Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Mad Max: Fury Road is the feminist movie you didn’t know you needed
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Mad Max: Fury Road is the feminist movie you didn’t know you needed

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The science fiction movie I didn’t expect to like. Visually striking, kinetic and feminist. Run, don’t walk, to your multiplex.

I watched Mad Max on video tape, back when we still had that. Might have been on Betamax, to boot. So I was cautious when I went into the movie theater. And surprised. Surprised because it’s so visually compelling, action-packed but perhaps, most of all, because it is a movie that is not afraid to place women in the metaphorical and literal driver’s seat.

People talk like Black Widow is so important and Marvel movies and what not?

Black Widow is an amateur, and this movie puts to shame many action flicks with respect to their shoddy treatment of women characters. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel test: it shows you what to aspire to and the low bar we’ve grown accustomed to.

It’s a feminist movie but it’s not, as some men seem to fear, a movie where that feminism means people are going to stop to declaim from The Bell Jar. It is feminist because it gives its women roles to play and it doesn’t just dangle them out there to be sexy or love interests.

Visually, it is a feast for the eyes. Stunts, real machines and old-fashioned camera trickery drive the action (check out the guitar player!) instead of relying on CGI. And this gives it a real, gritty and very welcome feel.

And it’s exciting. It’s basically one long, long car chase and it works, which seems a difficult feat.

As for the plot, it is simple. Mad Max, recently captured by a warlord who seems to have clobbered a mythology that mixes Valhalla with vehicles, suddenly and violently crosses paths with Imperator Furiosa, a truck driver and something of a post-apocalyptic Valkyrie. Furiosa has decided that instead of doing her regular oil run she is going to escape the warlord’s clutches, and she’ll do so together with a group of women from the villain’s harem. A chase ensues.

But what a chase! And what women! There is Furiosa, of course, with a metal arm and a tough-as-nails attitude equal to Mad Max. And there are the women from the harem, who despite their little white dresses, are tough in their own way. And a group of all-women bikers. And demented, diseased and mutated warriors in pursuit. And a batshit crazy guy playing a guitar aboard what I guess is a futuristic chariot. And horrible, awful villains. Blood. Punches. Gunshots. Explosions.

Everything you ever loved in a Mad Max movie, and more.

As for Mad Max I’ve heard complaints that he is not central enough to this movie. Not that it matters. He is the hard, silent hero, but not the only hero. This a tale of one group’s survival, not of a single man.

Truly, this could have been called by another name and with slight tweaks it could have gone on to be a whole new, different franchise disconnected from the Mad Max name. I suspect financial decisions made it easier to stick with it as Mad Max: Fury Road. At any rate, it is a re-imagining and in a summer that seems stale, it is surprisingly fresh.

Fans will love to write fanfic about this, to make fan art, and to jabber on about the tiny details of this arid world.

If there’s a movie to support this summer, this is probably it.

Tina Turner once told us “we don’t need another hero.” It turns out she was wrong. Because we did need this movie and the heroes in it.

For a very good take on the symbolism and elements of the movie (contains lots of spoilers) read “We Are Not Things: The Themes and Imagery of Mad Max: Fury Road”