I felt it was time to write about George Miller’s most recent Mad Max film now that Oscar season is right around the corner, and there is talk of a special release of the film that will be entirely in black and white. I must admit this film caught me by surprise. I didn’t quite know what to expect based on the trailers. My first viewing of this film was a visceral punch to the gut and brain. The film breaks out of the action movie mold of the last 25 to 30 years and is basically just one long, extended car chase and fight scene. Mad Max completely captured my attention with the sound, the music, and the practical effects (lots of real explosions and stunts and minimal CGI). The thing that most stood out to me after my first viewing of this film, however, was none of that, it was the incredible performance by Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. I had not paid much attention to this movie before it came out, and Theron so completely transformed for this role that I did not recognize her until after the film ended and the credits started rolling. As I watched the film a second, third and fourth time in the theater I became even more impressed by Tom Hardy’s solid job as Mad Max, and I picked up on lots of little things George Miller and the actors put into this movie. I continued to be amazed by Theron’s performance as well. A trailer may give the impression that this film is just a big, dumb action movie but it is actually quite deep, exploring themes that are highly relevant to the post-modern era.
The major themes that resonated to me were warnings about nuclear war, climate change, and religious and political extremism. The other theme carried throughout the movie is the power of women. There are no damsels in distress in this film. The women in Mad Max: Fury Road are just as ferocious and capable, and sometimes more ferocious and capable than the men. The redemptive power of women to undo the damage wrought by men through nuclear war, climate change and extremism is one of the main lessons of this film. In that way this work agrees with another one of my heroes, George Carlin, who rightly places most of the blame (but not all) for the insanity of this world on men. That insanity is reflected in this movie, which eschews pacifism and calls for a struggle against tyranny and extremism as the only way to make the world a better place.