Never have I thought that I’d enjoy a long, orange, two hour film set on one long, desert road.
The last time I remember enjoying an action film was obsessing over the first Avengers film for a week after I watched it a second time (admit it, that was quite the guilty pleasure). So when I was recommended by one of my film school friends to watch Mad Max: Fury Road, I was immediately taken aback.
After googling the poster, I was put off by the grossly bright orange colour and excessive use of fire. I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying people chase each other in impractical gas guzzlers in a desert for hours.
Or so I thought.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the third instalment in George Miller’s series that follows the story of Max Rockatansky and his adventures through post-apocalyptic Australia. In this film, Max runs into trouble with a the War Boys, a group of renegade soldiers fighting under dictator Immortan Joe. After being used as a “human blood bag” (graphic, I know, but bear with me) for one of the soldiers, Max runs into Imperator Furiosa, a lieutenant for Immortan Joe. He then escapes, joining Imperator Furiosa and her “cargo”, five of Immortan Joe’s wives escaping from his tyranny to join the “Land of the Many Mothers”. Most of the action packed onto one long trip down one desert road, Mad Max: Fury Road immerses the viewer into a 120 minute long journey into Miller’s treacherous Australian desertscape.
Unlike many popular films on the market right now, Miller takes a different VFX route, avoiding blockbuster CGI and opting to construct his own action. Many of the props, pyrotechnics, action sequences, and even the guitar shredding hype man on a truck were shot on set with minimal editing, and his efforts really do come through. Although this “raw action” has made this film difficult to watch for some, I found it grossly captivating, a testament to Miller’s dedication to making the action feel more organic and real. It is hard to sell a post-apocalyptic landscape to an audience when half of the things on-screen don’t feel authentic. So hats off to Miller for the extra effort—it added to my enjoyment more than I initially expected.
Although George Miller asserts that survival is the main theme of the film, there is a strong feminist undercurrent that runs throughout the story. Prominent in Fury Road are events in which female characters, especially Furiosa, take the reins and drive the action and plot of the film. Furiosa, like her name entails, is feisty, headstrong, and takes no crap from anybody. Her authoritative, yet gentle presence serves as a motivation for the five wives, her passion and belief in their right to their bodies and selves is a motivating factor in her willingness to go to great lengths for their safety. The film truly does hammer the message home, explicitly stating that women are not things/objects, and can thrive well removed from the patriarchy. Many critics of the film argue that Miller’s feminist message is getting lost in the medium, as the film caters more towards the interests of men and is too “explicit”, and at times, “overhwhelming.” However, this an even more compelling reason for Miller to incorporate such a theme—the lack of strong female characters (as overused as the phrase is) in mainstream action films should be remedied by the increased incorporation of such female figures.
Additionally, the film also explores themes of authority, alluding to the monopoly our governments have over resources. The setting of the film is a desert—much of the scenes portray a dry and dilapidated desert with a lack of water. Immortan Joe has full control over the one source of water in the desert, and only allows the citizens to have as much as he feels like giving them. Although the situation is not as dire in our world, the parallel is clear. Mad Max: Fury Road illustratesthe power that big government has over our resources and how little the populace is able to access—a neo-Socialist current which ties into the film’s themes of self-determination and celebration of protest.
On a more artistic level, most notable was the usage of colour to portray the mood of the film. Most scenes were shot with either an orange or blue tint over it. Artistically, these two colours are opposites on the colour wheel, and contrast with each other. Orange is a very hot colour, and further emphasizes the heat of the desert. Hence, many of the daytime scenes are often predominated by this shade. Blue is a cooler colour, and represents a sort of wisdom and depth. Nighttime scenes are coloured in a more dark, blue manner. This stark and often uncomfortable combination of two colours often creates an uneasiness, and further highlights the difference between the “good guys” (Furiosa, the women, Mad Max, Nux) and the “bad guys” (Immortan Joe and his army).
Mad Max: Fury Road goes above and beyond the traditional action plot of hero meets victim meets fighting meets happy ending. It is a story of redemption, conviction, and a willingness to overcome under any and all circumstance illustrated with impressive VFX and cinematography.
That long, orange, two hour film set on one long, desert road turned out to be better than I’d ever have imagined.