I posted this on my Facebook page the other night, but it’s long enough I figured I oughta post it here as well, with appropriate hyperlinks. Upon further reflection, I’d add that they should probably just close down the Oscar nominations next year for set design, costuming and makeup, because there’s no way this film won’t sweep those categories. I will eat my hat if any other film this year can top it within that very narrow arena:
So I watched Mad Max: Fury Road tonight. I’m having some difficulty organizing my thoughts here because it’s rare to see a big-budget film that is so aggressively in-your-face BIZARRE. Think Jodorowsky’s-vision-of-“Dune” bizarre. So here are some bullet points:
1. Did I like it? Hell yes! At the same time, watching it was a strange experience, because I spent much of the time wondering how in the heck director George Miller talked somebody into giving him $200 million to make what looks like a live-action version of something from “Métal Hurlant.”
2. You know people (including me, from time to time) who constantly bitch about how movies are never original, and everything is just a big rehash or remake or sequel to something else? Well, here you go: here’s something that is 99 percent original in every way. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s ostensibly a “sequel” to the Mad Max movies, but it’s really more of a spiritual sequel, like how the first “Fallout” game was a spiritual sequel to the classic 1980s DOS game “Wasteland.” This is a movie where it feels like at every step of the way, the filmmakers asked themselves, “what can we do here that literally nobody has ever seen before?”
3. There’s been quite a bit of controversy about this movie caused by the fact that the director has been going around telling people it’s supposed to be a feminist parable of some sort. They even brought in Eve Ensler, who wrote “The Vagina Monologues,” as a consultant!
I was initially very worried about this — not because I hate feminism or anything, but because when I go to a big stupid popcorn movie, the last thing I want is to hear a lecture about Serious Issues. If I want to listen to a sermon, I’ll go to church, thank you very much.
If you’re wary of the film for that reason, allow me to put your mind at ease: I think that director Miller is, get this, flat-out lying about the whole feminist angle. I strongly suspect he’s just saying that so nerdy male movie buffs can give their feminist girlfriends an excuse to drag them to see this movie: “See, honey, it’s not a dumb testosterone-addled action movie! It’s about Girl Power!”
Oh, don’t get me wrong: The film does explore female-positive themes. For instance, the movie takes an extremely strong stand against the sexual enslavement of women. If you are a man who believes women should be raped and enslaved, you will be very offended by this movie. The movie is also strongly in favor of girls driving fast and shooting bad guys. Other guys who will find this movie offensive include men who believe in foot-binding and dudes who oppose women’s right to vote.
Seriously: That’s it. That’s the movie’s Big Feminist Message: The radical idea that women aren’t livestock. As a statement on gender roles, there is literally nothing here that would be considered out of place in the 1930s. If you as a man find this film’s gender politics objectionable, then you are seriously disturbed.
4. I’m not kidding: There seriously isn’t a single deep intellectual notion to be found anywhere in this movie. Don’t be fooled by all the overeducated twits you see online who are pushing the idea that this is a movie with a Serious Message. I feel quite confident stating that this is the most deliberately unserious movie that will be released in 2015 — and that includes the sequel to “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” This movie looks like what you’d get if you gave an 11-year-old boy who loves video games a quarter of a billion dollars to make the movie of his dreams. It’s all big, loud, fast cars and explosions and people shooting at each other, with all the art design taken from the notebook scribblings of a middle-school kid who listens to too much death metal. I loved every minute of it. 🙂