Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth — and the best — Mad Max movie directed by George Miller. Miller was born George Miliotis — the son of Greek refugees from Turkish ethnic cleansing in Anatolia — and is also the creator of two other, and very different, film franchises, the Babe the talking pig movies and the Happy Feet animated penguin movies.
In Fury Road, the title character, which heretofore has been played by Mel Gibson, is played by Tom Hardy (Bane — with another grill thing on his face, no less). Charlize Theron is the female lead as Imperator Furiosa, who has a prosthetic Terminator arm attached to an amputated stump.
Theron’s character is the focus of a media kerfuffle about her allegedly “badass” superfeminist character, but it is entirely baseless and manufactured to sell tickets.
James Bond movies have a formula, and so does their advertising. Every few Bond films, we are told that this time Bond will be paired up with a “strong woman” — presumably unlike all the other Bond women. Bond aficionados laugh because of course few Bond women ever match Ursula Andress’ formidable heroine in the very first Bond movie, Dr. No.
Of course Bond movies appeal overwhelmingly to men, so the publicity people probably concoct the “strong woman” pitch to persuade potential female ticket buyers that it will not be too much of a sausage fest. And they figure that a strong woman won’t deter male viewers, as long as she is hot. Of course, this is a risky proposition, because there is a well-documented tendency for men to abandon social spaces and activities once they have become too feminized.
I think that pretty much the same reasoning was behind promoting Theron as the strong woman in Fury Road — unlike the shrinking violet Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome, I suppose. But these are the days of Peak Feminism, and this time, there has been a backlash, with many young men swearing off Fury Road in disgust.
They’ll come round, though, because the feminist elements of this movie, such as they are, would only offend Oriental advocates of purdah and footbinding. Indeed, the society they rebel against is profoundly un-white and un-Western, despite the fact that it is ruled by and predominantly populated by whites.
The Citadel — a set of towering rock formations — is the headquarters of cult leader Immortan Joe. Joe, like the despots of neighboring Gas Town and Bullet Farm, is hideously malformed and debauched. His government is a form of oriental hydraulic despotism — literally, for he hoards water and food and releases them in dribs and drabs to the starving wretches below.
Joe also uses brute force to maintain power, filling the citadel with War Boys, who look like skinheads on chemo. To control the war boys and motivate them to sacrifice themselves, Joe has manufactured a religion which promises Valhalla to the War Boys and some sort of redemption to the rest of his people.
Aside from Joe, everyone is basically a slave. Huge fat women are milked like cows, and the milk seems to be consumed as food and even exported. When Max is captured, he is turned into a “blood bag” to offer transfusions to a sickly War Boy, Nux. (Radiation has made many people sickly. Their abbreviated existence is ironically called a Half Life.)
Another oriental trait of the Citadel is Joe’s harem. Healthy and fertile young women are in short supply, so naturally Joe monopolizes them.
The Citadel’s combination of polygamy, slavery, militarism, religion, and rule by a prophet/priest/despot actually brings to mind one of history’s greatest practitioners of the gangsta/pimp lifestyle, namely the Prophet of Islam.
At this point, I will “spoil” the story by giving away a few plot elements. Furiosa is a trusted driver of one of Joe’s armored War Rigs, a tanker that appears to be loaded with water and mother’s milk, which Furiosa will drive to Gas Town to barter for gasoline.
At a certain point, however, she turns off road into the desert. Furiosa, it seems, is defecting. Joe discovers that his harem has disappeared. They want something better than being the brood slaves of a bloated tyrant, so Furiosa has promised to deliver them to the Green Place, where she was born and from which she had been kidnapped 20 years before by Joe’s people.
Joe sends his army to recover them, and Max is brought along as a blood bag. Max escapes, teams up with Furiosa, and they battle their way across the desert, to discover that all that remains of her people are a few old crones wandering the desert, one of whom carries a treasure: seeds. If only she can find water and soil for them.
The crones team up with Furiosa, Max, and Nux, who has changed sides. Their mission is to preserve life. To find a suitable home for the fertile young women, so the race can live on, and to find fertile ground for the seeds. It is a mission important enough to kill and die for, and they do. But life triumphs in the end.
Feminism has created a false consciousness in women. They imagine that women never exercised agency, never protected themselves against abusers, and never exercised political power until feminism came along and started white, Western women bitching as if they were in purdah. Of course if they really had been in purdah, all the complaining in the world would not have made any difference.
It does not take feminism or Marxism to make white people rebel against the oriental despotism of the Citadel. Such government has never sat well with us. It is not in our nature.
Real feminism is neurotic man-hatred, anti-life nihilism, and sexual separatism. Real feminism is ball-busting posturing and pointless oneupmanship. None are present in Fury Road. After overcoming mutual distrust (which is reasonable in the circumstances), Max and Nux team up well with Furiosa, the brides, and the crones because that is the natural way.
There is no sense that the crones in the desert are a viable society, only the remnants of one, and the crones are willing to sacrifice their lives to find safety for the brides and fertile ground for the seeds. As the crones charge into battle, one says to another, “One man, one bullet,” but this does not apply to all men, of course, and it delightfully tweaks “One man, one vote.”
The primary role of women in this movie is nurturers, and it is only because the world has been turned upside down that women are forced to kill to further life. In the end though, they could not have done it without Max and Nux. But the women also provided them something real to fight for.
When our race awakens and begins to fight for its survival, it is not pre-Raphaelite damsels and oriental lotus foots who will be our helpmeets, but women like Furiosa.
I found the opening few minutes of Fury Road distasteful, and I almost walked out. I am glad I stayed, though, because it is an excellent movie. Yes, there are lots of chases and fights — thrilling and spectacular ones — but Miller understands pacing, so there are meditative and poetic moments as well, and a number of deeply touching ones.
The world Miller creates is a remarkable work of the imagination, with a stunning steampunk/biker mag aesthetic, and scenes of desolation and horror worthy of Bruegel, Bosch, and Dalí. (I made the mistake of seeing the movie in 3-D, but after a few minutes I went next door to a conventional screening, and I am glad I did. One simply sees more detail.) Thank God there was no symbolism.
The performances of Hardy and Theron are excellent. They have real chemistry. You can feel that they complete one another: she has found a protector, and he has found a purpose. But for me, Miller’s artistry was best displayed when I realized that plot and character, tension and respite, words and silences, had been orchestrated into a deeply moving climax, created with the simplest of means. Hardy simply says, “Max, my name is Max.”
I loved this movie.