Mad Max: The Awesomest Movie That Almost Was

4 Jun

by Madeline Iva

Call me an optimist.  I say 1/2 a good movie is better than none.  And Max Max is all kinds of half a good movie.***  Let me count the ways:

1) DESIGN DESIGN DESIGN: This movie’s best moments start and end with the look of the film.  The franchise is not just about costumes anymore.  Once upon a time we were sated by some 80’s white rocker desert costumes.  Once upon a time a bladed boomerang and hockey glove on a little kid’s paw did it for us.  One upon a time teddy bear effigies marching across desert sand and we cheered.  Now the best oscar for Post-Apocalyptic Macho Motifs in a Futuristic Dustbowl Series goes to brilliant yet repellant details such as:

Bad guy Toothy Breathing MaskBad guy

Death head steering wheelssteering wheel

Hedgehog spike-y carsspikey car

Cancerous punk boy cannon fodder — who spray their teeth and lips silver just before going all jihad on their enemies…

Two-Muscle-Cars-Having-Sex-Carcar

Punks on a Stickpogo

Massive Dust Storm O’ Deathdust storm

Fire blazing guitar played by Red-Jammies-Guy dangling from the giant amp & big drums truckdrum truck

Various nipple piercing/breast exploitation elements — the details of which I will not go into here, but needless to say all are all well thought out and thoroughly disgusting.

2) FABULOUS CHARACTERS SUCH AS:

FuriosaFURIOSA — Charlize Theron is  a one armed kick-ass warrior–which is better than none.  Because Mad Max isn’t the reluctant warrior hero in this movie.  Which still has me scratching my head. In fact, at some point Charlize Theron basically takes this movie and steals it.  Then she tries to give it back, and they’re all like no-no-no-Ms. Theron, it’s yours, take it.  Seriously.

NuxNUX– because 1/2 a conflicted hero is better than none.  Tom Hardy’s Mad Max spends part of the movie being insane and part of the movie trying to get a stupid mask off his face.  It’s Nux, a big-eyed dying skinhead, and thwarted martyr bad guy, who ends up saving everyone’s bacon at just the right time.  Played by Nicholas Hoult (yes, from Warm Bodies) with his friendly cancerous lumps that he calls his ‘mates’ he is raggedly endearing in a scarred way, and winds up with more of a character arc and big ending than the Tom Hardy, aka ‘our hero’.

3) A WEE TINY LOVE STORY– It’s just a wee tiny little lovestory between Red Headed Model Babe, aka Lisa Marie Presely’s daughter, and Nux—but it’s sweet in its own way.  And it’s better than NO LOVE STORY AT ALLLLLLLLL BETWEEN FURIOSA AND MAX — something I’m still sulking over, because what else did they have to do in the whole second half of the film?

babes4)  THE OBLIGATORY BREAK FROM ALL THE DUSTY BIG BAD BY SWITCHING TO MODEL BABES CAVORTING  This moment in the movie contrasted with the entire rest of the film. Almost in the middle of a massive long car/truck/monster thingy with wheels chase, everything stops for a minute.  A set of wispy Model Babes with a variety of hair colors, wearing torn strips of white sheets decide that this is the time to stop the truck, get out and get all wet in the middle of a big dusty desert with bad guys rolling towards them fast.  (Rolling my eyes.) But after so much spiky hot man-deaths I gotta admit that their soft skin and big doe eyes, their big inflated baby lips and skinny legs are kinda refreshing.  As another condescending gesture to feminism, each model babe is giving a ‘thing’ she contributes to the plot.  Like “This model gets the plant seeds” and “this model counts the bullets” and “this is the model you think is so weak but really she tricks the bad guys in the end”.  The models don’t have character arcs, per se, but it’s better than watching them sit around screaming in the back of the truck and needing to be saved for the entire film.  (Shrugging).

Who is this guy?

Who is this guy?

4) BECAUSE 1/2 A TOM HARDY FILM IS BETTER THAN NONE

Tom, Tom, Tom.  This is a big film for you.  I gotta admit, the accent was not 100%.  At first you sounded like Vin Diesel meets Mel Gibson, but about a 1/3 of the way through the film you just sounded…odd.

And I love Tom Hardy. He’s why I went to see the film — that and everyone raving about how good it was.  But he wasn’t really in this film.  I think he’s a real character actor who likes to go very deep into character, and probably feels he does his best acting when he’s being tortured.  But there was no arc to his character.  No change, no growth, no recovery, no redemption.  Yeah, by the end he got his funky face mask off.  By the end he was working with the women, and blah, blah, blah.  He wasn’t really a great leader, he wasn’t a savior — he wasn’t even a total Road Warrior.  That was Charlize Theron.  So what was he? — Why was he even in the film? Still scratching my head over that.

This is the Tom we love.

This is the Tom we love.

But I haven’t lost faith in you Tom — this is just a stepping stone to much bigger things to come. However, I’d try to stick to more contemporary talk-y films if possible.  Films where you can do what you do best–that sensual, tricksy, awesome, charming thing.  You know what I mean?

HOW TO MAKE THE WHOLE FILM MUCH BETTER:

This whole movie was odd, frankly.  Most reviewers are saying it’s a long car chase–but that’s what you expect out of a Mad Max movie. That’s not the problem. The problem is that like a souped up drag car that pulls into the pit half way through the race, this film simply ran out of gas.  They literally race out into the dessert and then turn around and race right back.

Here’s my MUCH BETTER PLOT for Mad Max: Fury Road:

ACT ONE: Model babes in a moist, rocky Australian oasis are horny, but cancerous skinhead boys are useless for making babies.  Model babes disport themselves in the water, and try girl-on-girl action with moderate to great success but still want babies.  Occasionally in a fit of good will, they dispense water to the less sexy but thirsty below…One red head model babe does have a sweet little romance with a big-eyed dying skin-head named Nux who needs blood transfusions.

Along comes a half insane Tom Hardy from the dessert.  Raving mad, even so, he is so hot that the Model babes must f*** him back into sanity.

endingACT TWO: Lo! Bad guys in hedge hog spikey cars are a-comin’ after Tom and headed straight for the oasis. Tom wants to go back out there, but as the only viable sperm donor on the continent, he must be protected.  The babes quickly send their best warrior Furiosa out into the dessert to deal with the bad guys.

ACT THREE:  Furiosa with her cyborg arm and lithe cancer boys on pogo circus sticks, face off with bad guys.  Furiosa uses many clever car chase/truck chase moves to finally kill icky bad guys. She subordinates the left over bad boys to her bitch-queen-goddess-grease-monkey-awesomeness.  They ride back with her to the wet oasis, promising to give blood transfusions to Nux, and all excited to join this Model babe-led society.  They are particularly excited about being potential sperm donors. Meanwhile, the guitar drum blazes flames, and the amp & drum truck beats out Furiosa’s praises all the way home…

Now *that’s* my idea of a great post-apocalyptic movie. Follow us at Lady Smut–we’ll lead you into clouds of post-apocalyptic utopian bliss!

***This is not a review: more a plaintive wail to the gods about why it wasn’t a better movie.  Clearly, it’s intended for people who already saw the movie or are never gonna see it.

 

4 Responses to “Mad Max: The Awesomest Movie That Almost Was”

  1. C. Margery Kempe June 4, 2015 at 4:10 am #

    Heh, totally disagree: fantastic movie. The whole point of the clichéd ‘supermodel’ moment was that he never even looked at them: he only had eyes for the water. Here’s a great write up on the film. I’ve got a piece coming out later this week at VexMosaic. Pal Anne Billson did an interview with Miller back in 1985 that’s also very interesting, as it shows him thinking about these issues already.

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  2. Madeline Iva June 4, 2015 at 9:13 am #

    Reblogged this on madeline iva.

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  3. Madeline Iva June 4, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    Well I welcome a good contentious fight about it.

    I give the movie a B- for the feminist effort. I saw the attempt to present something other than a total macho-violent idiocy-fest and I was puzzled. (As the reviewer Schnelback you linked to mentions, yes, the movie raises themes of rape and PTSD.) However, what we’re seeing onscreen is at the same time telling us a different story all together.

    We start off with the deeply trite and un-feminist post-apocalyptic trope of ‘women are only good for breeding and consumption’. Notice that the reviewer, Schnelbach mentions the women’s names. That they had names at all was something I only figured out in the credits–their names don’t matter in the context of the movie. (But this is typical of the Mad Max ouvre.) And yeah, they’re all victims of rape — except, I suppose — Furiosa. So why not put them in some pants and let them grease up like she did? What we SEE are model-babes in skimpy revealing rags. It’s telling us a different story visually than the whole ‘we escaped from our rapist’ thing — and it’s totally disrespectful to rape victims, if you even take that trope seriously, which I don’t really think the movie does. The efforts of the models and Furiosa to free themselves from their fate is unfocussed when it comes to ‘the big picture’ and that was made glaringly obvious about half way through the film.

    On the other hand, I think we were supposed to deeply admire the spectacle of all the toys of this macho-violent society -visually- because it was an over-the-top dream for 13 year old boys, complete with whack cars, pogo skin-heads, and the flaming guitar thing. So we’re reveling in this group of testosterone pumped men and yet supposed to see the movie as really one of complicated themes on war, rape, and PTSD at the same time?

    It just doesn’t work for me. It just wasn’t coherent. Ultimately the macho stuff overwhelmed the first half, and the second half fell apart. I saw it as making PC gestures towards feminists, with the most successful aspect of the movie being Furioso’s character. Even Schnelbach seems to recognize the film is not a coherent whole, saying “Miller is telling a symbolic story, not a linear one.” While I agree that something about the symbolic aspects of consumption & rage was what made Mad Max stick in our psyche’s back in the 80’s it was also definitely a very simple ‘get from here to there’ linear story of attrition. The movie worked because both elements worked–the symbolic and the linear. In Fury Road I think you have elements we’ll remember — but these elements are ultimately NOT the symbols that Schnelbach wants us to perseverate upon.

    I appreciate Schnelbach’s review because it provides a lot of validation of my pov from some very un-feminist reviewers. We tend to agree –“Max is along for the ride,” and yes there is a “high level of wowza on display”. We all saw the same movie, I just think Schnelbach cherry picked the moments that were meant to appeal to her and somehow remained blind to the rest. For her this is a ‘movie about healing’. Blerg! It’s a movie about a bunch of raped skinny models protected for a short time by one kick-ass woman and two guys –that uses every women over the age of 40 as cannon fodder. If you want a feminist post-apocalyptic film try this: the women are in charge, there’s no rape, and the older the woman is, the more experienced and more competent her leadership in helping the society survive in the long run. Show me this movie, and then I’ll be ready to talk about a ‘movie about healing’.

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  4. Elizabeth SaFleur June 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    Oh, wow, Madeline. This is really good. Can you deconstruct all movies for us? I think you’re way better at developing storylines than some directors!

    Like

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