Before today, I knew nothing about the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, but because I have undertaken the commitment to watch every Oscar movie and Oscar movie nomination, I watched it today, and I am almost at a loss for words. Watching Mad Max is like taking a jet-propelled trip through the archives of Hollywood–laced with a dash of LSD and sprinkled with a liberal dose of Steampunk and chrome.
I typically watch Britsh movies–especially those that are slightly refined–movies that are made in the image of Downton Abbey or that are more like Masterpiece Theater. I hate movies about biker gangs and drag racers. If the truth is known, I detest the entire biker culture, and in one way, Mad Max is like the biker gang and drag race from Hell. For the first hour of Mad Max, I could only guess what was going on, but I appreciated the effects and the inventiveness of the effort, and I continued to watch. Mad Max is probably not my kind of movie, but I liked it anyway, and that probably says much about the movie, and it also says much about me.
If you have not watched Mad Max, do not read the rest of my review–at least not before you have seen it for yourself. It is on HBO now.
As the movie opens, Max hears a voice that seems to be coming from a lizard. Max mutters,
“My name is Max. My world is fire and blood. Once, I was a cop. A road warrior searching for a righteous cause. As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken. It was hard to know who was more crazy… me… or everyone else.”
Max reached behind himself and grabbed the lizard. He tossed the lizard into his mouth and ate it, and after that, the movie did not alter much from that course. Mad Max is a movie with very little dialog. Rather, it is a movie that is filled with snippets of almost inexplicable actions juxtaposed in a type of nightmare. I found myself groping about, trying to make sense out of what I was seeing, and I began to notice characters and scenes that reminded me of things that I had seen in other movies.
The movie’s villain wore a mask that reminded me of Predator.
[Above image from Predator]
In some cases, we might be critical of movies that seem to borrow from what has been done before, but in trying to navigate the craziness of Mad Max, I found that its similarities to other movies helped me to better understand what was going on
Mop-headed Ewoks, riding on motorcycles, dominate one scene after another of Mad Max, and in one scene a bunch of characters are shown working within a mine-like area. That scene reminded me of the Orcs. In another scene, a Chewbacca-looking character is seen, driving along and uttering in another language.
[Above image is Marilyn Manson]
The entire movie reeks of the naughty creepiness of a Marilyn Manson concert, and the guitarist riding on the front of a Mad Max vehicle seemed right at home.
On the other hand, the imprisoned Max is strapped to the front of another vehicle and is driven about–as though he was nothing more than a figurehead on the front of a ship.
The war boys on Mad Max reminded me of The Walking Dead, and the movie also reminded me of From Dusk to Dawn, another movie that I should not like, but do.
As I have said before, when you are trying to make sense of a movie like Mad Max, these reminiscences of something that you do understand helps. To sweeten the broth, the movie adds a few images that are hauntingly unique to itself. For example, check out the crows that are walking about on what seems to be a blue Salvador Dali painting.
In another part of the movie, Max also says the following:
“I am the one that runs from both the living and the dead. Hunted by scavengers, haunted by those I could not protect. So I exist in this wasteland, reduced to one instinct: survive.”
In one part of the movie, you initially think that you see a desert–a wasteland sand dune, but one part of the sandy vista begins to move and then another. Phoenix-like, Max rises out of the ashes of what appeared to be a sand-scape, and I think that this is the theme of the movie.
“I live I Die I live again.”
Without a doubt, Mad Max revisits T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, but it goes beyond that point. Initially, the movie drags you through the dungeons of a post-apocalyptic No Man’s Land, where there seems to be no hope. Even the much-desired green place seems to be completely lost, but ultimately, the good guys turn around, face their pasts, and some semblance of order is restored.
Mad Max is not a soothing movie. It is not easy on the eyes, but I admired the way that it shocks us into grappling with some greater truths. As I said before, little is said in the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, and much of what is said is more of a quote than dialog. Clearly, the movie wants to make us think, and the sparse, pointed comments create a focus of thought. I loved the creativity used in clothing the characters and in creating the vehicles, and I applaud Mad Max as a modern movie achievement.
©Jacki Kellum February 13, 2016