Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road won the Ray Bradbury Award in 2016; it was on the Hugo ballot, but beaten by The Martian. Also on both ballots were Ex Machina and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with Inside Out and a Jessica Jones episode rounding out the Bradbury list. More important in the wider scheme of things, it won six Oscars, more than any other film that year – the Best Picture winner, Spotlight, won only two. IMDB users rate it top film of the year on one ranking and third on the other.

I found only one actor who had been in a previous Bradbury/Hugo-winning film, and none who had been in Oscar-winners or in Doctor Who. But it’s a big role: Max himself is played by Tom Hardy, who was the forger Eames in Inception.

I don’t often drift into real-world politics in these reviews, but during the worst agonies of the Brexit debate back in 2018, British minister David Davis incautiously promised that the UK, after leaving the EU, would not be plunged into a “Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction”. Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times had great fun with this:

To the undoubted relief of everyone concerned, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, announced on Monday that the UK was not seeking a dystopian “Mad Max-style” Brexit. At one level this is a shame because the cars in that movie are well cool. Kudos, though, to Mr Davis, who was of course trying to mock the fears of Brexit’s opponents, for an A-grade effort in expectation management. However bad it may be, Brits can rest easy that Brexit will not be a post-apocalyptic dystopia characterised by societal collapse, murder and Jacob Rees-Mogg and his gang terrorising the roads in pinstriped suits and Bentleys.

Then again, there was a disturbing specificity to Mr Davis’s point. He did not rule out all dystopian visions. Only Mad Max. While murderous biker-gangs form no part of the Brexit planning, this column understands that several other movie dystopias remain on the table. Indeed, the 62 Conservative MPs in Mr Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group are said to be urging the prime minister to hang tough on the “dystopia red lines” they consider to be part and parcel of a hard Brexit. The Financial Times has seen a secret memo listing the options:

The options include:

  • the Hunger Games Brexit (24 children from Remain enclaves are chosen by ballot and offered each year as tributes to the European Commission in return for continued British access to the single market)
  • the Fahrenheit 451 Brexit (the fire service no longer exists to put out fires, but to burn books and reports issued by the Bank of England, the Treasury and any other economic experts)
  • the Blade Runner Brexit (it is always raining.)
  • the Terminator Brexit (a robotic terminator is sent back from the future to the year 1972 to murder Sir Edward Heath before he can sign the Treaty of Accession)
  • the RoboCop Brexit (a frictionless technological solution for policing the Irish border)
  • The Matrix Brexit (UK citizens are implanted with devices which make them believe everything is normal and that life is good)
  • and worst of all the Real Life Brexit.

Anyway. Mad Max: Fury Road is an unashamed action film, which basically consists of an extended chase across the desert in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone seems to be white. Good Max and his good ally Imperiosa escape from the evil Citadel with the five wives of evil Joe. Imperiosa finally finds the all-woman clan from which she originally came and together with other good people they capture the Citadel and kill evil Joe. Max and Furiosa do not wander romantically into the sunset together but respectfully part company at the end.

There’s a lot of action here, and a lot of special effects. The most striking special effect is small in scale but big in impact: Imperiosa is missing a hand and arm below the elbow, while Charlize Theron who plays her is fully endowed. This was achieved by her wearing a green sleeve which was then edited out by CGI. At one point she accidentally broke co-star Tom Hardy’s nose by hitting it with the sleeve, which was hard.

Although Hardy’s Max is the title character, the central figure is the story is definitely Theron’s Imperiosa, whose personal journey is much more interesting. Max has only 52 lines in the entire film. Hardy was apparently difficult during filming, and later made a public apology to Theron and director George Miller for his behaviour. (Meanwhile Theron and Hardy’s stunt doubles fell in love and got married.)

It’s good to see a successful rebellion against an oppressive patriarchy led by women, even if they are all white. But I prefer a little more plot and characterization in my movies, and although the stunts and effects are spectacular (and as the FT said, the cars are well cool) I don’t think I’ll rewatch this film often in the years to come.

I’ve decided that I’m going to stop my sequence of rewatching Hugo, Nebula and Bradbury-winning films after The Martian, which is next, because I saw all of them shortly after they came out, which was in the last five years. I might go back and rewatch the Retro Hugo winners which I never wrote up, but I didn’t actually like them all that much so I’m not in a big rush.

1 thought on “Mad Max: Fury Road

  1. >>even if they are all white.<< Or are Zoe Kravitz's Toast the Knowing

    I'll be interested to see where you put the Martian against this. (I think I prefer the Martian, but it's a close run thing)

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