Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Power of the Woman Warrior

Mad Max and I have a bit of a history. Not because I watched the original Mel Gibson films, but because I didn’t. Here’s why.

In 1990, when I was ten, I could rent a VHS tape of The Little Mermaid for 99 cents. I have no idea how many times I scoured acres of asphalt for stray pennies, so I could collect that magical 99 cents for a Friday night full of bliss. Suffice to say, I collected oodles of pennies during that year of my life, and rented this movie a lot. It was one of the most heroic accomplishments I could perform as a big sister, since my siblings loved this movie with equal passion. We were addicts.

One day, in a rare visit from my father, he saw me loading my coin purse with pennies, asked where I was going, and told me to bring home Star Wars instead. He let me keep my pennies, and gave me a dollar for the rental. Wrinkled and torn from his wallet. Pure gold. I raced off to the store fast as I could.

But when I arrived, Star Wars was already checked out. So was The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The clerk said, “Mad Max is in though. That’s the same kind of thing.” I was anxious, and thought I should just leave, but the clerk assured me my dad would be happy with Mad Max.

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I was ten and clueless. Still young enough to believe adults. I gave the store clerk my father’s dollar, and took home Mad Max.

My father’s disappointment was profound. “This is NOT Star Wars! How could you DO this? What is the MATTER with you?”

I had wasted the dollar. He sent me back to the store. “You return that thing and you get my money back.”

So I rode back to the store and returned Mad Max. I was so horrified with my failure, I didn’t even take my coin purse with me for The Little Mermaid. The devastation was complete.

Even now, to think of the 1979 Mad Max, or the sequels, The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, takes me back to that day in childhood, when I failed my father and made him so angry with me. That day left a deep scar, and my father’s anger was enough to make me forever believe Mad Max was a whopping pile of sh*t in a world full of sh*t, and no one in her right mind would waste her time watching a crap picture.

But the new Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t have the same trauma attached. Yes, the term Mad Max is still a sore spot for me, but to my way of thinking, this was a new Mad Max. Reborn. Something that might be worthy of my money and time.

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Especially after I read the New York Times review by A.O. Scott — “Mad Max: Fury Road, Still Angry After All These Years.” It’s a great review, and earned the film the little NYT Critics’ Pick emblem that I always love spotting.

Which means it’s a movie that is not only well-executed, but will require you to use your brain on occasion. And I really like well-executed movies that allow me to think.

So on Sunday night, I went with Greg and Rachel to the theater, and we watched Mad Max: Fury Road.

There are elements to the movie I loved. The opening sequence is brilliant. Every second that opens this movie is an exquisite tribute to craft.

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The one-armed Imperator Furiosa is as fabulous a film heroine badass ever created. Charlize Theron is such an amazing actor, and she brings every bit of ferocity into this role as you would expect.

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I liked the weird suicide-promoting religion portrayed in the film. I liked how disgusting the bad guys are. I really liked the guy playing the guitar and all the war machine stuff. I liked that the audience is given just enough dialogue to make sense of what’s on screen.

Greg and Rachel weren’t fans — this film received a head shake from both of them. They pointed out that for the length of the movie, Furiosa and her crew are hauling around a tanker truck full of ‘mother’s milk’ (human milk) — a plot point which had gone over my head. I thought the truck was full of gasoline. But Greg and Rachel insisted only the small ‘fuel pod’ attached to the truck contained gasoline. The main tank was full of milk — which means these people were hauling around a bunch of dead weight for the entire movie, for no reason.

So yes, that is a big plot hole indeed. Because if that truck wasn’t full of gas, then Furiosa should have dropped the trailer, rather than waste precious fuel dragging pointless cargo. Plus, speed was an issue throughout the movie, and all that mother’s milk was just slowing the truck down.

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So this movie was a bomb for Rachel and Greg. They were like, wtf through the whole film, because they noticed plot holes I didn’t. Like how the truck should’ve broken down, or at least run out of fuel, long before the end of the picture, and a number of other things I accepted as part of the magical realism that is an action movie.

Mad Max himself was decently cute. I liked his voice. Like many women, I have an automatic attraction to masculine voices, and the actor Tom Hardy has a nice one, a baritone that is very easy on the ears. He is nice to listen to. I wish he’d had more lines, so I could enjoy him more, but when he did speak, I was happy. His voice is one of the pleasures of the film.

I confess that I grew antsy before the end of the film. My brain doesn’t do well with action movies. I get bored. After an hour and a half of ACTION ACTION ACTION I just feel worn out. That was the case with Mad Max: Fury Road. The film is two hours long, so I was glad that, right after I reached my ‘okay, this movie can be over now’ limit, this woman showed up —

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In the film, she is Valkyrie, a member of a band of older ass-kicking women called the Vuvalini. [Insert ‘vulva jokes’ here, since vulva is the term for the external genital organs for any female mammal, and was definitely the inspriation for the name Vuvalini.]

Despite the fact that the male gangs in this movie aren’t called the Dickalini, or the Erectarini, or the Penile-ini, this band of older women was my favorite part of the film. Valkyrie is played by a 39-year-old Australian model turned actor named Megan Gale. And she is smokin’ hot in this movie as one of the badass Vuvalini.

Here she is in full costume —

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Man, I just love her threads in this pic. Except for the bare shoulders. No way would I ever kick it as a warrior with bare shoulders. But the rest of her look is coolness.

Overall, I’m glad I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. Seeing a band of ass-kicking older women in an action film is so much HELL TO THE YES that the movie was totally worth watching for them.

But if I’m going to recommend any film right now, it’s Ex Machina. I do much better with drama than action movies, and Ex Machina packs a fiercely awesome dramatic punch. Greg didn’t watch this one with me, but Rachel did, and she loved Ex Machinaloved it. So did I. I left the movie grinning, one of those yes Yes YES grins of I-just-watched-a-great-f*cking-movie pure awesomeness. Lots of fist-pumps for this dark and brilliant film.

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2 thoughts on “Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Power of the Woman Warrior

  1. I have not seen ex machina but want to. Unfortunately this little town of Montrose has not been playing it. Guess I have to wait for dvd or something. Ugh.

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