MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is fucking amazing.

/MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is fucking amazing.

No seriously. It is. Go see it, end of story.

Seen it yet? Good. Glad you did, right? I mean, assuming you like blockbuster action movies filled with explosions. I do–oh boy howdy how I do–but I’m really… burnt out on them, at the moment. Really burnt out on the soulless corporate libertarianism of the slick-and-shiny Save the Cat-bred stable of Hollywood blockbusters. I’m sick of the vapid jingoism of MCU-clones and sick of facile Christopher Nolan-style self-indulgent pretentiousness.1 And, like, Gravity was great and so was Birdman, but sometimes I just wanna go watch some fucking explosions, y’know? Not fight motion sickness or listen to a depressing three hour treatise on the neuroses of the creative classes.

I wasn’t going to see Fury Road. Mostly because the trailer made it look so fucking terrible, but also because OMG remaking an Australian classic HDU! Except, oh. Wait. What do you mean it’s the same director as the first three? And, hey wait. The film is making MRA’s really, really mad? But I dunno I’ve seen those stills and I am just so, so sick of post-apocalyptic rape fantas– oh, what? George Miller brought in Eve Ensler to talk to the cast about trafficked women and sexual slavery in war zones?

Hm. Well. Okay. I guess I’ll give it a try.


There’s a scene early on in the film, after the first two or three car chases, where Max stumbles upon Furiosa and the Wives. This is their first encounter. Max is dirty and gritty, and we’re in the shitball post-apocalyptic hell-hole, and the camera stumbles around the edge of the War Rig and we, as Max, see…

… five beautiful women, dressed only in scraps of pure white rags, writhing under a hose in the desert.

You’ve seen this scene before. Everyone in the audience had, which is why the entire theatre starts laughing in a half-groaning sort of way. In the “oh, here we go, it’s the fanservice” sense.

And then everyone notices what the women are actually doing: using a pair of bolt-cutters to free each other from vicious-looking “chastity belts”.2

The audience knows who these women are; by this stage in the film, we’ve already cut to the scene of Immortan Joe raging around his harem, looking for his “stolen treasures”… and we’ve seen the messages the wives have left behind for him: WE ARE NOT THINGS and OUR SONS WILL NOT BE WARLORDS and WHO BROKE THE WORLD? We know they’re sex slaves. Cattle. Called “breeders” by the male characters of Citadel.

And the film dares you, it fucking dares you, by giving you Max’s POV as he stumbles into this scene, to be Joe. To own up to your male gaze. You can treat these women like things, can laugh at them and stare and fap as they share a private moment in the desert, as they try and find some freedom and some respite. You can do that, and if you do that? If you do that, you are everything the film hates, and spends the next two hours trying to destroy.

No wonder MRAs are going fucking apeshit.


Fury Road is light on dialogue and light on plot. The entire movie is a chase scene, as Immortan Joe and his war party hunt down Furiosa, trying to drag her and the Wives back to Citadel. There is no real B-plot, here: the Wives want to escape, Furiosa wants to help them. Max and Nux are along for the ride. And yet, there is a lot of characterisation going on, mostly transmitted through subtle costume changes–Max gets more armour, Nux gets less pale, the Wives start changing their hairstyles and adding accessories to their outfits–and through actions, again, especially the actions of the Wives, who go from cowering and hiding in a hole under the War Rig, to more active duties. They might not know how to fight and shoot, but they can dig a vehicle out of a bog, and they can count bullets, and they can use their male pursuers’ assumptions against them.

Fury Road isn’t much for saving cats, but it is very much a Hero’s Journey. Interestingly, it’s not Max’s Hero’s Journey–he’s more-or-less the same guy at the end of the film as he is at the start–so much as it is the journey of the Wives, of Furiosa, and of Nux. The Wives’ and Nux’s journeys in particular are shown in parallel, in post-apocalyptic version of Patriarchy Hurts Men Too; when Nux is first discovered in the War Rig, a fight breaks out amongst the Wives as to whether or not to kill him. It’s a little hard to tell who has what dialogue in this scene, but the point is he’s spared because he’s just as much a victim of Citadel and Joe as the Wives were; Nux is a War Boy, bred and raised as nothing more than meat to grind in Joe’s mill. Like the Wives in their identical, de-personalised white robes, the War Boys all wear the same white body paint, interchangeable and disposable,3 and brainwashed to treat a personal and glorified death in service to Joe as the ultimate good. Eventually, it’s kindness and compassion from Capable–who talks to a frightened and despairing Nux as if he’s, yanno, a person–that causes Nux to turn on Citadel, and to fight with Furiosa and Max.4

Furiosa is, incidentally, taking the wives to “the Green Place” of “Many Mothers”; the matriarchal paradise she grew up in. Those of you who are familiar with the arc of the Hero’s Journey will probably realise ahead of time where that particular plot device is going, so it’s not really a surprise by the end of the film that the War Rig and its mottley (and almost exclusively female)5 crew head back to Citadel. If you want to continue the feminist reading, you could perhaps see this as a rejection of radfem-style separatism; if the Patriarchy of Citadel hurts both the men and the women within it, then the heroic action is for our Social Justice Warband to return and liberate people of all genders. Which they do, and the final scene of the film is of Furiosa and the returned Wives helping other citizens of Citadel ascend to reach the gardens at the top, while the now-dead Joe’s other “wives” open the floodgates to pour water onto the starving masses still left below.

When you embrace social justice, in other words, there’s more than enough for everyone.


All that makes the film sound really preachy, which it isn’t, if only for the fact that there’s not enough dialogue for it to ever be preachy. Fury Road harkens back to an older, more bare-bones style of action cinema; the Australian “Outback exploitation” films of the 70s and early 80s, in fact and unsurprisingly.6 And this is why Fury Road is getting jizzed over by pretty much every film critic; yeah, it’s thoughtful in its themes… but it’s also just a really good, really mindless action flick. The fight choreography is spectacular. Like, fucking spectacular. Everything is in motion and in three dimensions, but not in that messy, jarring, computer-generated way we see too much of nowadays. The tension is tense, and there are real stakes and real deaths (#sadface #nospoilers). The film works, in other words. All other considerations aside, it is just a damn good action flick.

And because it’s a damn good action flick, and a damn good feminist action flick, it puts to lie the thing that pissed me off most recently in all the debates around Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was this invidious notion that somehow “feminism” and “narrative” are in tension, and one needs to be sacrificed in order for the other to live. You hear this in Joss Whedon apologetics all the damn time, which is why I’m picking on him, because he’s a filmmaker who proclaims feminism in the Really Real World, and yet consistently makes anti-feminist choices in his media. “Because story!” is the standard excuse. “Whedon picks the thing that makes the better story, even if it’s not the most ‘feminist’ choice.”

To which I say: bullshit. And the next time someone tries that on, I’m going to make them watch Fury Road and tell them to just fucking look. Because Fury Road takes the “feminist” choices and they are the things that make its narrative interesting, because they’re the things that differentiate it from, oh, literally every other blockbuster out there.

It takes a lot of thought, in other words, to make a mindless film. And George Miller did it.

Bra-fucking-vo.

  1. Disclaimer: I haven’t seen Interstellar, but Inception was fucking garbage. Yeah. I said it. Come fight me. ^
  2. That, incidentally, look not at all dissimilar to the one used in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Which I found… interesting. ^
  3. And yet obviously not, if anyone bothers to look at the self-expression they have via their scars and their tattoos. ^
  4. Also, Nux has the most adorable shoulder tumors ever put to film. Yes, really. ^
  5. Another interesting observation: the only male protagonists who exist in this film are love interests, of a sort. Max and Furiosa have more of a fire-forged-friends thing going on than romance per se, thank the screenwriting gods, but Nux is definitely there as fodder for Capable to explore her newly won sexual and romantic autonomy. ^
  6. And you can bet I squeed a little when both the Car That Ate Paris and some BMX Bandits made cameos. ^
2018-11-26T08:05:34+00:0018th May, 2015|Tags: culture, film, sff, xp|

One Comment

  1. sky-treader 18th May, 2015 at 8:19 am

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