Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t some cheap sequel, drummed up for profit alone.
This is a labour of love; it feels like budget and technology finally caught up with George Millers vision. And what is his vision? An embellished dystopian satyr of today’s politics cleverly disguised as a non-stop apocalyptic carnival on wheels.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of the story for a moment. Despite the title Mad Max: Fury Road, Max isn’t the protagonist, Furiosa is. She’s taken off with several sex slaves that the gluttonous baddy, Immortan Joe, thinks belong to him. Essentially, the movie is one long chase down Furiosa’s road to redemption; Max is just hitching a ride along with her.
Max is a victim of the same system as Furiosa; He was run off the road and turned into a “Blood Bag.” This is his objectification, and he’s damn near sucked dry by it before he stumbles onto Furiosa and her fair maidens getting hosed down by water—this isn’t just for sex appeal either. The water serves as a motif for the women throughout the film: A stream of water runs through their chambers and at the end the nursing mothers open the flood gates. The women are for all intents and purposes the water element, or tao, or whatever you want to call it. And the men are the fire, driving metal heaps that belch flames. This is the struggle of the film: The feminine fury and masculine aggression.
Eventually, they find the band of hardened old women Furiosa has been looking for. The matriarch of the band carries a skull with a plant growing out of it—life coming out of death. She also has seeds, but no place to plant them. She represents mother-nature in the film, though she’s been so worn by the times, she’s more like grandmother-nature.
And so ends the second act, and like any Mad max film, it should end here. Max has witnessed the women’s plight, and rode along with them. It’s time for him to go off on his own. Only unlike Road Warrior, where he’s more or less forced by external factors to help the village. Max makes a conscious decision to help the ladies. The way he sees it, the gluttonous men in charge are weak and spread out, and the women are riding off towards oblivion, clutching to an ideal of paradise that doesn’t exist. Thankfully, Furiosa agrees, which leads to one last spectacular clash of the elements.
If you’re not with me so far, consider this: Furiosa wins the fight and proves that the road belongs to her and the girls—After all, hell hath no fury and all that business. Only she’s mortally wounded and all the others watch helplessly as she bleeds out. At the start of the film, Max rips the IV from his neck. But because he’s witnessed their struggle, he decides to give his blood to Furiosa. He decides to keep the Furiosa—woman’s scorn personified—alive so she can rise up to the place of power that she needs to.
Maybe Miller just really loved the blood transfusion scene from Dark Knight Rises, and wanted Hardy to do it again. But, I have trouble believing Miller intended the scene to be interpreted any other way. He understands subtext, and I doubt the feminist undertones are accidental; He took the time to have the writer of the Vagina monologues advise the actresses in the film on sex slavery.
Alright, enough bad jokes for one day; Miller isn’t campaigning for Clinton, he’s an Aussie after all. But he is trying to say something. Dystopian films like Mad Max always take place after the accelerated bad politics of today. And the politics of the film can’t be ignored, even down to the young men getting sent off to die for a god that isn’t real. The nice thing about them is that they’re never ham fisted. They never intervene with the story telling. Miller relies on imagery instead of exposition.
At the end, Max wanders off, having done his part to bring some semblance of cosmos to the chaotic society that existed before. He doesn’t stick around because this new society is no place for mad men like him. His journey is and always has been to spin out in his interceptor and crash into whatever ditch today’s society happens to be in.
I can’t wait.