"Who killed the world?"

“Who killed the world?”

 

There’s an inherent nostalgia that comes with a new entry in a film franchise. Audiences get to thinking about the stories that have come before…about where they were and what was happening in their life when they first heard these stories. However, there’s a danger that comes with nostalgia: It tends to give the past a sepia-toned glow. We end up seeing things with a joyful wistfulness, instead of through the clarity of hindsight.

Wistfulness prevents us from seeing where we really fell short, where we lost our way, and where we really screwed up.

His wanderings in the wasteland have gotten Max (Tom Hardy) captured. As FURY ROAD begins, he finds himself a prisoner in a fortress called The Citadel, and under the thumb of a warlord named King Immortan Joe. Joe keeps his subjects under his heel by controlling their water, and keeps his enemies in check by supplying their fuel.

While Max is being held as a de-facto blood donor, a fuel trade is put in-motion. The trade requires one of Joe’s trusted commanders – Furiosa (Charlize Theron) – to drive a “war rig” diesel tanker truck out of The Citadel to the scene of the drop. However, in very short order, the war rig diverges off-course, and Joe realizes he’s been betrayed. What’s more, the women that he usually keeps as a harem are also missing…and he quickly deduces that Furiosa has taken them with her.

The call is quickly sounded, and the cars hit the road.

Eventually, the car with Nux and Max catches up with the war rig…and it’s then that Max sees for himself the reason for Furiosa’s flight. As Nux flees to curry favour with Immortan Joe, Max climbs into the cab of the war rig hoping to help the women get to safety. But despite three various war parties giving chase, and more than a few obstacles thrown up in their way, it soon becomes clear to Max and to us:

These sisters are doin’ it for themselves.

 

Fury Road Explosion

 

If the measure of an action film is a combination of thrills and stakes, then FURY ROAD would already be a success. Every bit of danger is tangible, since it all comes at the hands of massive vehicles and practical weapons. Missing is the spectacle of an entire city crumbling, or creatures from other worlds fighting on our streets. Here the danger comes from fuel and fire; dangers we understand. To say a film succeeds because it makes its threat palpable might seem like generosity…but the truth is we’ve begun to stray too far at the cinema. We’ve begun to stretch the imagination to its limit, meaning that we fail to gasp when a CGI creature tumbles scores of stories.

Dangle a human man out of a speeding diesel truck by his ankle though, and we all hold our breath.

FURY ROAD understands this, and along with this understanding is able to create something truly thrilling. We feel the heat from every blast, and the shudder of every tanker rolling by. What’s more, seeing the way Max, Furiosa, Nux, and The Wives duck and dodge all of these threats – and occasionally fall prey to them – takes the set pieces beyond just action beats, and instead turns them into genuine thrills.

But what’s undeniable – and what makes this film so much more special – is that it has more on its mind than thrills and stakes.

FURY ROAD believes that the boys have been driving in circles for long enough, and that it’s time to pull over and ask for directions.

Indeed, this is the film that makes its titular character pipe down in the desire to stoke the legend of Furiosa, and we are all so much the better for it. In her, we have been given a new badass for a new generation, She is a character who never takes her eyes off the road, and who has the fortitude not only to pick up her weapon, but also to pull the trigger. Her silhouette cuts the desert landscape like a razor blade, and she has a way of her sharp gaze that much more cutting by a smear of black across her eyes.

Furiosa is emblematic of what makes this instalment of the franchise so special, and what makes its moral so poignant. Neither she nor The Wives are interested in being “damsels in distress”, nor are they eager to play romantic interests.  While we may first find them cutting chastity belts away from their nether regions, there’s nothing to suggest that their doing so comes with a want to enjoy that newfound freedom. The men who outfitted them with those restraints are the reason the world is in such a state, so the men will be waiting their turn, while the world gets some love and attention.

So it goes that what was once a series of raging macho revenge tales becomes a plea for a more matriarchal society…and wouldn’t you know it, a feminine slant to the film doesn’t hamper its ability to deliver the action.

Before FURY ROAD, we spent three movies driving aimlessly around the desert, trying to find our way. Maybe we’d have got where we wanted to go sooner, if we’d just slid over and had the women take the wheel.

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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