Avatar takes us on an exciting ride that changes our sense of self, scale, and loyalty. We soar up into tree branches and down into…
George Miller’s Fury Road, fourth in his Mad Max series and thirty years after the original, is a stunning thrill ride of mostly real stunts against a background of preposterous illogic. It left me exhausted and charged up, but uncaring.
I loved the stunts. Fights and crashes seemed realistic. The timing felt right. The use of 3-D and computer-generated tricks weren’t overplayed. Much of it seemed experimental; risky movie-making for an audience used to “anything goes,” when what goes here was real, or at least realistic. Harpoons stuck in the back of a fleeing vehicle cabled to huge hooks dragging in the ground satisfied my need to see plausible mechanical rigs. No supernatural fantasy here, just a bleak and painful world where unlikely heroes pull off nearly impossible feats to further a contrived plot in an absurd setting.
This is not a food-lover’s movie; the only things eaten are a lizard and a bug. Nor does the logic of the post-apocalyptic setting work. Where are they getting all the gas and new tires? When the whole attacking caravan stops at a convenience store (there are none in the desert) to gas up, why no long line at the bathroom? Whenever precious water is used, it is sloshed about sloppily and wasted as if in a Hollywood movie. When the five virgin-like breeding brides of the bad guy help push the big milk truck out of the mud, why don’t they get their flimsy white garments dirty? I wanted to see them get wet and dirty.
Much is written about how feminist the plot has become. Really? Heroine Furiosa, played well by Charlize Theron, had some great fight moves, but seriously, in this age when feminism only means tough women, how likely is it that any small woman can beat off scores of huge angry men? Like big car battles in impossible environmental settings, it’s wishful compensation for vulnerable realities. The damsels in distress were classic beauties, mostly inept. The old women who have also lost their home are there only to provide some seeds from a supposed green place. Let’s see ─ sexless bad-ass heroine, helpless scantily-clad teenagers, and old women going the wrong way – this is feminist?
The only green place in the movie was grey, a stark waste of hideous forms. There is no green place, no home for anyone, no hope for something soft or pretty, no logic on how these hundreds of rage-obsessed men can drive their monster cars into fantastic battles, wasting more gas than they can seize. There’s no TV, no couches, no shopping, and no Priuses.
I did like the rock n’ roll truck adding music to the attacks. A blind electric guitarist suspended at the front was backed by six Taiko drummers, and they never got tired, took a break, or announced their songs. (The sound track was sometimes crisp and clear, sometimes thudding with excitement, and other times mumbled and garbled.) I also liked the bobbing bird on the dash. No goofy fluff bird here; this sinister iron-toothed bird nodded a comic smirk on the car battles.
Tom Hardy looks Mel Gibsonish and says less. He hardly ever says anything, nor does he ogle the beauties, and though he gives the thumbs up to his heroine counterpart, that’s about all he does. He’s heroic but flat.
Director George Miller deserves the praise he’s getting. He was given a big budget and free reign to create. Watching the credits you realize how many people and places it took to create this bleak, brutal fun ride. In that he also directed Babe (with vegetarian sentiments) and the Happy Feet (with global warming warnings) I surmise he cares about our world’s environment. I’m hoping he wends some plausible hope into the next Mad Max movies that makes our actual world’s dire situation more realistic and solvable.