Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Review: Furiosa and Mad Max Fury Road

My big ticket item for today, the King’s Birthday (snicker), was watching Furiosa at the local. As expected, it was another eye-popping extravaganza of sight and sound and story, like the previous Mad Max, Fury Road. George Miller combines action and drama like no other, he leaves Jackson and Spielberg in the shade. Much has been made of the action set-pieces, and yes, they’re amazing, but I really liked the special quiet moments where Miller allows some poetry in. A dazzling time-lapse shot of Furiosa’s wig hanging from a branch being covered by flowers in the fullness of time. Artfully framed tableaux of War Boys resting on their motor rigs against red skies. It’s a film that’s notably and intentionally short on dialogue, but when it comes it has an impact. Wry and funny and to the point, Chris Hemsworth, playing young Furiosa’s nemesis, gave some of the best line readings. His unsentimental farewell to his team mates during the final confrontation with Furiosa was one of my favourites. When Anya Taylor-Joy’s Furiosa confronts him at the end with ‘I want them back’, it breaks your heart. When it was all over, the first thing I wanted to do was re-watch Fury Road. It really sets us up for that film…

…I finally got around to following up Furiosa with another viewing of Mad Max: Fury Road. Now that I can compare the two films I think the action set pieces of Furiosa are better than Fury Road. Amazing as the Fury Road scenes are, it just shows how George Miller has set the bar even higher with the new film. Fury Road is more efficient in its story-telling, getting to the point of Furiosa’s betrayal of Immortan Joe in the first half hour. The rest of the film is really one big long chase to there and back again. But what a chase it is.

One of the most memorable things about the film is the roles that women play in this post-apocalypse future. The tough warrior woman Furiosa dominates amongst the men in the Citadel. You wonder how she got there to this position; but then you remember, that’s right, Furiosa just showed me how she did it. The old women of the Green Place’s wasteland ride motorbikes and look and talk badass, but have not lost their ability to wonder and coo when they see the soft, fair skin of the wives of Immortan. And the wives show themselves to be far more than just damsels in distress, especially, and impressively, Angharad (played by Rosie Huntington-Whitely), who is heavily pregnant. When she opens the truck cabin door to reveal her fully pregnant self to Immortan, who is trailing the truck, it’s a challenge to his authority as much as a warning to back off. He yells, ‘That’s my property’, but his words ring hollow. I love the later scene when the ‘property’ (namely the foetus) has been born and the Organic Mechanic (Angus Sampson in a scene-stealing role) blithely swings the cut umbilical cord around, like a skipping rope.

I was most impressed by Nicholas Hoult and his role as a conflicted War Boy, Nux, who ultimately sides with Max and Furiosa, joining them on the journey to the Green Place. I remember him way back in the Hugh Grant film About a Boy, playing the boy. Since then there’s been so many interesting roles, from Tolkien to playing Nicola Tesla in the Current Wars. He is versatile and gives commanding performances. His character’s sensitivity and vulnerability in Fury Road makes for a believable and touching turn of events when one of the wives takes a shine to him, and they become attached. His innocence is quite beguiling and revealing at times, such as when he gawps at a gnarled, dead tree and asks, ‘What’s that?’ A little later he’s referring to it as ‘the tree thing’. Great character building; great world building.

For what it’s worth, I think the whole Mad Max franchise is such an Eighties vision. The idea that an energy-pollution apocalypse would give rise to a culture of nomadic bikies and revheads in Australia sort of makes sense. It just doesn’t in light of more recent developments where renewables of solar and wind are stepping into the gap that oil and gas depletion will leave. Throw in global warming, computerisation and AI developments and you have a very different future scenario. I don’t know if it’ll lead to an apocalypse or a golden age, but I don’t see nomadic bikies in that mix. Or if they are, they will be outcasts on the fringe of society, following their Mad Max fantasies.

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