I saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” over the weekend, and I was fully prepared to write a proper review, but Nonlocal Science Fiction has already published an excellent one here. Much of the review shares my opinions of the movie, and I didn’t want to risk redundancy; however, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about my favorite science fiction sub-genre. My enthusiasm for the post-apocalyptic setting probably has a lot to do with my enjoyment of the horror genre. Nuclear war was one of the scariest threats I could imagine when I was young and the Cold War Superpowers were constantly butting heads. Unlike the monsters of horror movies I enjoyed, you can’t drive a stake through its heart or find a relic to return it to the Netherworld. When I finally saw “The Road Warrior” as a teen, I instantly fell in love with the idea that a nomadic anti-hero could survive in the wasteland by his wits, will, and his V-8 Interceptor (vrooooommm!). He might even do some good here and there, when it would conveniently provide some petrol, anyway.
Through all of the explosions, car chases, and gun fights, I felt that the real star of Fury Road was the environment. Everywhere seemed to be bleak desert, periodically interrupted by a toxic swamp or a pitiful conglomeration of desperate survivors. In a world like that, living is the real horror. Radiation sickness, roving gangs, storms of cataclysmic proportion, and even the governing factions left me wondering why the people even bothered to cling to their meager existences. A lovely day was one where a bug could be captured and eaten.
Hope seemed to be the one thing people had in common, but they yearned for different things. Most hoped that they would simply survive another day without dying of hunger or thirst, and the man controlling the water was practically worshiped as a god. Some hoped to die spectacularly in a turbo-charged ball of flaming wreckage, before radiation poisoning could slowly claim them. Others fought tooth and nail to die for something noble and meaningful. One man seemed to struggle beyond the limits of human tolerance, simply because cheating death prolonged his own anguish, something he felt he deserved.
Max dragged plenty of demons around with him, and though Tom Hardy’s role seemed slight, I thought he portrayed it perfectly. Time and time again, I wondered what it would take for Max to decide he had struggled enough, that it would just be easier to lie down and die. Some people can’t stop fighting, and they are the survivors, the inheritors of the blasted wasteland and all of its treasures made of sand. To me, that’s what these types of movies are about: men and women who will never give up. The real focus is Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, who finds a kindred spirit with Max’s stubborn need to survive. At times, each seems to struggle to understand the other’s purpose for struggling against inevitable death. It is a struggle that begs to be watched and is efficiently explained through action and spare dialogue.
My unbridled enthusiasm for Fury Road thankfully seems to be shared by many other movie viewers. I can only hope this means we will see more of Max Rockatansky and his continued struggle to outpace his enemies and his demons.