About writing. And reading. And being published. Or not published. On working on being published. Tangents into the pop culture world to come. Especially about movies. And comic books. And movies from comic books.
Friday, July 10, 2015
Mad Max: Fury Road (a movie review post)
But that thing about Max not being the protagonist is an issue. I mean, as a Mad Max movie, we ought to care about the character and his goals, but he doesn't seem to have any goals other than, eventually, the co-opted goal of helping the actual protagonist, Imperator Furiosa.
A lot of people have been going on about Charlize Theron in the role of Furiosa, and, I have to say, I just don't get it. I mean, she was fine, but she wasn't any kind of amazing nor did she do with the part anything that a dozen other actresses couldn't have done.
However, Nicholas Hoult, in a part that, although important, seems a bit of a throwaway was amazing. Of the characters in the movie, Nux was the only one I came to care about enough that I felt compelled to root for. Nicholas Hoult is an actor I am with whom I am increasingly impressed, so he was a nice discovery in this movie (because I had not paid attention enough to know that he was in it before I saw it).
The other surprise was Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as The Splendid Angharad. She's all the more impressive in her role for the simple fact of being impressive in the first place. It's obvious that she, along with the rest of the breeder wives, were thrown in as eye candy, and the other four do nothing more than fulfill that expectation, but Huntington-Whiteley brought a certain amount of attitude to the role that made her stand out. I didn't think much of her after her stint in Transformers, but maybe she's someone to keep an eye on. Considering she's only done two movies so far, I'll guess we'll have to wait and see.
Now, it seems almost wrong to talk about the story, because there's almost no story. There might even be too much story. The story amounts to, "Oh, we need to escape. Oh, we need to go back and take over." It is only there to give a semi-plausible reason to have the various cars chase each other through the desert and have mayhem. That's fine, as far as it goes. Likewise, it seems wrong to point out any stupidity within said think fabric of story, but there was one thing that really bugged me, bugged me through the whole movie: the whole blood transfusion thing. The thing in and of itself was fine, if it had been done correctly. The idea is that blood is being drained from Max into Nux, so the needle in Max should be in an artery going into a vein in Nux. [Also, since there was no way to get blood back to Max, he should have been dead within, oh, minutes, but, not only does he not get weak from blood loss, he seems to be perfectly fine throughout the whole procedure.] At the point when the line is finally cut, blood should have gone spraying everywhere but, not only does that not happen, it doesn't seem that there is any blood leakage at all.
Oh, yeah, the whole thing with the breeder wives down the whole "car wash" scene (without a car) where they're spraying water all over themselves also bothered me. Um, water is the most precious thing in their world, and they're spraying it all over the desert so they can look all sexy in their white bride rags. So, yeah, I get the director was going for the visual stimulus, but it was dumb.
The movie, really, is about the visuals. I think, if he could, he would just have the cars chasing each other and doing their thing without any story at all, and, honestly, that might be better. That's what people who want to see it want to see. It's like... car porn. The story is only there to give an excuse for the rest of it to happen.
And I wish I had liked it. It's not that I didn't like it, but I didn't like it. On the one hand, there was the the vehicle that I'm going to call the "band mobile." The rear was a huge set up of drums, and there was a blind(?) guitar player hanging from the front. Visually, it was cool. The dude playing the guitar in the midst of all of that was really cool. As long as I didn't think about it; if/when I did, my brain would say, "That's dumb," and I'd have to tell it to shut up.
All of that to say:
Visually, it's an amazing movie. If you want to go and just watch the action, this is a great movie to do that with. You have to really go in without any expectations other than car chases and explosions, though. Don't listen to anyone who says anything about the amazing story or how feminist this movie is. Just because it has a powerful female lead does not mean the movie is "feminist," and it certainly doesn't have any kind of story that is empowering to women. Because, well, that would imply that it had a story. Beyond, you know, the very basic one I already explained: "Run away!" Except, in this case, "Drive away!"
Mostly, the movie left wondering if I missed something in the other Mad Max movies or if it's just been too long since I've seen them, because it's been more than 20 years since I've seen them. My new plan is to re-watch the other ones and see if they give me some kind of deeper appreciation for this one, but... well, yeah, I don't think that's going to happen.
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Fury Road is more in the style of Road Warrior than any of the others.ReplyDelete
Max did take a bit of a back seat, but I had no problem with it.
The story was simple, but there was one. For this type of film, it didn't need to be anything more.
And you could also argue that Max and Nux shouldn't have survived the storm. But this is a Mad Max film and you know everything will be over the top.
Sorry, still the best film I've seen all year. Good enough that I went to see it twice, and I don't do that very often.
Alex: I don't think I could sit through it twice. At least not without a long gap in between. The visuals aren't enough to hold me.Delete
True, I wouldn't call it a feminist movie, but I see precious few women cast as the one forcing the action in an action movie. Usually women are portrayed as victims or sidekicks--like the breeder wives. Furiosa was amazing to watch.ReplyDelete
L.G.: I don't think Theron did a bad job; I just don't think she really put anything into it. It was a... very cardboard role. Lots of staring intently. Nothing really Theron about it.Delete
But, yes, it was good to have her as the protagonist. But unfortunate that she had to be "saved."
I liked this movie. I didn't love it, but I liked it, and I made sure to tell myself prior to entering the theater that I was under clear instructions to shut off my brain. Otherwise, like you, it probably would have nagged me throughout the movie here and there for being ridiculous or dumb (like the guitar player).ReplyDelete
Also, I got into an argument with someone a while back over the whole feminist thing. They insisted it was a feminist movie. I said, well let's see, Max and Furiosa get into a fist fight and Max beats the living s**t out of her. He's going to steal her truck, but ultimately she's the only one who can drive it, so he reluctantly lets her come along. Also, even if Max is in the backseat for most of this, they ultimately need his help to accomplish their goal. He's even the one who suggests their end strategy, and after it's executed, he saves Furiosa's life. Then he leaves them. None of that strikes me as particularly feminist. Needless to say, the dude I was arguing with shut up pretty quickly.
Furiosa is definitely a strong female character, which is great. But she's not exactly Superman, swooping in to save the day, and Max isn't exactly Lois Lane, relying helplessly on the hero(ine) for help.
ABftS: I tried to shut off my brain, but things like the blood tube and the car wash scene got to me anyway.Delete
And, like I said, I didn't dislike the movie -- it was certainly visually exciting -- it just didn't do anything for me.
The reviews have been good but you confirm my suspicion: great visuals, weak story. The truth is, such movies just don't hold up over time. See: Titanic.ReplyDelete
TAS: I think Titanic is probably good about once every 10 years or so. Maybe. I'm sure this film is going to have a huge cult following.Delete
Cult movie status is an enviable fate.Delete
TAS: That's certainly true.Delete
I have to very much disagree. It's an incredibly feminist film and it has nothing to do with having a strong female lead or even being "empowering" to women. It's focus is on females, there are many of them who interact with each other and are not there solely as male love interests, the camera is not focused with a male gaze even when the wives are washing themselves, and in a story with female sex slaves, there is no rape for drama. Furiosa and Max come to treat each other as equals. It's not about her being some superwoman with all the answers who can beat a man twice her size in a fight. It is an action movie like any other, but not through a male lens. THAT is what makes it feminist. And a woman being attacked by a man doesn't automatically negate that.ReplyDelete
Jeanne: No, that camera is entirely a male gaze, especially when the wives are washing themselves. That was a gratuitous "music video" scene included just for tantalizing the male audience. There was no purpose for it other than that.Delete
Additionally, the only potentially compelling female side character is killed almost immediately after meeting her. Nux becomes the only sympathetic character in the movie. The focus on the women tends to be on them complaining and/or cowering.
I don't really see Max treating Furiosa as an equal. It's more like he fell in love with her and didn't know how to deal with that. The only thing that counters it is the Han-like treatment of him that she gives him as they are going to make their attempt to cross the desert, "You can come with us. You're pretty good in a fight."
But, hey, being a guy, maybe I'm wrong. It seems to me to be a movie mostly viewed by guys, though, so that doesn't say "feminist" to me. At all.
There was all this hype when it came out about how great it was, and that made me want to watch it, and then the hype died down, so I forgot this movie even existed until right now. This post had a sort of time-capsule feeling for me, like reading a review of a movie I once remembered, which is weird a month after it came out. I guess that says something about pop culture? Or probably me and how things are right now.ReplyDelete
Anyway, I'll probably never see it. I heard a lot about it and the flame-thrower guitar sounded incredibly stupid, as does the 'bandmobile." The rest seems like more or less generic action-female stuff. Like if Ripley from Aliens had landed on Mad Max's world.
Briane: Pop culture certainly has a very immediate focus. It already seems so far away that it seems like Age of Ultron was some other year, not this one.Delete
For me, it was one of those movies that I knew I would have to see at some point, so I wanted to give it its best possible environment. Like, I was glad to see Independence Day in the theater even though I thought that was one of the dumbest movies ever made.
Hmm, sometimes action for the sake of action has its appeal. I sort of felt this way through the last couple Fast and Furious movies. I'll likely see this, but can wait for the video to come out. Lots of mixed reviews for this one.ReplyDelete
dolorah: I haven't seen any of those movies, but I do agree with you. In fact, I really liked John Wick. It was a very simple revenge story which compelled a heck of a lot of action. It was kind of beautiful in its simplicity.Delete
But it didn't also include a lot of blatantly stupid moments just because they looked cool.
As a long time fan of the Mad Max franchise, I will definitely be seeing this when it comes to Netflix. You gave an excellent review, but from what you said about the action and visuals this sounds like something I'd like.ReplyDelete
Lee: It does have amazing visuals.Delete
There's this thing with movies dealing with the coolness factor vs reality and when you can dump reality in favor of the coolness factor. So, for instance, the space battles in Star Wars are modeled after WWII dogfights, not something that would happen in space, but the coolness factor makes us say, "I don't care." The bandmobile almost hits that for me.
I saw this movie. And aside from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron I have no idea who anyone is that you mentioned.ReplyDelete
I thought the cultish behavior of the fans of this movie was bizarre. I was entertained mightily while watching and then mostly forgot about it before I made it back home from the theater.
I remember that I liked the Road Warrior when I was a kid but I can't tell you why, or what that movie was about. I don't think I ever saw the first Mad Max or Beyond Thunderdome. This was just never up my nerd alley.
Rusty: Hoult was in Warm Bodies and is the Beast in early version of the X-Men in the movies.Delete
What I remember about the Max movies is that I thought Beyond Thunderdome was really bad. I know I saw the other two but, honestly, I don't really remember anything about them.
I suppose that says something in and of itself.