As of late the word on the street is that George Miller’s return to the chaotic world of Mad Max is a blistering success and an incredible piece of cinema. Anyone who has seen Mad Max: Fury Road may find it difficult to disagree. My viewing of the film not only echoed quality but educational significance. What I mean by that is any action flick to come out of Hollywood in the future can learn a heck of a lot from Miller’s masterful Fury Road, and here’s what.
Mild spoilers follow…
What becomes evidently clear part way through Fury Road is that Tom Hardy’s Max is not the star of the post-apocalyptic show. Taking centre stage is Charlize Theron’s character Imperator Furiosa, one of many women slaves to the tyrannical ruler of the dystopian desert wasteland Immortan Joe. Helpless women are bound to machinery to provide milk and used as sexual objects. Painted men conform to Joe’s rule acting as his damaged army whilst the hundreds beneath him are subjected to a climate of poverty.
In that are many thematic concerns but ultimately the film has strong feminism themes running throughout. Behind the long road of relentless vehicular combat and pursuits lies the narrative of a strong female figure (part amputee too) fighting for the human rights of women in humanity bent further by hegemonic masculinity. Furiosa puts Imperator Joe’s five wives into a war machine esque vehicle to flee his totalitarian Citadel in search of her home she was whisked from as a child. Not something you think to be explored in a summer blockbuster, even with the uniqueness of the Mad Max property. It’s one thing to have spectacular set pieces and one man armies, but there is room within the genre to tackle issues like any other. The action adventure genre is known to be stale with one-dimensional characters but Fury Road is filled with the opposite. Fury Road’s diegesis (world) is even an interesting character in of itself. Fragmentations of how humanity fell are alluded to in various manners and the societies that spawned is even more intriguing.
It is really bold to ultimately have Mad Max not really about, well, Mad Max. It would have been easy to pit Max against an anarchistic foe and stage violent fights across a standard three-part story, but George Miller had other intentions. Considering the whole film takes place on a furious road, it does a fantastic job keeping you glued to the screen – even when they decide to go back on themselves. No progress is essentially made and in any other circumstances would have been infuriating, but it is genius in context. There is complexity within the simplicity that could have made it so very generic. Miller had a story to tell and he wanted to tell it. Fury Road shouldn’t even exist, it took over a decade to make thanks to setbacks and filming issues but it does.
The promotional strategy of the film should also be a valuable lesson. Take note Hollywood don’t stick the final set piece in the trailer, or even the entire plot of the film. Fury Road’s trailers masked the true nature of the film and gave practically nothing away. It would have been safe to assume that Mad Max is yet another old franchise revival in attempt to become popular again yet much to some people’s surprise I’m sure, it’s the quite the opposite. Miller proves that these Hollywood resurrections can work.A summer blockbuster film with a revived franchise tied to its name appeared to be nothing more than an explosive showcase. It could have been and at a glance it may seem as much, but it’s not. Within the madness is a powerful story of equality, female prowess and restoration. Miller feeds these themes throughout a film of incredible action and balances the two perfectly. Each could have stood strong in separate outings on the silver screen but Miller somehow marries the two. Take note Hollywood.