With my current Duplass brothers obsession, I didn’t think I’d be all that into Mad Max. I thought Thunderdome was the best of the trilogy, am a Tom Hardy fan, and was fascinated that the man who created Happy Feat and Lorenzo’s Oil would be now making a VFX-driven action film, fourth installment/remake, but my friend calling it a “two hour long music video” made me skeptical.
I really did love the film though. It is some of the best action I’ve seen in a while. I never looked at my watch or felt bored by the barrage of fire, explosions, and car chases. It wasn’t because I particularly cared about the characters. It was because it was great, inventive action.
What especially stood out to me was the world Miller created, in particular the film’s treatment of religion. There are two “religions” in the film. One is created by the evil boss, bad man to convince his white-painted henchmen to do his bidding despite the clear threat it poses to their well being. The other is held by his “breeders” and is used for a similar reason: it gives them a Heaven to look forward to. But the film shows that neither group is well off believing such things. The two characters that the audience connects with are Max, who is clearly a selfish skeptic, and Furiosa, who isn’t searching for some mythical place but the home she was taken from.
The two are completely selfish but in so being, they find it beneficial to help each other and further each other’s goals. In doing so, they bring down the people in power, bettering the lives of everyone, but most importantly, their own. Their empathy derives from their self interest. Religion just gets people killed and while the leaders of it might be well off, they sure don’t look like they are in as good a position as our heroes are at the end of the film.
I love how modern the film is. Furiosa is probably the fiercest person in the film and she is a one-armed woman! I recently went back and started rewatching Lost. I had never seen the final season so I thought I’d start from the beginning and finish what was once my favorite show. But I could not stand it! It was so sexist. I stopped midway through the second season.
Take Ana Lucia for instance. She is the ruler of her camp, which consists of an old man, a bunch of women, and a guy who doesn’t talk. But once she encounters the rest of the survivors, she is a total screw up. She kills someone innocent and becomes an outcast. When there are able men around, she is no longer capable of leading. Not only that, but she is shown to be totally helpless. When she is setting up her camp, Jack has to come over and help her put up a tarp, correct her for doing it wrong. Not only that but Jack is the one who accepts her/allows her to join the group because of a potentially sexual encounter they had. A man has to approve of her and does so only because he has the hots for her.
That’s just one example of why I couldn’t keep watching. There are plenty of others. (Men can go prancing off into the jungle on their own but any time a woman does, someone says “you shouldn’t go alone.” Rousseau lives on her own in the jungle but she’s portrayed as being crazy.) While I think some aspects of the filmic art form are heading in the wrong direction (such as that the Platinum Age of Television is really just a glorification of villains), I do think we’ve made some social progress. Mad Max is a prime example. A big studio action film doesn’t need to be dumb.