So, this time around I was a little late to join in the party. The name of the party was “everybody see this movie” and everybody certainly did. In fact, it’s entirely likely that by the time this gets posted to my website, the movie won’t be in the cinemas any more. If you missed your chance to see Mad Max: Fury Road on the big screen, and have still managed to avoid spoilers, then don’t fret about this review. I won’t be trying to sell you on seeing the movie this time around, instead I’m going to talk about what an amazing piece of cinema it is.
I’ve been an on-again-off-again fan of post-apocalyptic fiction for a while. Sometimes I see something that’s really great and it invigorates my love of the genre, filling me with inspiration. Other times I am weighed down by an onslaught of dull, gritty, wholly mundane and generic pieces that make me hate the sheer lack of imagination on display.
Mad Max: Fury Road is so much in the first camp. It is bright, vibrant, and larger-than-life. No washed-out brown tones here, it’s so colourful it’s almost unreal. Combined with the excellent cinematography and the astounding setting, every frame of this movie is a joy to look at. The cars, the costumes, even the incidental little background details have been designed with care and passion in equal measure.
You don’t need to be told things. There’s an incredible economy of dialogue, the backstory is made abundantly clear without being more than just hinted at here and there. I only counted two moments in the entire film when someone said something remotely close to exposition, and even then it was not only part of the organic flow of dialogue, but also something that couldn’t be effectively shown without disrupting or overly-lengthening the narrative.
The characters themselves have a lot of hidden depth. You don’t get to explore a lot of that, in fact you never hear half of their names spoken out loud, but it’s not relevant to the story. It just makes the story better. They’re not background figures, they have their own personality and history, you just don’t need to explore it right now. It gets your brain moving in weird and wonderful ways while the action explodes at you.
A lot of talk about whether or not the movie is feminist has been thrown about, with certain self-absorbed cretins seeing it as a negative. Is it feminist? I think it’s about as close to it as we’re likely to see. It’s very hard to say if a piece of media, a work of fiction, is truly “feminist” or not. But I think it was definitely born out of feminism, and that’s what makes it work so well. It doesn’t just defy many of the Hollywood clichés, it leaves them out in the desert to burn.
In case it’s not been quite clear yet, I liked this movie. I liked this movie a lot. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say I loved it, my love is a precious thing and I don’t hand it out easily. The number of movies I truly love can be counted on the fingers of one hand. But I definitely liked this movie more than most, and it makes me want to write something about high-octane wasteland car-chases-turned-battlefields. I can think of no higher praise for any movie, any piece of fiction at all, than for it to inspire me that much.