I came a little late to the game. I even joked I might have been the last person on Earth 616 to watch this flick… so, if you did not, I have to warn you: this is not a review, but a call to reflection for those who have watched it. Therefore, beware: spoilers ahead.
More than feminist, this is a film about people and social issues
Yes, this is a movie that empowers women. They are not the girls rescued by a guy who have no role in the regaining of freedom. But the new Mad Max flick is not only about feminism, which is about gender equality and not man-hating as some unfortunately not only perceive but also consider feminism to be; it empowers men too. It empowers people!
Who killed the world?
If the 1980s’ Mad Max flicks were mostly about nuclear wars, the new set is of the water wars. I have watched them a long time ago, I do not remember that much about these flicks, and I have to add that you can totally watch the new Mad Max even if you did not see any of the ones before, because it totally stands alone. This is not the first flick about that, and I can mention only two others based on a book and comics: Duna and Tank Girl.
If in Tank Girl a mega-corporation controls the water supply, in Mad Max: Fury Road, ONE person, a god-like dictator, controls the water supply. But not only that: he owns people. Men and women are seen as his possessions: there is a creepy farm of women providing milk, which made me think of the reinvented Battlestar Galactica series and other works in which they “farm” people. And he also owns breeders, to provide for children to fill roles in his twisted society. If they are boys, they are eventually going to become war boys dreaming of Valhalla, or they will take other roles reserved to men in (t)his sad world.
The scenario of Mad Max: Fury Road is not beautiful, but I have not seen/read/watched a post-apocalyptic story in which things are pretty, because the main purpose of said stories is to make people think about important issues we face and/or might face in the future.
Not (y)our typical action flick
Since it took me two weeks after the film first aired to watch it, I have listened and read a lot of people saying that it has no story at all. Seriously? I fail to understand how one might say that. I am totally for a flick with things exploding and no story – I have liked this kind of no-brainer movie since I was a teen. But action movies with their explosions and car chasings get even better when they do tell a story, and this is the case with the new Mad Max. The agony is palpable, acting, storytelling, music and photography: everything converges and, wow! I felt the emotions and sickness of this world portrayed in this flick in my very bones.
Men and women alike: no more damsels in distress; yet, distress is palpable for everyone
It’s good to see both women and men helping each other, as humans, in such a disgraceful world. And in the beginning of the story, we get to see Max being used by “them” as a Blood Bag for Nux, a kami-krazy boy who wishes to serve Immortan Joe, who owns people, men and women alike. And a short summary would be that this flick is about getting rid of him and freed from him, but it is so much more than that.
Where did the animals go in this brainwashed society controlled through religion and horror?
Women are used to provide milk. Humans, both men and women, are marked as cattle, as Immortan Joe’s property. The opening starts with Max eating a two-headed reptile. There are bugs. But… where did the animals go? This world has humans taking the place of possessions and animals, it has a dictatorship of a mystified man as the leader, a man who is made to believed/perceived as immortal – and his pathetic death is only one piece of evidence that no oppressive force is invincible. He is no God, and when men and women fight together, when people fight for freedom, it can be achieved.
And the animals? Well, let me just remind you that the giant panda, just to mention one species, is facing extinction. There are about 1,600 pandas in the world, in the wild, and about 300 in zoos and breeding centers. Plus, the world of Mad Max: Fury Road is toxic, and we can see a lot of deformities in the population, and tumors in the war boys, which renders their lives expandable. So this is not about men being expandable; it is about people being perceived as such, and some trying to change this status quo.
The film has the feeling of a survival horror game [and a game based on the movie is going to be released in September]. While Max is at first a lone wolf who fights only for his own freedom and survival, we have the one-armed Empress/Imperator* Furiosa, who leads the breeders out of the Immortan Joe’s grip. She could be seen as a lioness. Those other girls are not “damsels in distress,” though they are indeed distressed as is everyone in this sad world. Survival is the main rule and we do not see one-dimensional men or women: they adapt to the circumstances, they fight together to survive and defeat the oppressors.
Kidnapping, use of girls and people and a Promised Land
We learn Furiosa herself was kidnapped a long time ago. She became the Empress, somehow having proved her “value” to Immortan Joe. She becomes the leader of the women’s revolution, though it was not thought of as such at first: their goal was only to escape and go to a safe haven, the promised green land from which Furiosa came, and which they found at last that did not exist anymore. No more Green Land. In response, they went for the Citadel to take back what belongs to all people, and not to a single person.
In our real world, the kidnapping of girls, whether for sex or not, and the “growing” of people, kamikaze or not, to serve societies controlled by religions is an issue; we all know that, right? In post-apocalyptic scenarios, these and other issues are taken to the extremes, and the main purpose of said stories is not [and should not be] that of glorifying the horror, but to call the viewers’ attention to said problems.
And then I say that, despite the ending, in which people are indeed freed from oppression, this is a sad film. The cost of freedom is high, lives are lost in the process, and in the end we have that one thing that drives us on in addition to the survival instinct: hope.
The Seeds of hope
When one of the women from the once-Green Valley came up with the seeds, and they return to the Citadel with a lot of people dying in the process, I was reminded of the Disney movie Wall-e. Though the stories in both movies are different, both share the post-apocalyptic scenarios and the hopes for a better future through seeds, which can be perceived as literal (with seeds one might grow different kinds of flora) but also a metaphor, (like I used in the subtitle: The Seeds of Hope).
Final words: We don’t need another hero
The soundtrack of Mad Max: Fury Road has no lyrics; times have changed, it’s tense and intense, one of the guys even has a flaming guitar and the sounds are visceral, a mix of metal and industrial music, but… it’s curious that, twenty years later, the lyrics from Mad Max: Thunderdome “We don’t need another hero” are still as valid and visceral as well!
OUT OF THE RUINS
OUT FROM THE WRECKAGE
CAN’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE THIS TIME
WE ARE THE CHILDREN
THE LAST GENERATION
WE ARE THE ONES THEY LEFT BEHIND
AND I WONDER WHEN WE ARE EVER GONNA CHANGE
LIVING UNDER THE FEAR, TILL NOTHING ELSE REMAINS
WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER HERO
WE DON’T NEED TO KNOW THE WAY HOME
ALL WE WANT IS LIFE BEYOND
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING
WE CAN RELY ON
THERE’S GOTTA BE SOMETHING BETTER OUT THERE
LOVE AND COMPASSION…
Complete lyrics here
* Imperator is used to refer to Furiosa. Imperator is the Latin word for Emperor, not Empress. She is thus seen as “one of the guys”.