May 21, 2015 Leave a comment
The Citadel of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is a symbolic patriarchal construct that stands in for much of the history of power. Leveraging control of precious resources (water, making him chief even to rivals in control of fuel and weapons), he exerts control over the population as a sort of god-king. The women are reduced to reproductive capacity and as producers of milk while the men broadly are reduced to warrior, egged on by religious myth that convinces them this manner of life is anything but a colossal waste. Joe metes out just enough of his resources to control the population (what academics of authoritarian regimes would call a rent).Turns out he didn’t underestimated or undervalued the women around him as Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, or a spell from Harry Potter, not sure which), a woman who has risen in the ranks of his attack squads, breaks from him, helping his harem escape. Max (Tom Hardy), sympathetic based on his own history of failing to save his wife and child and many other losses along the way, joins along in their quest after early tensions.
With significant world building managed rather efficiently, that mostly steps aside for a mostly non-stop thrill ride of action as their escape vessel is besieged by wave after wave of enemies. The vehicular choreography is definitely imaginative, to match the design of costumes/make-up and of vehicles. It may not seem practical to have a vehicle in the chase, using up precious fuel, just as a platform for drums and a flame-throwing guitar, but there you have it. Even amid the action the film finds time for meaningful character bits. There is one moment when one of the wives is readying to throw out one particularly avid member of the raiding party, Nux (Nicholas Hoult), has a brief interchange that highlights a certain tragedy of patriarchy. Nux is part of the patriarchy that “destroyed the world” but he is also a victim of it. His character arc ultimately is one of the most interesting as he goes from eager to martyr himself for the empty cause of patriarchy to wanting to live but willing to sacrifice himself for the nobler future that these women and their rebellion represent.
The turning point that sparks the third act is particularly meaningful. Furiosa’s mission had been to escape from the patriarchal society. Ultimately Max dispels her illusion that it can be run for, instead insisting that it needs to be fought head on and changed from within. But this is a mission led by Furiosa, Max and Nux are simply allies in the fight. Fight they do, but it isn’t they who seek the glory. Citadel is ultimately reborn in an egalitarian model. We don’t see exactly how it will run and how it will work out, but we have hope that it will succeed offering a fairer distribution of resources and providing its people greater freedom to meaningful achievement and not simply used to others’ ends. This isn’t the deepest parable, but for a film that puts action front and center, it is a valuable grounding. This easily allows it to become the best in the Mad Max series thus far, though I ponder if a making of documentary might be even better because damn, those stunts.