Manero

Mad Max and Mad Men

By: Yehudit Mam

Some dudes are threatening to boycott this new George Miller apocalyptic extravaganza because, according to them, it’s a “feminist” movie. Miller and Warner Bros. must be trembling all the way to the bank.

Allow me to gently correct those wounded machos who resent Charlize Theron’s screen time. Mad Max is not a feminist movie. It is an action movie in which a female character finally has weight.

This may come as a shock, as this fact is hard to gauge from watching most Hollywood films, but half of humanity happens to be female. If George Miller had the good sense to factor this little statistic into his movie, and give a woman something important to do for a change, this should be cause for celebration, not outrage.

Mad Max: Fury Road is so resolutely apocalyptic, semi-nihilistic and antiheroic, that it is a bracing, if relentless, antidote against the tired superhero ethos of the Marvel sausage factory. In case anyone has any doubts, Max (a battered Tom Hardy) explains at the beginning of the flick that all he cares about is survival. To hell with simplistic notions of good and evil, capes, tights and silly superpowers. In this dusty, overheated world, populated with bizarre freaks, survival is the only game in town. All that Miller allows besides that is a sprinkling of conscience, which comes in the form of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, gorgeous even with a shaved head and gobs of smeared mascara on her forehead). A former slave, she defies Immortan Joe, a horrible paternalistic leader, in order to save a bunch of anorexic, scantily clad women called Breeders. Furiosa (is it the name that makes those guys afraid, perhaps?) is spurred more by a sense of revenge than piety, and Miller has the cojones to deny her and these women shelter. Even though the overwrought destruction becomes repetitive, Miller’s vision is coherent. This is a truly dark movie that grudgingly acknowledges the existence of hope. The squeaky clean, wishful thinking, corporate Avengers would not last a day in this hellhole.

Miller effectively uses spectacular stunts and digital technology to create an extraordinarily detailed post-apocalyptic world of souped up cars and old-fashioned firearms, peopled by horrifying beings, all in dire need of a shower. The movie starts with a tour de force sequence of mayhem, and is, in fact, a series of chases, shootouts and explosive set pieces, minimally punctuated by a sliver of a story, let alone dialogue. But to Miller’s credit, every sequence is clear and thrillingly staged. The production design is phenomenal, and so is Miller’s vision of humanity as a bunch of oil starved, water deprived beasts who go at each other endlessly because there is nothing left to strive for. The violence is equal opportunity, and so is the apocalyptic warning. Miller’s vision includes powerful women who are more than background scenery. This is not feminism; it’s the way things should be, in movies and in life.

LOGISTICS: Mad Max: Fury Road, now in theatres

Yehudit Mam has been in love with movies since her mom took her to see Krakatoa, East of Java when she was a little girl. She is a film blogger, a creative director in advertising, and cofounder of dada.nyc.