Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mad Max Fury Road - We Are Not Things

One definition of feminism: A critique of the gendered nature of power in a given society and a series
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa  in
'Mad Max: Fury Road' (2015). She holds a
rifle and is in front of an armored truck.
Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures
of actions stemming from that critique.

In Mad Max Fury Road, as I wrote about in my new review from Vice, those actions involve writing "We are not things" on the harem floor and escaping in a WAR MACHINE with Imperator Furiosa to try and reach the Green Land.

Let's just say that the escape does not go smoothly.

This was my first feature movie review. I actually went to a theater and sat in a room mostly filled with other critics, most of whom knew each other. I, being gregarious, introduced myself to a man who turned out to be Brian Tallarico, editor of Rogerebert.com. While my piece is an essay about feminism and movie history, he's written a great proper review for you to read. 4 out of 4 stars, so you can see he liked it too.

Mad Max is iconic, despite the failings of the third movie. My friend Sean, who is a bit older than me, saw the first two movies repeatedly as a teenager. He wrote me, "Our generation had the horror of Cold War gone wrong put squarely in front of us. Upbeat David Bowie videos had mushroom clouds in them, vigilantes were frequent TV heros, and Max Rockatansky showed us what life in the new world was going to be like."

It generated a huge wave of future nostalgia. Even now, there is a Society For Creative Anachronism-like group that gathers on Wasteland Weekend, recreating a future that hasn't happened yet, souping up cars, making costumes, and presumably consuming two-headed lizards for sustenance.

And now, we have a movie that at its core contains all the great elements of the first two Mad Max films - motion, cars, chrome, costumes, horror, death, disease, and hope. And there's a literal patriarchy (Immortan Joe and his sons) that needs to be smashed.

We are not things, say the women, and they prove their agency by what follows.

A SMALL SPOILER FOR MAD MAX 4 FOLLOWS. IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL AS IT'S SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN

John Scalzi once wrote an essay about Ellen Ripley. Sadly, the essay is down, but over at his blog, he writes, [Note - Scalzi sent me the correct link to his essay and I fixed it here] "I talk about who is the best female science fiction film character in history (you should be able to guess from the picture and headline) and why that’s actually a problem for science fiction film — not for the character herself, but what it means for the genre."

UPDATE - Scalzi also sent me a link to this piece on Ripley "paving the way" for later heros.

I'm assuming the piece said that we have Ripley and then ... nothing. I'd add Sarah Connor in T2 to that last, but it's true that the film centers on John and the good Terminator, rather than Sarah. 

I feel Imperator Furiosa could give Ripley a run for her money. She is the center of this film. So much so, that there's a moment in which the fog has settled in and a bad guy is rushing towards the war machine, which is overheating and stopped. Max picks up a container of fuel and some weapons and walks off into the fog to deal with the problem. There's an explosion. Max walks back.

Notice that Miller didn't even film (or cut) the scene in which Max does something awesome, surging through the fog, fighting with knife and rope, setting the car on fire, dodging bullets, whatever. It's just an explosion. The whole scene remains focused on Furiosa and the others getting the car going again.

Max is a badass. But, at least in the final cut, the movie belongs to Furiosa. I do wonder at what point Miller decided to go that way, if there's a film in the editing room that makes Max the center, or if it was always written like this.

At any rate, I clearly like the movie. Please read and share my review, and thanks!

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