Monday, May 18, 2015

Movie Review: Mad Max Fury Road

Holy mother of all that is brutal and post apocalyptical, I just saw Mad Max Fury Road and what a wildly intense movie it is! Loud, violent, intense, fast and crazy. But, even more importantly, Fury Road is a deeply layered movie with many important observations of what human beings are and how we behave. Ultimately, we truly are animals. That is the main truth that is present here. No matter what, we will fight to survive because that is what animals do. We must survive to keep the species going and they will do anything to do that.

There has been much talk about how important this movie is in terms of feminism, which is wonderful to see. I don’t know how much I need to add to that part of the film. It felt like a strong feminist movie, but didn’t feel at all like it had gone out of its way to be such. It was what it was and showed that issues facing women can be dealt with in an intense action film. Hopefully, it will lead to more exploration of what role women can play in future movies of all genres, particularly ones dominated by men.

For me, however, one of the most fascinating parts of the film was its critique of religion. Young warrior men head off to fight in the belief that they will pass into heaven (in this case Valhalla) after they are essentially martyred in battle for their political, spiritual, totalitarian leader. Gee, where have we heard this before? Could it be in the young men who shoot up cartoonists or behead people in the desert in the belief that it is what some kind of god wishes…convinced by some spokesman for the religion that martyrdom is a beautiful thing? What better way to convince people to, in such a vigorous and passionate way, sacrifice themselves and face death believing they are doing the right thing and will go into a utopian afterlife (or even just exist forever) than through religion? We see young warrior men in this move smiling, excited, happy, almost giddy in the knowledge that they are about to die because they are so convinced that it will lead them to something better, turning otherwise decent people into blood thirsty killers.

Prayer rituals, symbols of faith and brotherhood, mantra’s and a symbolic spray painting of the mouth (in chrome) signifying that one is about to face his death and go to Valhalla seem ridiculous when set in a movie, yet is reflective of what religion really truly is, and really always has been. And having it laid out so bare and open, seeing these people wishing to die while killing others, should make anyone consider the sheer power that can be held over people by religion, although that is certainly not the only ism that can have this power.

Now, I have been blown away by some of the critique of the film, where people see it only as an action flick with no plot, and it’s kind of a movie where you go and shut off your brain and be entertained by mindless violence. I ain’t seeing that. This is not some fluff action movie in the slightest.  I left the theatre, a head full of thoughts about what it means to be human, tribalism, nationalism, religion, power structures, how we use our natural resources, what the future could be like if we continue on the path of environmental punishment we are on, the role of women in any society, the role of warfare on our planet, etc. The movie did a great job of tackling a ton of ideas with a limited amount of dialogue. That amazes me. But, regardless of these interesting bits and pieces within the film, yes, an amazing aspect of the flick is the sheer brutality of a post-apocalyptic wasteland being tackled by marauding warriors driving insanely designed vehicles that collide and explode and flip and bash and bang their way across a barren desert. And, in this sense, there is plenty of incredible stuff to witness, hear and experience within this movie that you don’t have to look at any of the other narratives that are readily available to get the full throttle enjoyment out of it. But, they are still there, and are worth plunging into for the questions it raises, if not the answers it gives. 

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