So a year ago, everyone on the planet was all You HAVE to see Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s brilliant.
Over the weekend, I followed their advice. Settled in with a packet of chips and a few hours to kill, watched Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron drive some big-rigs and kill a whole bunch of war boys. And lo, it was…
Okay? Good? I am, quite honestly, not entirely sure.
I’ve heard the argument that we’re not yet equipped to really assess Fury Road, because it’s so far outside our experience of films thus far. It’s an incredible spectacle and an endless chase sequence and a monumental feat of world-building and the visual language is seriously fucking awesome.
It also has the benefit of the most perfectly timed act transitions ever. Every half-hour, on the half-hour. In terms of studying structure, it’s great.
Well, I spent most of the first act kinda…waiting for the story to start. Watching things in motion without any real understanding of why that was important.
It feels kinda weird to say that, since one of the things I really enjoyed about the film was how little it gives away about what’s going on behind the scenes. That the world-building happens in the little moments, and that backstory is for suckers.
Well, suckers and Max.
Oh Jesus, does this movie want you to understand Max’s background and his juicy, juicy man-pain. There is voice-over and flashbacks and more voice-over and random action scene and…oh, wait, there’s Furiosa doing something unexpected and we can get on with shit now.
And that’s kinda the problem, for me.
Max’s man-pain feels like a short-cut. Quick-and-dirty characterization that we can hook onto before the folks we’re actually meant to care about comes aboard. Literally everyone has a better arc than Max, from Furiosa to Nux the Warboy to arc given to some of the wives in the handful of moments they’re permitted to be seen as individuals.
On one hand, this is awesome. Max gets the kind of character arc that is normally assigned to secondary characters. Often female secondary characters. I can totes see where the feminist readings of this film come from.
In the other, Max is still the first character we see, the first character we’re asked to invest in, and the character who is presented as being all protagonist-like. Could we not just put Furiosa front and centre in the goddamn film?
Then there was the other thing that bothered me about the film: Orange and Fucking Teal.
I was okay with the orange. The big, glorious desert shots were awesome and it was incredible to have a post-apocalyptic film in which everything wasn’t dark and brooding.
But then the night shots happen and…yeah. All teal. All the time. And suddenly the colour scheme is front and centre, and I find myself incredibly distracted by the whole thing.
And so I keep going back and forth. Great middle act. Okay third act. Terrible first act. World’s most distracting colour scheme.
I’m inclined to file the movie in the same drawer as Hail, Caesar. I really liked the bits I liked, I was largely ambivalent about the overall experience.