Okay, maybe not so quickie. Anyway, I’ll begin by stipulating to three points. Spoilers, ahoy!
First, it’s a gorgeous film. I can’t remember the last time any film’s visual narration made my eyes widen.
Second, if this film had a literary modal equivalent, it wouldn’t be that of a novel, but rather a novella. FURY ROAD is a work with a lean-muscular, 0%-body-fat plot and very tight character development, such that everything you see and hear is exactly everything you need, with no real examination or extrapolation of subtext necessary (unless you’re into that kind of thing). I’ve seen people accuse the plot of being thin, but that’s bullshit; people nowadays are just used to having it exposited for them. Creator/director George Miller will have none of that mess.
Third, it is a feminist film. Not a perfect one, but one nonetheless. Want to know more? Google it. Want to argue about it? Then take it to one of those sites. FURY ROAD is Imperator Furiosa’s story and yes, the spotlight shines on her frequently. But the idea that this comes, or indeed, must come at a cost to Mad Max — either as a character in this particular film or to the franchise in general — is bullshit. And I’ve seen this argument on both sides of the “MM:FR is Feminist” debate. And you know what, if some folks feel the interpretation of “Max has to be sidelined so Furiosa can be front and center” is necessary — well I just don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world; it’s totally arguable. I just don’t buy it.
Personally, I thought the Max I saw in FURY ROAD is pretty compelling. THE ROAD WARRIOR and BEYOND THUNDERDOME make clear that Max is ultimately concerned about exactly two things: His immediate survival and a shot at redemption, in that exact order. In that context, it makes absolute sense that Max’s alliance with Furiosa and Immortan Joe’s Wives didn’t happen after any kind of “Come to Jesus” moment about the righteousness of their cause. There was no indication he thought or felt anything along the lines of, “I must help burn down this Patriarchy That Objectifies Women and Brainwashes Boys to Perpetuate the Cycle!”
In fact, the moment Max had anything resembling an upper hand in the film, his first move was to threaten Furiosa with throwing her, The Wives, and himself under Immortan Joe’s fast approaching bus. This, AFTER coming to understand their plight. A bluff? Maybe. But regardless of his intentions or subsequent deeds, this act (for which I don’t think he ever formally apologized) is the modern-day equivalent of tweeting out…
@MadMax: Sorry @Furiosa but if I don’t get away, none of us do. Hope #WeAreNotThings was fun while it lasted… #BloodBag #WhatALovelyDay #ZeroFucks
But instead of throwing under, he throws in, because just like ROAD WARRIOR and THUNDERDOME, these people end up being the keys to both his immediate survival and a shot at redemption. And he knows it. Which means, of course he climbs all over the War Rig to keep it moving. Of course, he lets Furiosa use him as literal support to take out the Bullet Farmer. Immediate survival. And of course, he encourages them to go back to the Citadel. That’s for some redemption, something Furiosa wants for herself as well.
So, don’t listen to any of this “FURY ROAD sux ‘cos Max isn’t driving the plot of his own movie!” crap. I mean, except for MAD MAX, has Max ever really driven the plot? Granted, I haven’t watched ROAD WARRIOR or THUNDERDOME in awhile but as I recall them, you can argue they were both about Max stumbling into other people’s squabbles, trying to work a hustle, failing, and then ultimately fumbling his way to doing The Right Thing before resuming his Walkabout. Hell, in the first movie, Max was lackadaisically half-assing his cop gig for two-thirds of the story before his wife and kid get killed.
All that said, I do have two nits that I almost missed because yes, the movie throws you right into the action and doesn’t stop. One: Is George Miller really trying tell me that in a post-scarcity economy, it makes sense for Immortan Joe to burn guzzoline to get guzzoline from a town withing spitting distance? He had engineers and mechanics, and no one thought to build a pipe? “But it was his display of wealth and power, blah blah….” Whatever. Two: No third party narration at the end. If someone pointed a gun to my head and forced me to come up with one thing that didn’t make this a “Real Mad Max movie” to me, okay… it’d be that.