Score One For The Ladies

Watched the eagerly anticipated “Mad Max: Fury Road” at the cinema recently. Thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, the Kid and I liked it so much we went back for a second viewing last weekend.

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What did I like about the film?

1) the cinematography was astounding. The film was shot on location mainly in the Namibian desert. Never since the original Star Wars trilogy (the ones with Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford) have I seen a film where the backdrop is a star in its own right. The most haunting scene for me was the one at night where the war rig passes through a desolate area, deserted but for some dead, twisted trees, crows and strange human figures walking on all fours on stilts. Shot with a blue filter, nonetheless. Very Daliesque indeed.

2) the soundtrack was great and in keeping with the action. I’ve watched films that suffered greatly from having an insipid soundtrack. These days there are plenty of talented composers out there clamouring to score for a blockbuster movie, so it’s nice to see relative newcomer Tom Holkenborg a.k.a Junkie XL being given the Mad Max honour. I especially liked how the action was able to incorporate and utilise to great effect a vehicle full of drum-banging war boys and most spectacularly a scarlet-clad, rictus-faced musician on a double-necked, electric guitar that also doubled as a flame thrower. There’s a fight scene towards the end, where this hapless guitarist becomes a yo-yo, literally.

3) the film showed how women were treated as worse than animals or slaves in Mad Max’s post-apocalyptic world. How they were literally milked like cows. Used as “breeders” to provide healthy children to the brutal warlord Immortan Joe. There is a scene where Immortan Joe runs to the vault where he keeps his favourite beautiful “breeders”, only to find them gone, and messages painted on the walls and floor of the prison reading “We Are Not Things”, “Our Babies Will Not Be Warlords” and “You Do Not Own Us”. Charlize Theron plays Imperator Furiosa, a trusted war rig driver tasked to deliver Mothers’ Milk to Gas City down a straight road in the desert, in exchange for gasoline…who decides to help 5 of Immortan Joe’s “breeders” escape. Herself a branded slave taken from her home at a young age, Furiosa takes her war rig off the road and heads east, towards the Green Place, her homeland. Immortan Joe and all his war boys set off in pursuit to bring back the “breeders”.

What ensues is basically a road trip on steroids. Warring factions try to take the war rig for its milk and an extra pod of fuel. Immortan Joe’s war boys all try to stop the war rig and bring back the 5 beautiful damsels hiding within it. Mad Max, played by Tom Hardy, has been living in a cage at Immortan Joe’s Citadel, used as a bloodbag to feed ailing warboys. Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult, is an ambitious war boy dying a slow death due to 2 huge tumours growing out of his neck. When Nux hears that everyone is going after Imperator Furiosa, he decides to join the chase. Only, he needs Mad Max’s blood, so he takes him along on the road. And that is how Mad Max enters the Fury Road story.

I loved how the film showed that you just can’t put a good woman down. I felt it empowered women and cast them as strong, fearless, resilient and resourceful. In times of desperation, all the girls worked together. In one powerful scene, just when Immortan Joe is about to shoot Furiosa in the cab of her war rig, one of his “breeders, the heavily pregnant Splendid Angharad, played magnificently by model-actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, swings open the door of the car and stands defiantly in Immortan Joe’s line of fire, thwarting him and daring him to kill her and his impending offspring.

As for Furiosa herself, she’s more than capable of tackling any man that dares threaten her or her precious human cargo. Single-handedly, no less. And I mean that literally, as Furiosa is a one-armed warrior woman. After a few tussles with both Mad Max and Nux, she decides to trust them and uses them to help get them all across the forbidding desert to the Green Place. Which doesn’t exist anymore, much to everyone’s dismay, but that makes for the latter half of the film, the return to Citadel, to take it from Immortan Joe.

On one hand is Immortan Joe’s colony of people with terrible mutations and birth defects, living a violent life where dying in war is the way to enter Valhalla. Immortan Joe controls the Citadel’s water supply, which he turns on when he feels like it. He tells his people not to get addicted to water. And only gives them enough to survive. Milking Mothers are what his human “cows” are called, hooked up to breast pumps just like cows, and their milk stored and used for nourishment or as items for barter and trade.

On the other hand there’s the Vuvalinis’ attempts to preserve and restore Mother Nature’s bounty, in the middle of a desert wasteland. The Vuvalinis are the tribe of warrior women that Furiosa comes from. They and Furiosa reunite in the desert, and the young ladies are warmly welcomed. Later, the Keeper of the Seeds shows one of the “breeders”, The Dag, a large bag containing seeds, and tells her they contain the future, if only there was any good soil to plant them in. The Dag inherits this bag when the Keeper dies, and takes it with her when they return triumphantly to the Citadel. Where there is ample water and hydroponics, and Hope.

Women as Custodians of the Earth, Men as Destroyers.

There was some outcry from some Men’s Activist groups, who called for viewers to boycott the film, calling it a “feminist piece of propaganda masquerading as a guy flick” https://au.movies.yahoo.com/news/a/27915332/men-s-rights-activists-urge-mad-max-fury-road-boycott/. They felt the film was more of a vehicle for Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, rather than Tom Hardy’s Mad Max. Ummm, Duh! The title “Fury Road” should have been a giveaway from the start?

It IS Mad Max’s story. But it is also Furiosa’s story. And for a while, it was Their Story, they made an awesome team. Neither of their stories end, instead they go separate ways: Furiosa, into the Citadel to forge a new future for her people, and Max, into the sunset to feature in the next Mad Max adventure.

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