Film * George Miller * Post-Apocalyptic Chaos * 2015
What, you want a plot? Technically, things happen to people in a sequence and there is a conclusion to those events, so yes, okay, there is a plot. I don’t want to be too glib about this, as one of my very favorite movies of all time – Terminator 2 – is little but an extended chase scene, but there isn’t much of a story, and very little in the way of characterization. This is a post-Apocalypse, but there is next to no explanation as to what the hell happened to turn the world into a wasteland. What we are shown is the remnants of humanity just trying to get some damned water from a megalomaniac dictator who has turned his governing cult into an enormous set for the raddest Judas Priest video ever. This is the post-Apocalypse stylized to absurdity. It’s fast and loud and on fire and doesn’t make any sense, but goddamn if it isn’t cool as hell. Nobody comes into this movie to see Mad Max grow as a character. Shit, he’s not even the real protagonist. That would be Furiosa (yep, that’s her actual name. I know, right?), who we all know as Charlize Theron, who steals some model chicks from the Bad Mans harem and books it the hell out of the aforementioned Judas Priest video (I’m thinking of “Turbo Lover,” if you want specifics) in order to find her homeland, or “the green place.” And she’s a badass! That’s what we came for. Two hours of weird enormous car-things with spikes and flames ramming into each other and blowing the fuck up and crazy people blasting away at each other for reasons and Charlize Theron being terrifying and hot and you already know about random flaming guitar guy but whatever he’s cool too and holy shit what just happened? Apocalypse.
Going into watching this, I was aware of a few things about the movie. One: it is a sequel to a bad movie (the original Mad Max, which I will write about eventually once I can learn to moderate my tone and not just dump all over it). Two: there is a guy who plays a flaming guitar. Three: it is apparently a feminist action movie. There, that’s what I knew. The reason I knew those things is because every single article/review I read before watching it talked about those things. The moral of that story is that with something like this, which is just a huge awesome spectacle, there isn’t necessarily a lot of depth. There’s certainly visual depth, especially with the amazing practical effects used throughout, but like I mentioned in the “synopsis,” there’s not much in the way of characterization. Since the people doing all the cool shit in the movie don’t ever have time to like, learn or grow or talk much at all, our way as viewers into this post-Apocalyptic society is to just look around in gape-mouthed wonder at this nasty-ass dystopian wasteland horrorshow.
There are a few things to note about the 2015 version of the Mad Max Apocalypse. First and foremost, the end of modern society was bad fucking news. We don’t know what happened, but it made everyone a legit psychopath. As in, “Chipotle is gone! I’m gonna dress myself up in SKULLS.” Secondly, we know that water is in extremely short supply, but apparently refined gasoline is extremely abundant. How that math works out is beyond me, but that’s what I’m seeing here. Finally, human life is super cheap. Not that there was any debate over this, but we can safely file Mad Max into the pessimistic end of the Apocalypse spectrum. Society went bad because people are bad and if you need any further proof of this, flaming car skulls. Now, there is some kind of righteous vindication at the end of the movie where Furiosa, with a little help from her friends Mad Max, the grimy model brigade and Fucked-Up Powder, overthrow the water monopoly held by scary toothmask guy (look, I realize these people have names, but they’re all terrible and every time I look one up I regret doing it). However, they basically just brutally murder all these guys in order to do so, and then drain all the water reserves in a big orgy of said righteous vindication. Shortly thereafter all the crops perish and everyone dies thirsty. Am I saying a cult based on the aesthetics of a GWAR concert running a milk-slave and flaming death-car economy is a good thing? I am not. What I am saying is that if this is what humanity is in for, I hope I die in the Apocalypse. Unless I can have one of those sick fire-guitars.