(Cyborg) Bodies, Simulation, and Emotion in Ex Machina, Under the Skin, and Mad Max: Fury Road – Part 3/3, Furiosa and Conclusion

imperator furiosa cyborgThis is the final section of a paper that I wrote as part of an independent research project I completed during the spring ’17 semester at USC. Parts 1 and 2 should be read first.

Furiosa and Conclusion
I’ll now devote the final section of this paper to considering some of the ways in which MMFR uses the (cyborg) woman Furiosa to present an alternate, more optimistic image of simulation and human emotion. Though Miller’s film has numerous things in common with EM and UtS (including important thematic concerns), it also presents simulation in a less monstrous light, while pointing to genuine emotion as a means of rediscovering one’s humanity. Consequently, even though she is physically a cyborg (her body combines human flesh with metal machinery), Furiosa doesn’t work to erase the boundaries between human and inhuman as Ava and The Female do. Despite the differences between them, EM and UtS are both infused by Baudrillard’s pessimism in their own way. On the other hand, MMFR acknowledges such pessimism but also seems to combine a touch of the defiant hopefulness of Haraway with something that resembles more classic humanism instead (Haraway 57).

Where Ava is presented as an AI simulating woman and where The Female is presented as an alien simulating woman, Furiosa is presented as a human—albeit in a harsh, inhumane world. And yet, even though she is a “real,” flesh-and-bone woman in a way Ava and The Female are not, Furiosa is also far less overtly feminine. With her lean frame, shaved head, practical clothing, and dirt-streaked skin, Furiosa stands in direct contrast to the softer, more overtly sexualized women in EM and UtS. Where Ava and The Female both embody conventional, stereotypical femininity to the fullest as part of their simulation, Furiosa is not especially feminine in any visual sense, which is why some have called her a “degendered hero” (Wark). Put another way, though there is a hyperreality to MMFR’s overall aesthetic, it does not extend to Furiosa’s body in a way makes her a hyperreal simulation of woman like her counterparts in EM and UtS.

In addition to simultaneously being more (literally) human and less (visibly, traditionally) feminine than Ava and The Female, Furiosa is also more cyborgian in a strict, material sense. Furiosa’s missing left forearm and hand are replaced by a complex metal prosthetic that she wears via a harness that attaches at her shoulder and waist. Though artificial, the prosthetic is part of her and is crucial to her ability to do her job driving Immortan Joe’s War Rig. Moreover, Furiosa’s deep connection with the War Rig—she knows the machine intimately and designed its kill switches—could be read as further evidence of her cyborgian nature. As Immortan Joe’s Imperator, she interfaces and must be in-sync with the large machine—itself a combination of various vehicles—which can also be thought of as a sort of prosthetic. Importantly however, Furiosa’s cyborg nature doesn’t set her apart from those around her in any especially significant way. As McKenzie Wark notes, in MMFR “The good and the bad guys are crippled […] All are cyborg characters, mixtures of flesh and tech, dependent on systems and apparatus” (Wark). While I do not mean to suggest that the use of cyborgian recombination and of cyborg imagery in MMFR is insignificant, it is not a mark of difference either. While Furiosa is literally cyborgian in a way that Ava and The Female are not, she is also a cyborg in a world where the fusion of metal and flesh is commonplace; therefore, in reading her against the rest of MMFR, it is necessary to consider other aspects of her being. Reading Furiosa’s physical body is worthwhile, but her body alone does not define her to the same extent that Ava’s and The Female’s do.

That said, the fact that Furiosa sheds her prosthetic arm before MMFR’s end does provide important insight into Miller’s larger purposes for her character. Ava is fully prostheses to an extent that she would not exist at all without it. Similarly, while there is more to The Female than her prosthetic skin, she is destroyed as soon as the non-prosthetic portion of her form is revealed. Furiosa’s arm doesn’t lack “sophistication,” but it isn’t all-encompassing in the way Ava’s and The Female’s are (Prophylaxis 35). Moreover, it is not necessary for her survival either; in fact, it is by shedding it that she secures her victory over the ruthless, sexist dictator Immortan Joe. Reading Ava and The Female in conjunction with Baudrillard reveals that they are particularly threatening and monstrous, in part because their entire outward appearance can be figured as prosthetic. Furiosa however, is a much more straightforward hero—she never kills anyone the audience might have sympathy for—and does not rely on her prosthetic for existence or survival. While her metal arm makes her job easier, she can remove it; more importantly, she can also live without it. When Furiosa kills Immortan Joe in a chase sequence near the end of MMFR, her metal hand latches on to the mechanical mask that helps him breathe. Furiosa’s prosthetic then gets caught in the wheels of a vehicle and is torn from her body, taking Immortan Joe’s entire face along with it. This moment represents the dramatic climax of MMFR, and essentially secures victory for Furiosa and the film’s other protagonists. Moreover, from this moment on, Furiosa is not shown with a prosthetic again. When she and “wives” she helps rescue retake The Citadel in the film’s final scene, Furiosa’s amputated arm is in full view. Thus, MMFR’s most ecstatic, most hopeful moment calls attention to its protagonist’s ability to move past her own prosthetic, thereby rejecting any simulation it might be seen to represent. Though it does help her kill the film’s primary villain, it is not an integral part of her. Rather than become full cyborg or simulation, Furiosa chooses another path altogether. In contrast to Ava and The Female, Furiosa is human first, cyborg second, and hardly simulation at all.

Furiosa’s ability to relinquish her prosthetic and to survive without it makes Immortan Joe’s death possible, but so too does her ability to connect with other women while embracing her own past. Discussing what he sees as a dangerous situation in which society is becoming increasingly fragmented and isolated, Baudrillard writes, “we are already living in a bubble ourselves—already, like those characters in Bosch paintings, enclosed in a crystal sphere: a transparent envelope in which we have taken refuge and where we remain, bereft of everything, yet over-protected, doomed to artificial immunity, continual transfusions and, at the slightest contact with the outside, instant death” (Prophylaxis 35). While such a dark description of “contact” holds in EM—in which Ava kills Nathan as soon as she is free of her room—and in UtS—in which nearly every man The Female brings home is destroyed—it is only partially true in MMFR. At the beginning of Miller’s film, Furiosa can be read as largely cut-off from herself and others. She grows up as Immortan Joe’s captive and lives as his tool, a situation which likely caused her to deny much of her identity, including her gender. As Immortan Joe’s Imperator, Furiosa is constantly surrounded by men and boys and feasibly never interacts with women until she helps the wives escape. Furthermore, it is only after she unites with the wives, bonds with Max, and reconnects with the all-female Vuvalini that Furiosa kills Immortan and takes the Citadel (surrounded by other women). As long as Furiosa is isolated from other women and lacks personal connections, Immortan Joe can use her to do his bidding. However, once that changes, contact with her—for him, anyway—means “instant death” (Prophylaxis 35).

In MMFR, interpersonal connection and contact are not only possible for the film’s deadly female protagonist, they are empowering as well. Ava doesn’t form any genuine (i.e. non-deceptive) bonds with anyone else, and it remains somewhat unclear if she will be able to (or if she even wants to) outside of Nathan’s compound. On the other hand, The Female briefly attempts to connect with others, but fails almost entirely and loses her life. Furiosa however, bonds with numerous characters over the course of the film, thereby expanding the scope of her existence and her emotions well beyond that which is more simply reproduced. As I’ve already shown, the idea that a finite being can be manufactured and reproduced helps illuminate the simulative nature of Ava and The Female (Doane 112). However, unlike Ava—whose emotional capacity remains somewhat ambiguous—and The Female—who tries but fails to expand herself through both emotional (and physical experiences) Furiosa possesses an emotional capacity and depths of memory that cannot be reduced to mere material. And, through her emotions and memory, Miller establishes her as a being who transcends her physical form in a way the women in EM and UtS do not.

Unlike Ava and The Female, Furiosa has a past—and acknowledging that past helps her achieve a future. Rather than her prosthetic arm or her ability to throw reality into chaos through simulation, what sets Furiosa apart (other than the fact that she is the only female driver Immortan Joe seems to have) are her moments of grief, her intense feeling, and the way she sacrifices herself for others. Notably, these aspects of her being are expressed through her physical form, as Bilge Ebiri demonstrates in his piece, “‘This is Our Furiosa.’ Mad Max Fury Road and the Moments In Between.” In the piece, Ebiri focuses on “one of the film’s rare quiet scenes,” a moment in which Furiosa remembers the day she and her mother were initially taken from the Vulvalini (a tribe of all women). The scene comes at a point in the film before which Furiosa (and viewers of the film) have not yet “had a chance to slow down and reflect”; but as Ebiri notes, that the moment is “so adrift amid the madness” emphasizes it, providing “added depth” (Ebiri). MMFR moves at a much, much faster pace than EM and UtS making it all the more significant that Miller devotes the film’s few slower moments to memory, emotion, and interpersonal connection. As Furiosa opens up and recounts both her kidnapping and her mother’s death,

“[…] the Vuvalini reflexively perform a quiet, brief mourning gesture – holding a hand up, grabbing at the air, and bringing it to their chest. After seeing them, Furiosa herself slowly does the gesture as well […] As she grabs at the air, her haunted eyes watch her own hand, as if she were seeing it for the first time. Her face is that of someone remembering something that was once probably very much part of her—not just her mother, but this whole Vuvalini ritual, and the sense of belonging it implies. She’s re-learning, in other words, the person she used to be.” (Ebiri)

In this moment, Furiosa’s body is used to express grief and memory, and the “gesture” she performs among the Vuvalini serves as physical evidence of her inner, non-material experience. Furiosa’s body also expresses extreme feeling when she realizes that The Green Place she imagined no longer exists. In this moment, Furiosa walks off into the dessert alone, shedding her prosthetic arm as she goes. She then drops to her knees, and screams into the air with all her might. This display of genuine pain and emotion is unlike anything in EM or UtS, both of which occupy spaces of simulation in a way MMFR does not. Unlike MMFR’s other central protagonist, Max—who does not open up to others and remains fully locked within himself—Furiosa shares her past traumas and displays her emotions in front of others. Thus, also unlike Max—who returns to The Wasteland alone—she ends the film connected to and surrounded by others, ready to make a new start at The Citadel.

In EM, Ava is an AI who can appear human. Similarly, in UtS, The Female “is an alien who passes for human” (On the matter of blackness). But in MMFR, Furiosa is a shell of a person who then reclaims her humanity.  Moreover, while Ava and The Female both simulate humanity and spend much of their time reading emotion, only Furiosa actually feels emotion. In fact, it is largely her emotional capacity—which is inextricably linked with the depth of her memory—that distinguishes her from those around her. In a piece on MMFR, Wark highlights the ways in which Miller’s film rejects a Baudrillardian depiction of simulation. For, in Baudrillard “The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory—precession of simulacra” (Precession 1). But as Wark writes, in MMFR, “The actual precedes the virtual, even when it seems it is the other way around […] Furiosa is driven by the virtual image of the green land. But it turns out there really was an actual one. In seeking after her childhood memory of it, she drove straight past the real one, which has turned into a poisoned swamp” (Wark, emphasis in original). In Miller’s conception of a post-apocalyptic future, simulation offers nothing but empty promises. And so, where Ava and The Female are simulations who are both subjected to violence and repeatedly enact violence on others, Furiosa eventually embraces emotion and humanity, even when it’s painful to do so. In a sense, the post-apocalyptic Wasteland of MMFR is a post-technological world—a place in which a manufactured simulation as advanced as Ava or an alien like The Female would both be unthinkable, but that doesn’t mean that Furiosa couldn’t have chosen to remain in the “virtual” realm of simulation—by remaining isolated from others, by continuing to repress her feelings and memory, and by remaining a useful tool for Immortan Joe.

The general topics I address above—as well the films at the center of my analysis—all warrant more consideration than a paper of this size can contain. Though my work here is in many ways incomplete, it is my hope that it still adds to critical understanding of EM, UtS, and MMFR; these intelligently crafted films all deserve further scholarship, in part, because all three dare to grapple with the dangerous, potentially overwhelming question of what it means to be human in an age of simulation, “ephemeral” identity, and alienation (Sobchack 229, 299). At the same time, these films offer different ways of envisioning both the cyborg and simulation in contemporary sci-fi cinema. Moreover, with the above, I don’t mean to claim that Ava, The Female, or Furiosa shouldn’t be thought of as cyborgs; rather, my purpose has been to show just some of what can be gained both by looking at the material of their bodies and by reading them as simulation.

Throughout “The Precession of Simulacra,” Baudrillard frequently calls attention to the threat of the simulation he describes. EM, UtS, and MMFR each express anxiety about living in a world of simulation. That said, where Garland and Glazer gesture toward a future (and a present) in which simulation overtakes the existence of the (cyborg) women at their centers, Miller (who sets his film in a future that looks more like an imagined past) offers a way out of simulation by allowing Furiosa to reconnect and remember how to feel. While none of the three films I discuss here denies the danger of simulation, each at times, takes the side of simulation as well. In their own way, Ava, The Female, and Furiosa are all victims of systems well beyond their control. Their respective forms and simulative modes of existence are all, in a sense, imposed on them; but what this means for those of us still pretending to occupy “the real” must wait for another day.

Until Next Time
Parts 1 and 2.

[A previous piece on Mad Max: Fury Road can be found here.]


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January 2017 Recap: The Best

janbestAnd so, now that you know what didn’t do it for me last month, here are the films I watched that stood out the most, and for the best reasons.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Directed by Mike Nichols

I tend to not be too fond of movies that feel like ‘filmed plays,’ but this one is so lively, so biting, so clever, and just so damn much that I never found it lacking. Where some adaptations of theater are flat on the screen, Nichols’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is overflowing with energy and character (not to mention yelling).

As much fun as this film is—and it is a lot of fun—its remarkable ability to blend darkness with intelligence and humor is what I’ll remember most. As many have said before me, the two lead performances are also fantastic, with Taylor and Burton portraying their characters with nuance without ever sacrificing their incredible intensity.

Videodrome (1983)
Directed by David Cronenberg

Until last month, the only Cronenbergs I’d seen were Eastern Promises and A Dangerous MethodVideodrome represents the first step in my efforts to remedy this situation.

As someone who grew up without venturing into the horror genre, I’ve been a little wary of Cronenberg’s earlier work. As it turns out, I’m an adult, and watching Videodrome was no problem at all. In fact, it was absolutely delightful (in a dark, grotesque sort of way).

Videodrome is stylish, excessive, creepy, and—most importantly—thoughtful. Cronenberg’s picture of a world in which the barriers between man, media, and weapon have all but crumbled is fascinating in part, because it doesn’t feel that far-fetched. In Videodrome, an “enthusiastic global corporate citizen” seeks to turn us all inside out, to dissolve whatever holds us together and use us for its own ends…

Oh, and Debbie Harry is lovely.

Cabaret (1972)
Directed by Bob Fosse

Cabaret is A LOT. For all its decadence, playfulness, and exuberance, it never shakes lose a palpable sense of despair. I don’t typically like musicals, but I love this one. There is a grit and a realism to Cabaret, and though its got plenty of style, it never sacrifices substance in the name of spectacle.

For what its worth, I really love The Master of Ceremonies, a character  as endearing as he is strange and as unsettling as he is delightful…

I watched Fosse’s film two days before the Orange Beast was inaugurated, and that context may have heightened my sensitivity to its impact. The last shot in particular left me reeling; that reflection of all the Nazi’s in the club’s audience has burned itself into my brain. If you’ve never seen it, let it do the same to you too.

Alien (1979)
Directed by Ridley Scott

Ignoring the fact that it took me this long to watch it, Alien is a damn good movie. It’s enveloping, revolting, intelligent, and precisely calculated. The film uses its sci-fi and horror elements with purpose, and it’s an impressive exercise in sustaining cinematic tension. Where lighter science-fiction fare (like Star Wars) is expansive, Alien swallows up everything in its path. Alien is a film of dark, slippery, nasty surfaces; the imagery may not be subtle, but it is effective.

And who needs villains when the body and reproduction are both absolutely terrifying all on their own?

For what it’s worth, I also watched Aliens this month and, while it’s very good, Alien is definitely the one I prefer. Narratively, its more tightly wound and less loose around the edges than its sequel. It’s also more atmospheric and leaves more room for rich, potentially radical thematic interpretation.

Anyway, Ripley and Jones the Cat are the heroes we need right now.

Margaret (2011)
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

I watched the theatrical cut of this film, and after learning what the extended cut adds, I’m more than content with that choice.

As with Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan uses Margaret to plumb the depths of trauma and guilt. This sprawling, somewhat unruly film doesn’t make the mistake of trying to oversimplify its subject matter for narrative convenience either. The film is messy, but so is everything it cares about, and it’s better of Lonergan’s last two works. The film is also haunted by the specter of 9/11 and serves as a meditation on the difficulties of integrating such an event into one’s understanding of the world (particularly as a young person).

There is a lot to love about Margaret, Anna Paquin’s performance very much included. She feels real in this film, and that fact is absolutely essential to its success. Lonergan’s script is layered and includes some of the most authentic-sounding mother-daughter interactions I’ve heard. Lonergan also embraces the awkwardness of his high-school-aged characters. Such a script would have trouble accommodating an overly polished figure at its center, but Paquin never allows that to become an issue. Her work here is controlled chaos at its best.

Mad Max: Fury Road, Black & Chrome Edition (2015/6)
Directed by George Miller

I’ve seen Mad Max: Fury Road numerous times. It’s my favorite movie (full stop). I know it well. And yet, the Black & Chrome Edition still managed to surprise me. Which is all to say that I’m so glad that George Miller invented cinema in the year 2015, and that he and Warner Bros. later decided to bless the masses even further by releasing this alternate version.

None of the energy or the glorious excess of the color version of Fury Road is lost in black and white. In fact, the images in this version are charged with even more power. I felt this film more intensely than just about any other. Swapping color for black and white highlights the incredible composition of the film’s images and lends them a strange, new beauty. There is a sense of timelessness conveyed by black and white that melds seamlessly with Miller’s tale. More importantly, the emotional element of the film is undoubtedly intensified in this edition. I don’t know how to describe it (I am, after all, in the realm of the abstract here), but I experienced itthe color version of the film packs a wallop, but this one left me reeling in a way I won’t forget.

I was lucky enough to watch the Black & Chrome Fury Road on a big screen. If you get a chance to do the same, don’t let it pass you by.

20th Century Women
Directed by Mike Mills

20th Century Women features a solid, nuanced, sensitive, and well-timed script from Mills and is bolstered by an exceptional lead performance by Annette Bening. Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning are also quite good.

Mills and his cast respect all of the film’s characters, and the result is a tender, emotionally intelligent work of art. 20th Century Women also excels at interweaving its different narratives with different moments in history. The film just feels good. And its now crystal clear that Beginners (2010) wasn’t a fluke.

Silence (2016)
Directed by Martin Scorsese


Even if the last 15 minutes of the film don’t work for me (they don’t), it’s clear that only a master could have made this film.

So much of Silence is sublime (I know what the word means, and I mean it). This is especially true of Rodrigo Prieto’s cold, elegant, and overwhelming cinematography.

The film is also (appropriately) more ideologically ambivalent than some are giving it credit for. Silence presents. It does not judge.

The subjects that Scorsese tackles herereligion, sacrifice, morality, self-preservation, and much more besidesare complex in the extreme, and to oversimplfy them by opting for easy answers is work for much lesser films.

I’ve never really been a “fan” of Andrew Garfield’s acting, but Silence makes it clear that he is capable of giving a performance that is intense, layered, heavy, and controlled all at once. I’m sure Scorsese deserves some of the credit here, but Garfield’s performance here is one of the best of 2016 (that he was nominated for the hot mess that is Hacksaw Ridge instead is absolutely baffling). Though he’s not in the film all that much, Adam Driver also does impressive work here, and he’s quickly become an actor to keep an eye onhis range is impressive, and he has more sheer presence than most.

Silence left me rattled in that no other film has for a while, and I have little doubt that it will endure far longer than La La Land (or just about anything else from 2016). Silence is a brave and beautiful film, and Scorsese refuses to underestimate his viewers.

Until Next Time
Thanks for stopping by! I’d love to know what the best films you’ve watched recently are, so feel free to share in a comment below!


January 2017 Recap: The Worst

janworstI watched 28 movies in January, two dozen of which I had never seen before. As a graduate student (and an adult who has work to do and whatnot), I simply can’t write on that many films. So, for the time being, my plan is to combine regular letterboxd and twitter updates with monthly recaps like this one. This installment will be followed by a similar one on my best films of the month. For the time being, I’m not including rewatches in these posts.

Here are the least satisfying films I watched last month:

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Directed by George Miller

Given just how much I love Mad Max: Fury Road, it pains me to say that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is simply not good. There are (potentially) good ideas scattered throughout the film, but they never quite cohere into something meaningful or worthwhile. This installment of the Mad Max franchise is not nearly as economical or as distilled down as its counterparts, and the result is a confusing, messy, and diluted work. Much like the Ewoks in The Return of the Jedi, the children in the film take up precious time without contributing any dramatic weight. That Tina Turner song is a jam, and it’s hard not to admire Miller’s creativity, but Beyond Thunderdome left me more disappointed than anything else.

The Founder (2016)
Directed by John Lee Hancock

After watching The Founder, I wrote on letterboxd that the film is “middling and not worth the two hours it takes to watch it.” I also repurposed Dwight MacDonald’s claim that “There is slowly emerging a tepid, flaccid Middlebrow Culture that threatens to engulf everything in its spreading ooze,” to suggest that John Lee Hancock’s latest effort should be regarded as such.

Essentially, there is just nothing interesting, compelling, or memorable about The Founder. The story of Ray Kroc is to The Social Network what a single raisin is to an entire chocolate cake. It’s Steve Jobs if someone drained all the life and dimension out of it. There’s simply not enough there, and Kroc’s character development is inconsistent to the point that one suspects the film(makers) of laziness.

The Comedian (2016)
Directed by Taylor Hackford

There’s an intelligent, thought-provoking film about comedy, celebrity in the age of viral media, and the challenges of growing old buried somewhere deep in Hackford’s latest film. Unfortunately, the pile of cringe-inducing, torturous garbage covers most of the film’s surface renders any of its solid ideas and potential all but invisible.

At times, The Comedian comes across as something like Bojack Horseman, but with all that is good and enjoyable sucked out of it. And when a film as well-crafted and as intelligently written as The King of Comedy already exists, one wonders why De Niro wanted to debase himself with a project as misguided and flawed as this one.

Gilbert Gottfried is in this movie, but he doesn’t have a single line. Audiences are asked to believe that Danny DeVito and Robert De Niro are Jewish. Harvey Keitel is a sad shadow of himself….It’s just not good.

And what’s will all the insufferable jazz?

The Bye Bye Man (2017)
Directed by Stacy Title

Faye Dunaway is in this movie, and this movie is very bad. That said, it’s not bad enough to be much fun. The performances are amateurish. The plot is nonsensical. The pacing is clunky. The ideas are uninspired.

I could go on, but there’s really no reason to. The Bye Bye Man isn’t worth it, and one wonders why anyone wanted to see it made in the first place.

Until Next Time
Thanks for stopping by!

Best of January 2017 post coming soon.

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A Review of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road—A High-Octane Action Film that Passes the Bechdel Test

Mad Max Fury Road Review Furiosa

Film: Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Primary Cast: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Riley Keough
US Release Date: 15 May 2015

The following review was originally published by Side B Magazine and can be found on their blog, here. 

Both a sequel to and a reboot of George Miller’s 1980s trilogy, Mad Max: Fury Road (Fury Road) is a post-apocalyptic action thriller set in a desolate wasteland where water is scarce and where people are mad, broken, and desperate—Max’s  world is characterized by destruction, the instinct to survive, and very little else at all. When the film opens, Max (Tom Hardy) is a man haunted by the ghosts of those he could not save. Within minutes of his opening monologue, he is also a prisoner at The Citadel, a fortress controlled by the disgusting and tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). After spending an undetermined amount of time in a hanging cage, Max is turned into a living blood bag for one of Immortan Joe’s War Boys, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

As Max’s blood drains into Nux, Immortan Joe sends a party of his War Boys—young men who worship him and are nothing but tools for violence—out to get gasoline and bullets somewhere across the wasteland. This party is led by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who soon takes her war rig and those following her off of their prescribed course. Just about as soon as he learns that the travelers have changed direction, Immortan Joe also discovers that his wives are missing; the 5 women are with Furiosa, who is attempting to smuggle them out of The Citadel and away from Immortan Joe’s slavery for good.

Desperate to retrieve his wives (and the potential heirs that some of them carry), Immortan Joe sets out after them with an entire war party. This party includes Max, who is still connected to Nux. What follows is a series of thrilling, original, and delightfully relentless chase scenes along with a decent amount of intelligent and remarkably efficient storytelling.

I don’t usually go in for action films, but Fury Road isn’t like most action films. It’s tighter, it’s bolder, it’s smarter; this fearless and exceptionally memorable film puts the pedal to the metal in just about every way, and the result is a film that puts the rest of its genre to shame. First and foremost, Fury Road is a high-octane visual spectacle, but it’s also masterfully crafted work of cinema. So if nearly 2 hours of car chases, guns, and destruction sounds at all played-out or uninteresting to you, think again.

Instead of lulling his audiences into a stupor with drawn-out exposition, Miller throws them into the action almost immediately and trusts in their ability to figure out things along the way. Instead of devoting precious time to superfluous explanatory dialogue, he conveys a great deal of information in transit, with great efficiency, and often with little more than a word or glance. Fury Road wastes very few moments and even fewer lines. Unlike many summer blockbusters, the film exhibits a thorough understanding of economical storytelling, and this understanding allows it to present a compelling story and layered characters without ever taking its foot off the gas.

The action and chase sequences in Fury Road are truly some of the very best I’ve seen (and may be some of the best period). Not only are such sequences thrilling to the point of being overwhelming, but they are also so visually stunning and so well-choreographed, that I could not stop grinning from sheer cinematic delight. The first of these sequences left me breathless—so much so that when it ended, the ensuing (and very temporary) calm left me almost disoriented. At the time, I thought that there was surely no way that the film could keep up such a pace or that it could continue to top itself; to my pleasant surprise, I was wrong. Fury Road is a wild ride from start to finish, and it left me with such a high, that I have felt compelled to go see it again ever since I saw the credits roll.

Fury Road does not hold back, and it should be respected for that alone. That said, there is much more to love about this film than its magnificent action sequences and the breakneck pace at which it moves. Not only does the film turn the dial up to 11 and then some, it also demonstrates an abundance of creative purpose. Watching Fury Road, one gets the sense that every single detail it contains was worked over carefully and that the film was made by someone who takes his craft very seriously. I may not be able to tell  you why each and every piece of every image and scene in the film is the way it is, but I have a strong feeling that George Miller could; yes, Fury Road is filled with madness, but whether or not there is a method behind it is never in question.

Along with its fantastic visuals, effects, and chase scenes, Fury Road also presents a slew of memorable and surprisingly well-developed characters and tells a story that carries both emotional and conceptual weight. This tightly made and exceptionally well-edited movie proves that action films are more than capable of giving viewers a story that they can sink their teeth into and can become truly invested in. With just a few lines here or a single shot there, Miller is able to give significant depth to his characters and to instill powerful emotions in his viewers. This film may be defined by its spectacle, but its efficient and layered story also set it apart.

Two other aspects of the film worth mentioning are its distinct aesthetic and its powerful score. The images in Fury Road simply could not have come from any other film. The world in which it takes place is fully realized and the resulting images are a little bit steampunk, a little bit rock and roll, and a whole lot crazy. Together, the film’s consistent aesthetic, it’s distinct color scheme, and the fact that so many of its shots include images unlike anything viewers are likely to have seen before (how many creatures with no eyes playing flaming electric guitars for war convoys are there?) all contribute to the fact that this is not a film that will be easily forgotten. At the same time, the film’s heart-pounding score further enhances the distinct and undeniably intense cinematic experience that is Fury Road. Composed by Junkie XL, the music in the film is as badass and as distinct as the rest of it. It’s primal, it’s industrial, and I still can’t get it out of my head.

On the acting side of things, Theron and Hardy both pull their weight quite impressively. Though neither of them (especially Hardy) says all that much, they both manage to tell entire stories with their eyes and their movements, and their ability to do so has quite a bit to do with the film’s success.

In addition to all the areas I have mentioned thus far, Fury Road also succeeds in passing the Bechdel Test, and it does so with flying colors. One can easily imagine a film in which Immortan’s Joes 5 wives are nothing more than a sexualized set piece or background detail, and one can just as easily imagine a film in which Furiosa is nothing more than a convenient side kick who plays second fiddle to Max, but Fury Road is neither. Eve Ensler was a consultant for the film, and it’s clear that Miller isn’t afraid of being called a feminist (as if anyone should be, but that’s another story). Not only does Fury Road feature more women than any action film that I can think of, it also places them in a position of power. Unlike the women in many other films, those in Fury Road “are not things”; beautiful as they are, they are far more than their appearances. As Immortan Joe’s desperation and many of the film’s earlier scenes make clear, The Citadel could never exist without them. Furiosa and the 5 wives are aware of this fact, and this knowledge enables them to destroy the man who claims ownership of them; in doing so, they challenge the patriarchal violence that enslaves them and the War Boys alike. These women don’t need a man to tell them that they deserve better than sexual slavery, and they are more than capable of standing up to the system that oppresses them on their own. While Max does help Furiosa and the wives, he needs them as much as they need him, and he only ends up with them at all, because he taken prisoner.

Fury Road does not make the mistake of spending too much time on its male protagonist (Hardy is signed on to make 3 more Mad Max films, so there will more than enough time for him later). It doesn’t try to make Max superior to or more capable than Furiosa, and it never seeks to establish some contrived and perfunctory romance between them either. In this film, Max is a man who has realistically been broken by his environment, and to say that he is inspired—and even outshined—by the women around him wouldn’t be unreasonable at all.

Fury Road may not be perfect in every way, but it is so daring, so thrilling, and so memorable (and all of that without being sexist!) that any small faults it may have quickly fade away. In fact, Fury Road is bursting with so much energy and with so much sheer creative force that I have no problem at all calling it “sublime.” Fury Road left me reeling unlike any other film I’ve seen this year, and I cannot help but think that it may be quite some time before I witness another action film as mad, as intense, and as unforgettable as this one.

Until Next Time
Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to discuss this film further with those interested, so feel free to leave a comment below!