In the first Mad Max film, where Max is a member of a police force trying to hold civilization together against anarchy, Max tries to quit his job because he fears he’s beginning to “enjoy it,” that soon the “good guys” and “bad guys” will become indistinguishable. His boss implores him to stay, telling him that he and his fellow cops can be “heroes” that this world needs.
In a reversal of the typical action movie where a rogue cop flips off his rule-abiding boss, Max is right and his boss is wrong. When Max finally loses his family and goes on a vengeful rampage against the gang who killed them, he does not become a “hero” and his shining example does not restore civilization—instead it’s the beginning of the end, the direct segue into the total anarchy of The Road Warrior. Max’s brutality doesn’t fix anything, doesn’t save anyone. He ends up part of the problem—another threat to the fragile outpost of civilization in The Road Warrior who needs to be bullied and deceived into helping people.
Max’s use of violence isn’t a triumphal liberation of self; it’s a negation of self. He starts out a man with a family, a home, a real life—the first Mad Max ends with him losing all these. At the end of every Mad Max film he ends up with less than he had before. At the start of Fury Road he’s been alone so long he barely remembers how to speak.
–Arthur Chu on who killed the world.
So just how do you have an action film that denounces violence… while still being a fun action film? Can you?
See also Berserk, my favourite demon-rape manga about the nihilism of individualism, violence, and revenge, and the restorative power of friendship and community.