What a lovely day.

George Miller’s bombastic revision of the 1970s classic Mad Max is, quite simply, undeniable. The most recent iteration in the franchise, Fury Road is an orgy of colour, chaos and frenetic madness anchored by the unwavering Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron).

Mad Max Furiosa 2

Whilst the film bears an obvious resemblance to its predecessors, unlike the original, Fury Road doesn’t draw on masculinist tropes to frame its narrative. Nor does it placate noisy Men’s Right’s Activists (MRAs) who insist that the “masculinist fantasia” (thanks, Garth Jones) denied to them is an insult to the franchise at best and an exercise in feminist propaganda at worst. Instead, Fury Road is populated by kick-arse women who are bold, resilient and resourceful in the face of a post-apocalyptic patriarchal nightmare. What’s more, Miller doesn’t rely on sexualised violence in order to communicate the plight of the world’s female inhabitants. Bravo.

For the uninitiated, Mad Max: Fury Road follows the stories of Max (Thomas Hardy) and Furiosa, an unlikely pair who form an alliance based on mutual benefit: the former seeks refuge and a means of escape from Immortan Joe and the “War Boys”, whilst the latter is on a quest to free a harem of “breeders” kept by Joe at the citadel. The chase is relentless and occupies almost the entire film. Our heroes are forced to endure unthinkable stress, yet they are equally as unforgiving in their retribution. As Furiosa tells one of Joe’s wives, ‘everything hurts out here’.

Mad Max Joe

The film is being lauded for its brilliant cinematography and striking landscape. It’s truly beautiful to watch, which is a remarkable feat for a jacked-up action romp. Filmed in the Namib desert, Fury Road presents a stunning juxtaposition of colours, characters and landscapes which combine to create a world which is at once desolate and manic. Whilst the original drew on gritty realism to convey a sense of desperation, Fury Road is visually stunning in vivid shades of red, orange and yellow. In fact, the only muted tones in the film are on the characters themselves and the hotted-up Franken-cars they ride in.

Furthermore, the barren landscape in which the film is set serves as a reminder that despite the looming threat of battle the greatest risk to survival is isolation. The violent conflict is the inevitable outcome of a post-apocalyptic environment where people are forcibly dependent on one another for survival. The characters also share an uneasy alliance with mechanised technology. Furiosa’s mechanical arm is a constant reminder of the cost of survival and a symbolic reference to her resourceful nature and dependency on the war rig. Life is an endurance test for these characters.

Mad Max landscape

The audience is invited to view the world through the eyes of Max; however, arguably the most relatable character is Furiosa, who literally drives the plot. Her unwavering commitment to relocating Joe’s harem to the “Green Place”, her home before she was stolen as a child and taken to the citadel, anchors the chase to a larger narrative. Despite her hardened exterior, Furiosa is driven by hope. This makes her stronger than any other character. The tenacity with which she pursues her goal is unmatched by either Joe and his manic war pups or Max and his desperate flight from inner demons. She shapes the fate of all who she meets, including Max, Joe and the harem.

Most of all, she creates a space for the film to explore the relationships of women, which are beautifully captured in this film and rendered with honesty. From Furiosa’s “tough love” approach to the surly harem, who defend her life with fierce loyalty, to the knowing advice of a matriarch where the wisdom of age reflects the innocence of youth, Fury Road conveys the bonds of women in all their complexity.

Fury Road paves the way for exciting new trends in Hollywood. With so many juxtaposing themes, beautiful action stunts, and complex female characters who relate to one another honestly and with purpose, it is unique not only to its genre but to contemporary film-making generally. And if you’re still not convinced, at least see it for the flame-thrower guitar.



Feature image via: Warner Brothers Pictures