This past Thursday I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. “It’s a post-apocalyptic world with a lot of hot chicks being badass,” my boyfriend said in his convincing argument. And that’s all it took to bring me there, to the “biggest screen in Britain” at London’s BFI IMAX, as repeated three times by our IMAX host Sevda. (Fun extras: she spelled it out at the beginning for us – ‘S-e-v-d-a’ – and spoke for so long her mic got cut off.)
I knew nothing else and watched no trailers.
Suffice it to say, I spent the duration of the film thinking these two interchanging thoughts on loop: what the hell is happening? and holy crap, this is awesome. I picked up pretty early on a few key happenings – everyone is really thirsty, breastmilk is apparently super important, Imperator Furiosa is taking the breastmilk and the hot girls that produce it, the fat Beetlejuice-looking dude in charge wants the girls back in milk-making (implicitly rape-filled) captivity, Max really is a bit mad, and boy do they all love an aggressive car chase!
I didn’t expect what I saw, which was essentially two hours of Mario Kart in the desert but with polecats and blood transfusions instead of banana peels and power ups. But everything moved so fast, and was so loud, intense and hilariously unexpected at times that I didn’t mind. About to venture on an epic chase scene across the desert? Don’t forget your blood bag, travelling guitar hero and drum squad! Obviously. Although big action thrillers are not normally my thing, I must admit I was fully engaged from beginning to end.
So, was the film rife with hot chicks being badass like my boyfriend promised? Yeah, it absolutely was. Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy’s female and male leads were on a refreshingly even keel – each of them with their own post-apocalyptic skill-set, each saving the other’s life at various points, with Charlize pulling through as the film’s hero. But beyond that, all of the film’s female characters displayed some pretty badass traits, from the breastmilk-laden “breeders” that hold their own with the men amongst them (in billowing white dresses that somehow stay white after a raucous two hour romp through the desert, no less) to the older women biker gang we encounter at the Green Place. (Maybe it takes something as big as an apocalypse to finally level that playing field! Such a hopeful sentiment.)
I’ve come across some of the recent media attention paid to how gender roles are portrayed in this film, most notably the outrage from men’s rights activists over having the audacity to promote women and men as equals. I’ve also come across some articles damning this film as disappointingly “not that feminist” on account of the breeders looking like a gaggle of Victoria’s Secret angels and a lead whose “soft, tiny-nosed, blonde prettiness” is only accentuated by her crew cut.
My take? Let’s all calm down a bit – it’s an action movie, not a diatribe. It’s a great film that showcases subverted gender roles while giving us good character development, high-octane action and a dude strapped to a truck made of amps playing a non-stop rock solo on a guitar that doubles as a flamethrower. What’s not to love?