6/10
Who said women were bad drivers?
13 September 2019
This is not sexism but only a joke in response to the radical feminism that seemed to be fueling every major franchise reboot today... with the exception of "Rocky".

Let's start positively: "Fury Road" provides the most spectacular chases of all the tetralogy but the film is only "The General" with bigger stunts though what made Buster Keaton's film appreciable is that he risked his neck. And I still have a fondness for "Road Warrior" over-the-top climax and the "Plane, Train and Automobiles" sequence concluding "Thunderdome"... speaking of which, we're talking of a 30-year time span between the last movies and that he could pull effect both practical and effective to an audience raised by the digital revolution is perhaps the best stunt of all. Now, forgive my sophism but it takes more than action to make action movies work and "Fury Road" was so stuck to the steering wheel it took its driver for granted.

The first might be the slowest or the least thrilling of the four but that's how we were introduced to Max Rockatansky, his skills, his humility, his tormenting hesitation between settling down and sticking with the family or hitting the road to fight the filth of the Earth. The whole exposition culminated with the tragic loss of his wife and baby child. In the next films, Max had won its status as a pop-culture hero, he resented that word but that was part of his persona. "Fury Road" doesn't embarrass itself with such technicalities, if makes Furiosa an immediate heroine, a Joan of Arc without any character's arc.

The character had potential but she was as semi-developed character as as if we had met Sarah Connor in "Terminator 2" or Ellen Ripley in "Aliens". These heroines were fascinating not only for their backstory as non-warrior characters but for the fact that they weren't handled like flashbacks but as true plot drivers. Furiosa is strong and bad-ass already and God forbids Mel Gibson would be an aging Mad Max playing her mentor (too controversial), or for her to show any semblance of vulnerability (too taboo).

And as the emotionless, shaved-headed heroine (à la Joan of Arc indeed) she displays traits that play like ersatz of masculinity, cliché even by guy-movies standard. Tough, hardly talking, always right, Furiosa doesn't even shed a tear when one of the "breeders" die or when she discovers the sad truth about the Green Place. I simply don't get what is so appealing in overly confident characters. Think of many icons, Michael Corleone didn't want to be a mobster, Travis Bickle started as Mr. Nice Guy, Rocky was a bum, characters who are perfect from the start might kick ass but they're ultimately boring, and a 120-format with 10% minutes for dialogues made of 90% of grunting doesn't help.

Still, one can appreciate the post-apocalyptic elements, violence, regression, the rarefaction of oil and water, but the first films covered all these speculative aspects. "Fury Road" just takes one step forward, after settlers vs. gangs, then marauders vs. migrants, then new glimpses of civilization, it's fair to imagine a neo-fascist world ruled by men and relegating women to their primitive functions: breeding and nurturing. There's something visionary in the way the film switches from the usual horizontal struggle (nomads vs. settlers) to vertical domination, but it also implies that in order to survive, women must display the same skills as men, elevating driving and fighting as Darwinian assets.

The film suggest matriarchy and self-determination as salutary options, after all the plot is about 'selected' women being freed by one of them. So basically, the alternative from being locked away by men is to be their own master. The problem is that unlike the previous films where children were present among settlers, "Fury Road" is rather pessimistic, implying that couples won't exist. And since the feminist take doesn't disregard the necessity to have children (for the survival of mankind), one must consider how they will have them if not by exploiting or using men as well. This feminism ironically depends on power perceptions inherited from men. Is it such a coincidence that all the fugitives are beautiful and the obese milk providers are left to their condition?

The film contains some epic-looking images and thrilling sequences but with a rather thin and manipulative plot served by very one-dimensional characters, and that goes for Furiosa too. She shares so many skills and personality traits with Max that I kept wondering what was Max' role exactly, except to be a foil for Furiosa, exactly what happened between Han Solo and Rey when she told him she could handle herself. And the film ends with the same acknowledgement from the original hero, foreshadowed by the name of Charlize Theron put above Tom Hardy in the opening shot.

This is not a hierarchy to trivialize, once again, we have a film where every man is flawed, weak and ironically, this is something I won't complain about because the War boys were touching in their twisted away and I liked Immortan Joe for even that scary dude had a weak spot. But "Fury Road" works exactly like "The Force Awakens", the new "Ghostbusters" movie, "Toy Story 4" or even "Blade Runner 2049", it recycles plots with that radical anti-male perspective, it's like the sole purpose of these reboots is to cure classics from misogyny they didn't have.

Because even the first "Mad Max" films had strong female characters, the old lady in the first, Max' wife that he failed to save, and Tina Turner who spares his life at the end of "Thunderdome", another thing they had in common: they were fun to watch, I wish one character could make us smile or chuckle at least once.

A product of its preachy and pedant era, the film takes itself too seriously and this is why it's my least favorite.
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