“Aunt Harriet used to call them anti-seeds, plant one and watch them die!”
One of the most amazing things you must immediately realise about Mad Max Fury Road is that for nearly the first 20 or so minutes Tom Hardy speaks VERY little and yet, conveys SO MUCH!
Not only does that take talent, but it also requires fantastic writing as well as directing. As a director you HAVE to be able to give the film the flow necessary to have one of your top draw co-stars relay his true emotional state, his true energy from scene to scene WITHOUT SPEAKING for quite some time!
After having watched those first 20 or so minutes I was beginning to wonder if that was all that I could find that makes this cinematic marvel a masterpiece. Knowing George Miller, Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and their talents and gifts as I do, I am over the moon elated to say, I was indeed INCORRECT.
Now, let’s get to it shall we?
Feminism and Capitalism. Two key concepts in MMFR. In fact, I would surmise, the only concepts that carry you through the film and into that slice of Nirvana I believe every filmmaker hopes to achieve and every filmgoer hopes to see.
Why? What is it about these two important issues that George Miller seems to have a brilliant mind to display so well on-screen, scene after scene, dialogue after dialogue that you find yourself talking about them in vivid detail days later? At initial glance, one might think that MMFR is solely a commentary on environmentalism and man’s brutal abuse of our planet. And while that is a central concept, it’s not what makes MMFR such a phenomenal movement in film.
There are some extremely powerful, firecracker, highly intelligent, and stubborn women in MMFR! In fact, feminism is a concept that is amazingly front and center nearly the entire film. In this dystopia, in this barren wasteland, you see the strength of will and the will to survive portrayed so gallantly in every central character. It’s necessary yes, but the manner in which is showcased makes you feel exactly WHY it’s necessary.
You see so many women kick arse in this film and make no apologies for wanting not only to survive, but to live a life filled with a greater sense of humanity and hope. They fight for what they want, for what they believe in and there’s no leaning in, no apology for valour and brutality. This film absolutely obliterates the Bechtel test literally from almost the beginning of the film and handles THAT task so masterfully, you wonder why it’s taken this long to have a film be able to dismiss it so handily that didn’t appear to be pandering!
Capitalism….’do not my friends become addicted to water, for it will take hold of you and you begrudge/resent its absence’…
One of the many things George Miller has handled so dynamically well in this film is the conversation about capitalism. Greed, lack of empathy for the destitute, and lack of plausible solutions about how to get more people working at jobs that pay them livable wages that will actually allow for them to invest their hard earned money back in the economy to help it grow – these concepts are key.
There’s even a milking farm which is a very mirror image metaphor for the favouritism known as capitalism. Immorten Joe is not only a metaphor; he’s also an outcome, the metamorphosis of all that indeed can be wrong with a capitalist society. He’s the epitome of how trickle down NEVER works and Miller staged these scenes that show this so well, you find yourself reflecting upon just how accurate and scary these scenes truly are. Indeed a mirror reflection of life for most of the planet.
Greed…….chastity belts, his ‘property’, “coming to count the cost”…”WHO KILLED THE WORLD?” “Perfect in Every Way”…..”Back then everyone had their fill, back then there was no need to snap anybody”…..Splendid…
The world has indeed gone MAD. All of it. And in such a place survival is the order of the day. EVERY DAY. But what happens when survival is no longer the aim, but the assumption? As in, those who assume because not only do they have more, but that they have better stature, better location, better physicality, that no one else’s needs, desires, and dreams need be heard or addressed? You end up with people like Immorten Joe and The Citadel.
There’s a tremendous presence of Xenophobia, Genomics, and elitism from those above, and an immediate requirement of the ultimate sacrifice for those below. Never mind who or what is undoubtedly responsible for the status of all in Mad Max’s world, those who PAY the cost are nothing like those who COUNT the cost.
Hope……..witness me, all chrome, out here EVERYTHING hurts….the seeds…the green place of many mothers….by his hand we will be redeemed… As a viewer into the world of Mad Max, you’re introduced immediately to the cult of desolation that is Immorten Joe and The Citadel.
You right away meet the WAR BOYS (that’s in caps for a reason I promise). You’re introduced to the cult of desolation disguised as the cult of hope. You hear proclamations which are genuinely requests like “witness me, I need chrome, and only by his hand are we redeemed.”
The WAR BOYS are so indoctrinated into The Cult Of Immorten Joe and The Citadel, their greatest fears are not dying, but dying with no one to witness them thus not being allowed to rise and live again. There is an extreme sense of Zealotism that would frighten many, if we hadn’t already seen something very similar in today’s time with religions and other avenues of faith.
It’s clear, that mankind has not learned its lesson about how to better handle the doctrine and its continued use by many to simply control others and elevate or indemnify themselves. Even Furiosa and the five wives have a sense of hope, dreams, maybe even memories. They’ve decided their fates are to be their own and they risk life and limb to make those dreams a reality. The land of the many mothers gives a sense of hope where before for at least 7000 days, there has been none. There’s no way anyone could tell the Furiosa Five that they’re not deserving or worthy. It’s doctrine, flipped upon its head.
Humanity……. I am the one who runs from both the living AND the dead…..the seeds… Max makes a heart stopping testament very early in the film that cannot be ignored. “I am the one who runs from both the living and the dead.” This serves not only to give you a strong back story about Max, but it also manages to tether you to the humanity that he holds deep inside, even while dealing with survivalists whom now only showcase the WORST in humanity.
Max is a MAN. Yes there is chaos, yes there is insanity, yes the world has indeed gone mad, but MAX IS A MAN. And no matter what you see, no matter what you witness, chromed or not, nothing has taken that away from him, YET.
There is also a brilliant introduction of the seeds. Not only do they signify HOPE but they signify GROWTH. Possibilities. Remember this from the beginning? “Aunt Harriet used to call them anti-seeds, plant one and watch them die!” This refers to a common theme in the film that is the ANTITHESIS of seeds which bring change, essence, energy. The antithesis are DEATH, DESOLATION, DESPAIR. I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes, which is such a strong parallel here that I had to take more than a few moments to gather my thoughts. “They wanted to bury us, but they forgot we were seeds.” Every single moment of survival and triumph in MMFR is more water for the seeds, the people, of this destitute wasteland.
Redemption….For Furiosa, the dangerous journey to the land of many mothers isn’t self-serving in a way most others would think. For her, every single one of those 7000 days (plus the ones she can’t remember) has been sheer torture, sheer hell on earth. Her ancestors, such strong women, such fighters of injustice, and symbols of RENEWAL have guided her to this very moment. To this very crossroad.
For Max, his failures have meant the worst consequences anyone could imagine. And until he atones for those failures, there will be many days of nightmare saturated sleep, no uplifting of spirit, no self-forgiveness. When he begins this journey, it’s solely about survival. When this portion of the journey ends, it is about counting the cost, planting the seeds, and healing his broken spirit, heart, and world.
The brilliant fact that Tom Hardy’s Max, says VERY little during the entire film, and yet manages to convey so very much about not only how he got to this pointe, but how the rest of humanity arrived at such a parched, chaotic, hurtful and dreary existence.
I think the fact that we’ve had so many apocalyptic/dystopian films in the past 10 years is the sole strike against this perfect, awe-inspiring masterpiece of cinema. Having screened it twice and being an enthusiast from the first film which debuted over 30 years ago when I was a small child, I watch the reactions and listened to the discussions of others in the crowd. The majority of those viewing the film were white males in their late 30s-late 40s and their wives, many of whom had to be dragged into see this movie. (Ironically enough, everyone seemed to actually enjoy MMFR and appreciate it for what it is, as well as the changes in current film making techniques that it will undoubtedly bring about).
But I couldn’t help but notice many in that target demo, whom although they enjoyed the film, had far too many pivotal moments go over their heads, and clearly were suffering from dystopian/apocalyptic fatigue. That’s a shame because this pillar of symphonic cinematic achievement is kilos ahead and above every dystopian/apocalyptic film since its predecessor.
It’s certainly worth a second, third, or even fourth look in theatres. There’s something new, interesting, different, and game-changing every time you screen it. It’s an absolute #MUSTSEE a full FIVE STARS and something you will find yourself discussing because if it’s timeliness for years to come.
And “Oh What A Lovely Day;” the flame-throwing guitar is indeed REAL!!!
Our Resident Movie Reviewer Joyll Cambridge hails from Manchester, United Kingdom and currently lives in New York, New York. She loves all things movies, fitness and swirling. To read Joyll’s personal blog at The Humanist Exec, click here.
Copyright ©2015 Michelle Matthews Calloway, ASwirlGirl™, The Swirl World™, The Swirl World Podcast™, The Swirl World Inspiration Daily™, Swirl Nation™, All rights reserved. Photo of Joyll Cambridge used with permission. Movie poster of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) obtained from the Mad Max Official Facebook page here. All rights reserved.