Recommended Viewing Situation:
Immediately after harvesting the tears of Men’s Rights Activists, blasting death metal at full volume.
Running Time: 120 minutes
Director: George Miller
Writers: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Cinematographer: John Seale
Awards: 6 Oscars including Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Costume Design, and Best Achievement in Production Design. See more awards.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is a rip-roaring, fuel-injected, eco-feminist frenzy of action and emancipation. In this reboot of the George Miller trilogy, follow former cop, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) into deeper, darker depths of the post-apocalyptic Australian Wasteland, ruled over by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keayes-Byrne).
Although billed first, Hardy is not the focal point of Fury Road. That responsibility lies with Charlize Theron, cast as Imperator Furiosa, one armed war leader in Joe’s army. The decision to give Theron more lines and screen time than Hardy has been a topic of some amusing controversy amongst Men’s Rights Activists, some claiming that Fury Road is nothing more than feminist propaganda disguised as a good old-fashioned action movie. This is an odd criticism to make when you consider the commonplace notion that the only acceptable instance for a man to cry is at the end of Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), which is easily one of the best action movies ever made, arguably precisely because it has many feminist issues at its core. I’m thinking alternative female role models and challenging toxic masculinities in particular. Similarly, Fury Road is such a spectacular piece of cinema because it is able to simultaneously explore important concerns about environmental preservation, gender equality, and social class, whilst also thrilling viewers with full-throttle, explosive action sequences. If the prospect of a guy playing a flamethrower guitar while strapped to the front of a truck doesn’t make you want to watch it, I don’t know what will. Perhaps the fact that the stunts were mostly executed with real vehicles and minimal CGI. Or the incredible soundtrack, provided by Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL, which during a fight scene between Max and Rictus, one of Immortan Joe’s sons, co-ordinates bass drum beats to every smash of Rictus’ head.
30 years after Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), the Australian Wasteland has been conquered by Immortan Joe, who rules the Citadel, the two factions in Gas Town and the bullet farm, which provide resources for Joe’s army. His War Boys and the Wretched worship him as a god, and as their route to Valhalla, shiny and chrome. Joe himself is a nightmare vision of a man kept alive long after he should have been buried. His skeletal mask and formidable body armour present an image of an immortal man to be feared, but their appearance hides their function. The mask enables Joe to breathe, and the armour covers his blistered, decaying skin. The most terrifying aspect of the society Joe has created is its attitude to women. Joe has selected the healthiest and most attractive to become his ‘wives’, breeders to further his dynasty. He also possesses Milk Mothers, who provide nutrition for his sons. Furiosa stands alone as the only woman to drive a war-rig. She has spent 20 years of her life getting herself into that position, in order to be the vehicle of the Citadel’s emancipation by aiding the escape of the Wives.
Fury Road excels in its representation of women. In Furiosa, Theron gives us a capable, driven, bad-ass woman with real emotional and personal depth. The Wives, despite having the ideals of feminine beauty thrust upon them, can be real dirty fighters when they need to be, and they protect and care for each other even when every one of them is terrified. The Vuvalini, or the Many Mothers, are what is left of a matriarchal tribe, and it is such a thrill to see these magnificent older women creating hell on motorcycles through the desert. Additionally, the name Furiosa, and the title Fury Road may likely be in reference to the Furies, goddesses of vengeance from Greco-Roman myth. Despite the awesomeness of the Vuvalini however, the film is not pro-matriarchy. The Many Mothers are a dying tribe, in stark contrast to the apparent omnipotence of Immortan Joe’s patriarchy. If anything, the film favours a third social system, a form of socialism and equality brought about by the emancipatory potential of feminist revolution.
As an afterthought, if you want to read more about the ridiculous claims made by MRA’s, Matt Kamen’s short article for Wired, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road hilariously angers “Men’s Rights Activists”‘ makes terrific reading.