Monday, May 18, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (movie review)


A Mad Max movie is like one of those human subject experiments one may never run, not just for ethical reasons but think of the expense.  Science fiction screen play takes over and we do anthropology in a simulator.  The players throw out their hypotheses, as to how humans would cope, and we in the audience, the spectators, engage and endorse somewhat to the extent we empathize with the characters and their motivations.  Do we understand this reality?  Does it ring true in some way?

In a Mad Max, the virtual reality is horrific in that most technology has been removed except the gas guzzlers.  You get an oil refinery, a bullet factory, lots of vehicles driving around shooting each other, lots of road rage, and that's about it, a very simple simulation.

The humans form into pyramid hierarchies that apex in some "strongman" archetype (like a Saddam or Qaddafi).  The leader clique controls the water supply and the rabble get all religious about what this means.  Unionization, forming into agribusiness co-ops, let alone revolution and wealth redistribution, is not in the cards, as peoples religious tendencies are turned against them.  That part rings true enough.

Furiosa, the protagonist (Max might be her alter ego), is tired of how women are treated in this domain and remembers a better place.  She has made her way up in the ranks in this almost entirely male hierarchy, as one of them, but she was a kidnap victim from the start and these are not her people.

She's always felt alienated and decides its time to right the balance.  She's going to seize the day and get the women to that greener place, a place in her memory from before the kidnapping.

Max reins her in at a critical juncture, talking practicality and reality and saying we need to face our original fears and not forever run from our deeper selves.  Not that it's quite so psychological in that way.  All the metaphors are geographic in this invisible landscape, this teenage wasteland.

The drones or fan-boys who love the strongman at the top, don't have much use for children or women except as tools of their pyramid.  Harvesting milk and feeding infants has been outsourced.  There are no "fathers" per se.  However, in the emerging relationship between one of the breeders that Furiosa is rescuing, and a fan-boy, we see that human nature still retains a latent ability to form male-female bonds.

I caught this movie on my birthday thanks to Melody, a good friend and experienced world traveler.  We talked about Belize and the Mennonites there.  I was going on about Amish Mafia on the Discovery channel (I've only watched previews so far) and wondering what a Quaker Mafia would look like.  We went to Yard House on 5th both before and after the film, at the Regal in Fox Tower, which had devoted a majority of its cinemas to Mad Max viewings, including a 3D option.

Melody, who reads a lot, wished the narrative had veered off the action track and explored this virtual world a little more, giving us a richer context, perhaps with back stories and flashbacks (ka-ching!).  The twelve hour version probably has that (smile).  I agreed.  This was like a whirlwind tour through Narnia wherein we only have time for one battle and a quick interview with Aslan, then its back home, tour over, so many questions still unanswered.  Melody thought the funniest touch was the fan-boy rock star, with drummer backup (all very portable), a fitting signature of this psycho-wasteland.