However, reading some of the reviews online and some of the thoughts about this film made me reassess my thoughts and convinced me that it was worth seeing. I refer, of course, to the oddity that is Mad Max: Fury Road. I was not disappointed. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, far from "MEDIOCRE!" and very likely to ride into Valhalla, shiny and chrome.
Would like to WITNESS ME!?
So, what can I say that you haven't already seen and read elsewhere? Answer: probably nothing. However, I went to our local cinema to see it (Scala, in case you were wondering) and I have to say I didn't really know what to expect. Before I went I knew all about the potential issues with Feminism and disabilities and how this film was apparently being boycotted by MRAs. I have to be honest here, up until that point I wasn't going to see it. On hearing the arguments levelled against the film by various people online, and the rebuttals, I decided to watch the trailers a little and listen to some of the music. Over the course of a week I became hooked on the music and began to wonder about actually going to see the film as well. Then, once I decided that seeing the film was a possibility, I read everything I could find on it.
And yet, on sitting down in the local cinema having paid the sort of prices that even in my youth I would have been happy paying (£3.55 in case you were wondering), I just settled and waited for it to begin. I knew, academically, that the style would be intensely visual and that the main character was disabled and that the director would trust the audience. I knew about the use of real stunts and less CGI than most blockbusters use. I knew about the soundtrack. I knew about the themes being played on. I'd spoken to people at length about The Road Warrior and remembered sections that I had thought long forgotten.
And for the next two hours I did not check my watch, lose interest or do more than blink. The film was very well edited so that there was never a dull moment. Plenty of pace, plenty of breaks in which to breathe and plenty of wide shots so that the whole thing never became overwhelming. The soundtrack sounded, well, natural and despite having a repeating theme it never got old. The plot hammered away, being much simpler than I thought it was going to be, but at the same time it was a decent plot. The characters were well drawn, the feeling of dread and pursuit felt real and, throughout it all, it felt like the film I remembered using to teach students about the Cold War and the ever-present paranoia about nuclear Armageddon. It felt right.
None of the pundits were lying because, after I'd finished watching the film (and checking the credits to see where to buy the soundtrack), I suddenly remembered that the main character was missing an arm for the entire film. Oh yeah, I'd forgotten that. This means we had a disabled character whose disability was not a character arc or plot point and whose inclusion seemed perfectly natural. Indeed, there were scenes with the arm both on and off and at no point did that feel forced or preachy. We'd had a female character take over from a male without it being a plot point or particularly notable besides having differing skill-sets in combat. I'd missed it, but noted it after the fact. Hell, we passed the Bechdel test so many times I lost count and there wasn't even a great deal of dialogue in the film. We'd had three bad-guys, all with their own well-choreographed fight and death scenes, that had been introduced, given stories and killed without ever feeling that it was rushed. Max himself was set up, played out and wrapped up as much as he ever was as well as seven other major characters. It was a film that really went to town on the characters and it was only two hours long and most of that was spent in a car chase or shooting things or big explosions.
And the action... I remembered being slightly repulsed by the rawness of the death and the wounds in Road Warrior and that was what had given me pause initially about seeing this film. I needn't have worried. Miller was able to put most of the truly awful stuff off-screen while maintaining just enough that you knew it was happening and didn't feel like you were being talked down to or spared something terrible. It was very cleverly done. The fight scenes were carefully staged so that you never lost track of the characters or the reason for the fights happening. At the same time, the fights felt real and raw and messy - the moves made by characters went wrong, they meshed and nobody got what they wanted ("eugh, MEDIOCRE!") and yet it all flowed beautifully.
And the issues: climate change, nuclear disarmament, social commentary - poverty, objectification, toxic masculinity, Feminism, water wars... they were all there. All of them. And during the film I didn't notice them at all. It was only afterward, thinking about the film, that any of it came out. It was done so well that I'm still thinking about it now, almost two weeks later, and I want to watch Road Warrior again to see what I missed all that time ago.
If you haven't, please see this film, it is brilliant. If you have, would you see it with me? And get the DVD. I shall. If you're local, go and see a film at Scala on a Tuesday evening, it's £3.55 a ticket!