So, how about that new Mad Max film that came out eight months ago?
It always bugged me that I missed Mad Max: Fury Road during its theatrical release. Around this time I moved house (with my girlfriend, for the first time), then rushed off to New York for a week, and then went to Glastonbury. But it’s a film that had all the hallmarks of the kind of film I like: it’s at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, the main film critic I listen to called it possibly “the best action film of the last 10 years”, and it got the anti-feminists in to a tizzy. So I had to get around to it eventually.
The problem is, watching a film like this so long after it came out means you watch it through a different lens. I knew two very clear things about it:
- It was awesome.
- It was “feminist”.
Point One can be an issue. Raised expectations can be the death of a film, and was part of the reason I was so relieved that I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens as much as I did. When you’re expecting something to be amazing (as in, three percent off fully positive reviews amazing), chances are you subconsciously demand it to reach levels it can’t . Nothing is perfect.
The opening of the film had me worried this was the case. It’s visually over-stimulating from the beginning, you get very little/no exposition, and then you’re off. Every character looks so unbelievably unique and creative, and unlike anything you have ever seen before. It’s disorientating.
But then, you start to realise this is intentional. If you can’t keep up with who all these people are, what they’re doing and why we should care, how the hell are the characters? You get there eventually, and not once do they need a character who is clearly played by the director’s nephew, talking to no-one in particular about how “they better not turn left, for the following reasons”, and then, whoops, they turned left. What a coincidence!
Instead, you get there eventually yourself, and are rewarded by becoming totally immersed in this most incredibly fantastic dystopian wasteland. I’d have watched the whole film with a massive grin if I wasn’t staring, mouth-agape, trying to remember to breathe.
For what is essentially one long car chase through a desert, it’s remarkable how exciting it is. I kept expecting that moment where they all huddle together and stop talking like humans, instead spewing exposition to each other while Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fall in love. But it never comes. You have the odd slow patch to regain your breath, and then it’s off again at 2,000 miles an hour. It’s up to you to keep up with it. We’re busy with a weird mutant guy playing a fire-spewing, double-necked guitar over here.
The result is 100% an action film, but not like any other action film I’ve seen before. It’s so much better, but without the need to throw in excessive amounts of “drama” to trick people in to liking it. It’s one long action scene, but one I will probably still be thinking about in a week’s time. It’s possibly the most unique film I’ve ever seen.
So, yes, it was awesome. That part was correct. But what of the feminism?
No matter how much I think, talk and read about it, I can’t for the life of me work out what part of this film could leave someone thinking it’s “too feminist” (whatever that might be).
While it is true that the heroes are mostly made up of women, and the bad guys are mostly made up of men, you barely even notice it. It’s certainly not important to the story at all. There is one throwaway line where the group of women they pick up don’t trust men, but it’s one line in a 120 minute film. I really, really hope people don’t come out of films like this with a burning preoccupation with one line. Didn’t you see the guy with the fire-spewing, double-necked guitar?
If anything, the degree to which this was celebrated/criticised as being a feminist film in some ways says as much about the cause as the film itself. Sure, there were quite a lot of women, who were well-rounded, and did things that were a) consistent with their characters, and b) consistent with humans in general. It did this without bashing you over the head with it. They weren’t men and women; they were people. The fact that this needs to be celebrated (as opposed to just being the norm) leaves me feeling a little sad with how far behind we really are.
And I don’t want to feel sad. I just watched a man with a fire-spewing, double-necked guitar.
Mad Max: Fury Road Rating: Okay, I think I can breathe again.
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