Mad Max: Fury Road

Monday, May 25th, 2015 11:05 am
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
Saw it last night. It's better than I expected but not as good as many people seem to find it.

I saw it described numerous places as a two-hour chase scene and that just sounded really tiring, especially combined with its over-the-top aesthetic. But it does know that viewers need quiet moments to catch their breath and the pacing works pretty well—though I misunderstood spoilers and thought the movie ended somewhat sooner than it actually did, so that was a little weird for me.

I've seen a lot of praise for the action scenes, particularly their use of actual vehicles. To me, something about the way the first vehicle sequence was shot didn't make it look any more or less "real" than good CGI—I think it may have been slowing down and speeding up things for effect? It wasn't very engaging, anyway, though not as distancing as the truly terrible opening sequence of Ultron. By the last big setpiece I was engaged, but that was probably as much emotional as anything. And, overall, the aesthetic was not particularly my thing (except for Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron's character, which (a) has her face and (b) is about the most simple thing in the movie).

Yes, it is about the toxicity of masculinity in a sexist world, and yes, there are lots of matter-of-factly disabled characters, including at least one and possibly two protagonists, depending on how you view things. (However, there is just one obviously non-white character.) But enough was done right about sexism and the female characters that three moments spotlighting male characters at the expense of female characters felt particularly jarring to me—not enough to completely overcome the overall effect, but enough to be distracting and unpleasant.

Finally for general comments, many of the logistics make zero sense, as people have noted. The majority of them I can accept as (a) the product of a deranged mind who doesn't care so much about efficiency as supporting a cult (the water distribution, human milk, gasoline wasting) or (b) the price of admission (Max's likely age). The one I can't actually handwave past is Furiosa having the position she does, actually; she's the only woman we see driving rigs or in a position of explicit authority over men, and I have no idea how she could've got there in this atmosphere. There'd be no movie otherwise, so, price of admission, but I care about her unlike Max, so I poke at the question. (Well, I care about Max, but only with Furiosa. I started getting into the action sequences when they started wordlessly working together, handing each other weapons and trading off shots; and as Chad tells me someone said, there is more chemistry in the bit with the shoulder rest than in the entirety of Ultron.)

Before I get into spoilers, the last thing I can say outside a cut is that that song "Matches" I mentioned last week is totally apropos to this movie. *puts on repeat*

Now, for spoilers. First a thing that is a moderate spoiler but is also an important content note/trigger warning that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere (though I haven't been reading a ton of stuff about this movie):

There is a not-super-graphic but unmistakable instance of violence against a pregnant woman and fetal harm that was also entirely gratuitous.

And now for the rest of the spoilers.

Major spoilers.

The other two moments of "really? It's all about the dudes now?"

First: the redheaded woman's easy acceptance and compassion toward the War Boy. I don't agree with everything [livejournal.com profile] abigail_n says in this review (spoilers), but I really felt there needed to be way more work put into this to make it sensible and not just "women are better than men"—which is just a pedestal all over again.

(One thing I don't really follow is "In the unforgiving world of this series, after all, one dictator isn't much different than the other. Furiosa might not keep a harem or train child soldiers, but she'll still need workers to do the backbreaking labor of pumping water from beneath the ground, and warriors to fight off the other tribes in the area." Yeeessss, but those things needn't be exploitative, if water is distributed fairly, efforts are made to reduce the manual labor, and fighters aren't brainwashed into it . . . ? I definitely agree, though, that the bit where Furiosa asks Max to drive when they go through the archway makes no sense. Who was she planning to have drive before then? Just a line about "I've told (someone) how to work things but she hasn't been able to practice, you'll do better" would have fixed that.)

Second: Max being the one to suggest they go back. (As an aside: my misinterpreted spoiler was that the movie ended at the decision, not at the return, so I was thinking, "that escape in the night was kind of mild for a movie-ending action sequence," and then "wait, how far are they going?") Yes, I can see it, Furiosa has spent seven thousand days working toward the Green Place, which is Not Here; but I really disliked Max taking the spotlight here, it just didn't feel earned—possibly because I thought the ghosts/hallucinations/whatever were tedious. If she couldn't have come up with the idea herself, I would much rather have had maybe the older women they found ask about the Citadel, realize it sounds pretty good in terms of water and agriculture, and they collectively come to the decision that they should go back and overthrow the patriarchy—if you still need Max to have an arc, let him decide to go his own way and then change his mind and decide to come help them.

The last shot, of Max slipping away and Furiosa ascending, the camera fixed on her until she disappears, is perfect and goes a long way for me, but yeah, those three bits felt like they were out of a different and much worse movie for me.

New-to-me trailers:

Vacation. Oh geez, make it stop. (NSFW.)

San Andreas. I am so fucking over the expectation that I will find the deaths of millions entertaining. Especially when the trailer ends with a super-cynical effort to mitigate its own disaster porn by linking to a disaster preparedness website. Fuck. Off.

Crimson Peak. Nice to see a trailer for something I won't see because it looks good at what it does. (I don't do horror. Which is too bad because, Jessica Chastain's face.)

Terminator Genisys. I like that they're starting with Sarah already badass, but do we really need to keep doing this? I don't think so.

The Transporter Refueled. I entirely checked out during this, other than to note that Jason Statham apparently is too expensive for these now.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 03:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] abigail_n.livejournal.com
I'm willing to accept Furiosa's status in the Citadel because even in the most misogynistic cultures, you will have women who somehow manage to be exceptions. But I think that for this to be truly believable, Furiosa would have to have been a much darker, more compromised character, someone who has lived violently and imbibed the same ethos as the war boys. As I say in my review, the fact that both she and wives seem fundamentally untouched by the violence of what they've escaped is one of the core problems with how the film sees men and women.

those things needn't be exploitative, if water is distributed fairly, efforts are made to reduce the manual labor, and fighters aren't brainwashed into it . . . ?

I guess, given the state of the film's world, and the history of industrial labor, that it's hard for me to believe that you could build a society that doesn't depend on some level on the existence of have-nots who do the dangerous, physical work. They could still be better off than they were under Immortan Joe, but I think a class system is inevitable.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 11:39 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Yeah, I don't know, her talk about redemption suggests there could be something, but the in medias res nature makes things difficult.

That was exactly the sense I got from her mention of redemption: all the intelligence and the strength she displays over the course of Fury Road, she's given to the service of Joe's regime; she is complicit in supporting the same toxic patriarchy that kidnapped her and killed her mother and destroyed however many lives she's seen in the seven thousand days (plus the ones she doesn't remember) since she was raided from the Green Place. It's hard to imagine her doing otherwise if she was going to survive. By the time we meet her, she's in a state of active resistance: when Joe's "wives" beg her to help them escape, she agrees. They have the desire to run; she has the memory of a place to run to and the freedom of movement and experience from which to construct a plan to get there. But there were still years when she wasn't helping anyone, or even running by herself, or she'd have been gone from the Citadel long before Max got there. I agree that we don't learn very much about the process by which she changed to her present course of action. (It doesn't seem implausible to me, for example, that the death-cult indoctrination was never as successful with her as it was with the other warboys because she had known a very different life before the Citadel, or because, being female, she was always going to be seen as an exception no matter how skilled or faithful a fighter she was, but I have no textual evidence to support this. For all I know, she bought into Joe's shiny chrome glory harder than any other war-pup around her because it was the only way to survive.) It didn't feel like a missing step in the plot to me; it's enough for the audience to construe that it happened. She did not, in any case, read to me as unrealistically noble for the society that raised her.

Date: Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 02:49 am (UTC)
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I was trying to say that she may have done worse than be complicit to "earn" her position and feel she needs redemption.

I assumed she killed a lot of people, raided others, protected Joe in battle, enforced his discipline, sort of thing. We don't see a lot of what an imperator's normal routine involves, but it must be pretty violent because everything about Joe's automotive death-cult is violent, often needlessly so; if the Citadel works anything like your normal misogynist society, she was head and shoulders the best of her cohort because otherwise she wouldn't have been so promoted and trusted. I didn't feel that I needed a specific backstory incident that Furiosa felt she had to atone for, I think is one of the things I'm saying. Just being good at her job would have come with a certain amount of casual atrocity.

(the liminal / honorary status, as discussed below, is really the only thing that works, but I could've done with a little more signaling in that regard).

That makes sense.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 03:34 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] markerikson
1. That bit where she asks Max to drive didn't feel like a weird turn, to me. It felt like a hedge against a potential fuckup, not an integral part of the plan. And she did it because she knew he had no choice at htat point, really, except to throw in his lot with them.

2. The "other wives" mentioned in the linked review were not, I don't think, actually supposed to be Immortan Joe's wives. I think they were just nursing women donating their breastmilk. Whether by choice or not is another question.
(I might be wrong about this one, but I thought there was a line in the movie somewhere that specifically enumerated Joe's wives at 5.)

3. The uniform whiteness is...well, if this is supposed to be set in Australia, and nukes have taken out the state capitals, then practically everyone left would be white. But realism is not a particularly important factor here (the majority of the main characters are played by non-Australians), so yeah, it really should have had more non-white faces. Some aboriginal ones would have been really great to see.

4. One of the weird things about this sort of discussion is that I can say "This is why it worked for me" and it doesn't really form a useful argument for why that mitigates it's problematic nature. So, the redhead who decided to like Nuz worked because I thought of her not as a woman who was just better at being sympathetic or whatever. I thought of her as someone who'd been sheltered from the horrible realities of the Wasteland by being locked in a Vault and pampered (while also being used for her womb). But I guess having a narrative justification for a problematic trope doesn't make it any less problematic.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Also re: 4. The redhead knew she was a victim of Immortan Joe, Nuz didn't. She could probably recognise and identify with a fellow victim.

I felt like this movie made me connect a lot of dots, which I really liked about it. Although some of the lines I drew might be pretty tenuous. For instance: how did Immortan Joe gets armies from the Bullet Farm and Gas Town to join his crusade? My brain immediately invented an alliance between the three that worked in much the same way as the alliances that set off WW1, because it felt like something that would make sense in the Wasteland. But there's basically nothing in the movie to support this, other than the three groups working together towards a goal that only Joe would realistically care about.

Similarly, most of what I think about the redhead - and all the wives - is just assumptions. And I still don't feel like it's unreasonable that the movie should have gone in a different direction. Like maybe the girl who wanted to go back to Joe is the one who forms a bond with Nux, because through him she finally understands what Joe did to her, or something like that.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] markerikson
(That second comment was also from me. I forgot to log in for it.)

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 04:35 pm (UTC)
cofax7: climbing on an abbey wall  (Default)
From: [personal profile] cofax7
I am so fucking over the expectation that I will find the deaths of millions entertaining. Especially when the trailer ends with a super-cynical effort to mitigate its own disaster porn by linking to a disaster preparedness website. Fuck. Off.

As a Californian, who will likely lose much of my family and friends in case of A Big One, I am horrified and appalled at the disaster-porn this movie is peddling. Especially since it's married to Macho Man Being Heroic. Maybe, just maybe, if it was like one of the old disaster movies where people learned to work together to survive, I might find it bearable.

But as is? NOPE. Not even for Carla Gugino.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 05:25 pm (UTC)
ckd: small blue foam shark (Default)
From: [personal profile] ckd
If I want to see The Rock in a disaster movie, I want it to be this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yVxZxGn888

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 04:36 pm (UTC)
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rushthatspeaks
It seemed pretty clear to me that Furiosa was not going to be used by Joe's people for breeding because Joe was so insistent on 'perfection' as a desirable trait in his children. When Furiosa meets her own tribe again, they don't ask what happened to her arm, and it tapers down instead of having an obvious stump. She was born without it, and that plus the combat training she'd have had from her own people as a little girl mean that she doesn't fit into either Joe's template for women or Joe's template for men, but is close enough to the one for men to be allowed to fight her way up as a warboy. I figure she came into their society able to fight well enough to be obviously able to fight, but not well enough to get herself out again, probably because of her age. She says she's been there somewhat more than seven thousand days, which is about nineteen years, and she looks to be in her mid-thirties; the absolute oldest she could have been at capture would have been eleven or twelve, and the youngest eight or nine.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 09:52 pm (UTC)
skygiants: Sokka from Avatar: the Last Airbender peers through an eyeglass (*peers*)
From: [personal profile] skygiants
I saw meta on Tumblr before I saw the movie about how Furiosa was barren and used that to leverage her way onto the warrior track, and spent all movie listening for the line that explained that, but didn't hear it. Apparently it's from an interview Theron gave? (And, wow, reading the rest of that article, let us all briefly give thanks that they scrapped the "albino tribal vibe.")

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 11:59 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)
From: [personal profile] sovay
(And, wow, reading the rest of that article, let us all briefly give thanks that they scrapped the "albino tribal vibe.")

Oh, yeah. +1∞.

Date: Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 06:43 am (UTC)
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Well, if she never menstruated-- ever-- that would be an indicator.

I would love to know more about the state of medical tech in the Citadel, too. They can type blood, and they obviously know a fair bit of field medicine, plus wound hygiene (the scarification on the warboys' chests is fascinating to contemplate-- it must have been done in multiple sessions and it would be difficult to heal that neatly even with our current society's medtech). They may well have ultrasound or X-ray or other diagnostics of that sort. They manage to keep Joe going despite whatever the hell is going on with him, which looked like at the least rampaging sores of some kind. We never see their medicine at its best, because Joe is the only one who gets its best, and the warboys don't get that much in the way of societal resources... but possibly-fertile women and girls would.

Date: Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 06:45 am (UTC)
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Oh, and Furiosa's prosthetic is a very good one. Like, better than I think we may have here-and-now for arms.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 11:57 pm (UTC)
sovay: (I Claudius)
From: [personal profile] sovay
she doesn't fit into either Joe's template for women or Joe's template for men, but is close enough to the one for men to be allowed to fight her way up as a warboy.

You've seen the film twice and I've seen it once: is there ever any gendered language applied to Furiosa, beyond pronouns? Either before or after Joe discovers that she's betrayed him,* I genuinely can't remember.

(I realized my mental model is the one where she's societally accepted as an honorary man, or at least a kind of neuter figure, because she does not bear children and she does fight and those are the defining criteria of gender in the Citadel; I'm trying to check whether this matches the way she's treated on film. I found it notable that her soldiers appear to obey her without question, even when her orders deviate from everyone's idea of a regular run to Gas Town.)

* I had to edit this comment when I realized that Joe doesn't believe his "wives" have betrayed him; he doesn't assign them that much personhood. Furiosa is the one who betrayed him: she took his stuff, women included. I feel like that's another sign that she is not actually considered a woman in Citadel society; even if she's a traitor, she's allowed to have motivations.
Edited Date: Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 12:03 am (UTC)

Date: Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 02:52 am (UTC)
sovay: (I Claudius)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Her soldiers call her "Boss"; when she's seen to go off-track she's only referred to as "she"; when the War Boys gear up she's an Imperator gone rogue; I'm not sure where else to check without rewatching the whole thing.

Thanks. One of the things I was trying to remember was whether she was referred to with any gendered honorifics ("Imperator" is masculine in Latin, but functionally gender-neutral here) or, similarly, any gendered terms of abuse. If no one calls her a bitch, that's actually interesting.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 06:29 pm (UTC)
kore: (Black Widow - red in my ledger)
From: [personal profile] kore
if you still need Max to have an arc, let him decide to go his own way and then change his mind and decide to come help them.

Well, that does happen -- when they're going to set off across the great salt plains (I think that's what it was called) on the motorcycles, she offers him supplies and a bike and he says no, I think maybe because he knows there's nothing out there. Then he has his PTSD flashbacks and sees his daughter with their caravan saying "Pa, come with us!" and he gets the bike and that's when he offers the map and the plan, and tells her that they could go back. So I thought the moment when he was going to go his own way then changed his mind was pretty spotlit.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 08:48 pm (UTC)
kore: (Black Widow - Red Room movie poster)
From: [personal profile] kore
It didn't bother me that much because it's so clearly her decision -- he offers the plan, and everyone else thinks it's a good idea, but they're all clearly waiting on her. It's her choice.

Date: Monday, May 25th, 2015 09:33 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
Apparently, on the way back they didn't have to go through the mud? Or the old ladies knew a better way through? ...or they just skipped that part, to get to More Explosions.

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