Friday, September 18, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Second viewing, this time in re-released IMAX 3D. On first viewing I thought it was terrific, though not as overwhelming as I'd been led to believe. Four months later, this viewing confirms it as a masterpiece.
Some observations:
•The scope and volume and intensity of the action are obviously next level, but what makes it so enjoyable and engaging to watch is the intelligence on display in both the construction of the sequences and the actions of the characters. Watching Max and Furiosa interact is to see a chess match played out through glances and sudden movements. They are constantly alert to threats and opportunities, they recognize the same quality in each other, and therefore communicate with a minimum of words.
•The subtlety and depth of Tom Hardy's performance came through much better this second time--the amount of feeling that he carefully keeps out of his face. Mel Gibson was hardened and cocky; Hardy has gone beyond that, so dead inside he can barely make himself intelligible to others.
•In the Mad Max films, George Miller uses the grotesque to first demonstrate the perversion from the norm of his dystopian society, but then, in a maneuver going back to Tod Browning's Freaks, he moves past grotesquerie to find a deeper humanity underneath. The various deformities of his characters are functions of the deformity of civilization, caused variously by malnutrition, lack of healthcare, inbreeding, and radiation poisoning. But lumbering giants who at first present as violent monsters turn out to be as innocent as babes in both Mad Max and Beyond Thunderdome, and the terminally ill Nux in Fury Road has a change of heart. Both society and people are diseased, but the fact of disease is no reliable guide to good and evil individuals. This goes some way to divining how Miller manages to plunge his audience into a world of horror and nihilism and somehow emerge with hopeful assertions of human compassion, connection, and dignity that ring genuine and true.
•I caught more of the brides' dialogue this time, and realized they each do have a distinct personality. You can sense that they were given backstories by the writers and were thought through by their actresses, even if the material didn't make it on screen. And as nice as it would be to get to know them better, there's simply no time. The movie is better-served by maintaining its breakneck pace than it would be by adding in scenes where the women could introduce themselves and display their personalities for us.
•What we can make out from the brides' conversations is the way they have reacted against the totalitarian war religion of Immortan Joe by developing their own principles of how things ought to be. Exposed to Joe's sexual slavery (and pillow talk?) and hence hypocrisy, and well-kept in their apartments, they can see everything wrong with their society and long for a better world. But their non-violent ideals have to come down to reality, which is more vicious and complicated than they imagined.

Each of these paragraphs could probably be taken a lot further, there are so many details to unpack. What a movie.

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