PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

Charlize Theron Brings the War Rig in 'Mad Max - Fury Road'

Like the titular Max, Charlize Theron's Furiosa is trying to survive in a world made of beauty and bruising violence, a hallmark of all the Mad Max movies. But she has a mission, too.


Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Nathan Jones, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Rated: R
Studio: Cinema Guild
Year: 2015
US date: 2015-05-15 (General release)
UK date: 2015-05-14 (General release)
Website
Trailer

"Hey, what's your name? What do I call you?" Furiosa (Charlize Theron) stares hard at the man (Tom Hardy) in the passenger seat of her War Rig. As imposing as she is, he won't tell her. "Does it matter?" he asks.

Of course it does. You know his name is Max, as he's proclaimed at the start of the movie that is, after all, titled for him. Some 35 years after George Miller's first Mad Max, something like a reboot emerges from the Wasteland, conjuring another future at once mythic and ancient, mesmerizing and near. Here again, Max is a self-described warrior living in a "world is fire and blood." He's a survivor, he goes on, "hunted by scavengers and haunted by those I could not protect," figures who appear in nightmarish flashes in his head, including a little white girl and an Aboriginal elder, the sorts of instantly identifiable vulnerables that Max, a hero in spite of himself, repeatedly and reluctantly tries to look after.

Max's feeling of guilt is as legendary as his car chases. This feeling is grounded in his past, specifically, as he reminds you in a confessional voiceover at the start of Mad Max: Fury Road, the fact that he was once a cop. When, young and cocky, he took up against a brutal road gang in the 1979 movie, they murdered is wife and child, an act of vengeance that made him mad, in all senses. His transition from cop to road warrior was marked when, in the 1981 movie, he traded in his police cruiser for "the last of the V8 Interceptors", a brilliantly jerry-rigged fiction of a Ford Falcon.

That car was famously destroyed in order that he might drive a tanker full of sand and save a tribe whose members included the Feral Kid (Emil Minty). Mad Max: Fury Road briefly revives a version of that car, and proceeds to blow it up within a couple of minutes in order to make Max to drive another big rig, Furiosa's. He shares the responsibility this time, with her and with the doomed pale-powdered War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). That Max is no longer the only or best driver underlines that he's now less special than representative.

Max is an outsider by definition, loathe even to try to reconnect, to feel intimacy. Yet as soon as he sees Furious, each traveling in a separate vehicle at high speed in the desert, the superb editing (a signature of the franchise) signals their mutual understanding. At this moment, she's driving her War Rig and he's chained to Nux's truck as he serves as his Blood Bag, Nux being so damaged that he needs a transfusion to travel with him. Though his service here as hood ornament recalls the beigey prisoners in Road Warrior, he bears an extra sign of Joe's reign, muzzled with a fantastically forked metal face mask.

The mask leaves Max looking frightful, and underscores his multiple status here. He's Max but he's not Mel Gibson, he's mad but he's not Furiosa, he's cruel (quite willing to shoot girls and boys to survive) but he's wounded, persuaded to help. He also remains the movie's only ex-cop. That haunts him, and you, that he participated in a brutal system that produced brutality, a system that produced the family of warlords now hoarding resources and promulgating mantras ("I die, I live again"). Again, the warlords rule tiny desert pockets named for their resources, like Gastown and the Bullet Farms. But gasoline is no longer the primary desired object. Instead, that's water, secured in the Citadel, named for its structure and function.

Known throughout the Wasteland, the Citadel is -- or may be -- singular, surrounded by endless space and inexpressible pain. "Out here," Furiosa declares, "Everything hurts." She begins the movie in the Citadel as a much-respected imperator, visibly distressed as she watches the ritual release of water from a fertile cliff-top, home to Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his broken-gened sons. A starving mass of humanity holds up their plates and cups as Immortan Joe reminds them he's their savior, that he will deliver them to "Valhalla" and oh, by the way, "Don't get addicted to water. It will take hold of you and you will resent its absence."

Both lunatic and realistic, Joe's caution is of a piece with his exhortations to the War Boys. Desperate and enthusiastic killers, cancerous and demented boys, they think they're fully committed to becoming martyrs. "I am awaited," proclaims Nux, "I am awaited in Valhalla." It's funny, and not, that he offers this explanation to a group of young women Furiosa has freed from his boss, Immortan Joe. Where Nux is all flaws, his blood and body cancerous, his half-life nearly over, the girls are supermodels, flawless boys' fantasies who nonetheless sort out how to fight back, their long legs, perfect hair, and bared midriffs enchanting and appalling.

Like the War Boys, the girls are wild children (one plays with the music box cherished by the Feral Kid in Road Warrior, a lovely allusion) and like the War Boys, they serve a horrific master. Before Furiosa acts -- bravely, deviously -- they're Joe's breeders, his own embodied hope for a faultless male heir. They resent their designation, just as Max does ("Don't damage the goods," sneers one of the girls when she's threatened). Joe and his minions chase after the escapees who hurtle along the desert and bog down in mud, seeking an alternative mythic place, the Green Place, which Furiosa recalls from her childhood, before she turned mad, before she shaved her head, blacked her eyes, and possessed a War Rig. Her memories include visions of women in charge, growing trees and fruits. It's only a hard day's journey away, she thinks, her memory imperfect and her desire overwhelming. "You know hope is a mistake," Max reminds her.

Yes. Hope is also what makes Fury Road go. For all the cruelty and destruction in its many monsters' hearts, the movie is a paean to hope. In part, as Miller has insisted in all of the Mad Max movies, this hope is manifest in stunts, in magic created by bodies rather than CGI (apart from Furiosa's mechanical arm and some erased safety wires, the flying bodies, flipping cars, and leaping bikes are material things, filmed). Fights are choreographed like dances, gorgeous and ingenious. The Pole Cats show up late in a late chase, thrillingly bouncing on poles over moving vehicles, dipping in and out of open windows and open roofs, their violence daunting and their acrobatics astounding. When Max, still chained to Nux, fights Furiosa who fights Nux who fights the girls, their dance is like silent comedy, with full-tilt smackdown sound added.

Such mixing of beauty and bruising violence is a signature of the Mad Max movies. So too is Max's ambiguity, his determination not to do anything and his inclination to do the mostly right thing. This is where Furiosa is both his reflection and his opposite. Like him, she seeks redemption, and like him, she's good at everything needed to survive. But unlike Max, Furiosa knows what she wants.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.