Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

28 May 2015

Let's Fight!

Actually, I don't really want to fight. (There's a "We Don't Need Another Hero" Tina Turner / Thunderdome reference in here somewhere.) But what is Mad Max: Fury Road when it isn't about fighting? In any case everyone I know liked this movie, apparently, and I was sort of bored, so a fight is probably inevitable. A few thoughts:

1. This whole time I have been getting George Miller (who made those original Mad Max movies, and also Happy Feet and The Witches of Eastwick) confused with Frank Miller, the guy who made 300 and Sin City. I was, apparently, incorrect to be thinking they were the same person, but I expect I can be forgiven because basically everything about the comic-book-style of Mad Max: Fury Road looks similar to the style of 300.

2. This thing moves fast! I understand being a little drunk on the movie's style and speed, but my first reaction to the film's speed was to be reminded of the way silent-era comedies move just a little too fast when Charlie Chaplin falls down or Harry Lloyd chases a streetcar without catching it. The opening sequence had a kind of Keystone-Cops quality that, for me, was unintentionally humorous.

3. I was really troubled by the grotesque imagery in the film as it pertained to bodies. The film's villains are styled as disabled by their decadence (and also presumably by incest??) We see the main villain's back first, as he is sprayed with talcum powder before he dons a kind of plastic suit of armor. This atrophied, aged body is intended to indicate weakness, frailty, and most obviously deviance (sexual perversion, here, is linked to criminality and villainy). The bodies in the palace all have this quality to them. The main villain's son is a hulking god of a man whose face is apparently being held together by plastic and who is semi-permanently attached to an oxygen tank. There are others, too, including a dwarf, a man with severely swollen ankles, and an entire farm (?) of large-breasted women who are being milked. Why does the film indicate decadence or villainy using bodies it deems grotesque? And how are these disabled bodies being used by the filmmaker as foils to the masculine power of both Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy? Good people in Mad Max: Fury Road have good bodies.

Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen
4. Fight! Fight! Fight! The film's best sequence is one in which Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fight mano a mano, while Nicholas Hoult is (mostly) thrown around like an unconscious rag doll. This sequence is thrilling.

5. There is a lot of wasted water in this movie. And wasted fuel. I sort of didn't understand how these most precious of commodities in the film's world were actually valued. Water is literally dumped on people in the film's first act, even though, it would make way more sense to dole it out to them judiciously. Plus, it is the desert! How are those people even still alive?

6. Mad Max: Fury Road is actually the movie Waterworld with the elements reversed. Like actually, though. The villains, obsessed with fire and oil, are basically identical in these films, although Hugh Keays-Byrne is much scarier (and plays his role much straighter) than Dennis Hopper's campy tongue-in-cheek villain in Waterworld. In fact, Waterworld is a much better movie overall, to my mind, and also includes something Fury Road totally ignores: the sky. There are no flying machines in Fury Road. There is only the road. (The original Road Warrior came out way before Waterworld, of course, so obviously it is Waterworld that is derivative, here. But still.)

7. But Aaron, you really should've shut your brain off. True. I probably ought to have.

Is that you in there, Tom?
8. It was cool seeing older ladies shoot guns and be the third-act stars of an action movie. I was super into that. But I am also bored by the idea that women are, like, "keepers of seeds" and shit, as though nurturing things is somehow linked to femaleness. What is not gendered in this film is masculinity, and for this I was fairly happy. Femininity and masculinity are still kept pretty separate from one another in this movie, as far as I can tell (we have the über-feminine, Game-of-Thrones-inspired ladies with their white, flowing garb giving us feminine realness the whole movie). In other words, Fury Road does give us femininity and masculinity, but where as both women and men can be masculine in this movie, only women can be feminine. I'm not a fan of masculinity in general, but it was nice to see a film so celebratory of female masculinity. I loved the older ladies fighting, and Charlize was a fun action hero.

9. Take Tom Hardy's mask off! I could not believe we spent most of act one with him in a mask. You have a movie star and you obscure his face for the first third of the movie? So weird! It made me feel very strange, and perhaps personally claustrophobic.

10. My main gripe with Fury Road is that act three is simply a repeat of act one. It's almost exactly the same thing! There is an addition of guys swinging from poles. That part was cool, and I was glad there was at least one new technology added to the chase, but the terrain was all the same and the plot was all the same. Rocks. Sun. Dirt. Dust. Fire. Blood. Some dude with a electric guitar. The end of the movie is exactly the same as the beginning. Rev that engine and hit the gas.