tech, etc. but getting hungry and want to eat and interact with the rest of the family that are now awake.
Just glanced at a list of Oscar winners-- looks like this film took home about six statues.
All technical side.
Because Not A Serious Film.
Suggestion: if you add comments over here, maybe add "re: Arrival" to your nym; that might make the discussion more conspicuous in the recent comments list?
From the trailers, I was affraid the aliens were just going to just be cephalopods with the serial numbers filed off. I was pleased that this turned out not to be the case.
Generally, I was amazed at how low-tech the whole production was, and still resulted in a nice slick glossy skiffy romp.
I'm still sorting out my thoughts, but one of the most immediately satisfying things was to see the story through the scientists' eyes. The camera and sound was often following Louise so closely, you could imagine being in her shoes.
You can always email me (abi at this domain) to ask for a spoiler thread. Gimme a minute and I'll make one.
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