It might surprise you that DC Comics characters have been appearing in live-action films for over seventy-five years. That tradition began with Republic Pictures’ Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) – a twelve-part film serial (serials released a new part in cinemas every week or so in a time when moviegoing was a communal, weekly tradition and when a ticket gave you admission to two feature-length movies and whatever serials, shorts, or newsreels in between). Since then, Batman, Superman, and even characters like Swamp Thing and Congorilla/Congo Bill have had their standalone films. One superhero in DC’s trinity had never appeared in her own standalone film.
That changed earlier this month when director Patty Jenkins brought Wonder Woman to theaters. The fourth film of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) – following the suffocating Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and the incompetent Suicide Squad (2016) – Wonder Woman is a much-needed course correction with its earnestness and good intentions (albeit with problems with Wonder Woman’s origins and depiction of World War I). Whether the maligned DCEU reverts to Zack Snyder’s twisted fantasies will be seen later in this year’s Justice League. For now, considering the history of women directors and women-driven superhero movies in Hollywood, Wonder Woman is worth rejoicing over.
Following a brief moment where Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot as an adult, Lilly Aspel and Emily Carey as younger Diana) is gazing on an old photograph, we see Diana and her early years on the island of Themyscira. Themyscira, long protected from the presence of humans, is inhabited by the Amazons – a race of warrior women created by the Ancient Greek gods. In this incarnation of Wonder Woman, all of the gods but Ares, the god of war, have been slain, and the Amazons are wary of any of his attempts to return. When American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands and brings a pursuing German warship with him. Diana and the rest of the Amazons spring into action and defeat the pursuing Germans. Steve informs the Amazons of the Great War, and implores that he be released so that he might thwart a German attempt to engineer a hideous mustard-based gas. Diana, believing that Ares is behind WWI, takes herself, a sword and shield, and Steve away from Themyscira and to Europe. She will soon find herself at the Western Front, later realizing that warfare need not divine intervention to unleash the worst in humanity.
Also starring in Wonder Woman are: Robin Wright as Amazonian General Antiope; Connie Nielsen as Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta; Danny Huston as German General Erich Ludendorff; David Thewlis as British PM Patrick Morgan; Elena Anaya as Doctor Poison. Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock, and Lucy Davis round out the cast as Steve’s partners-in-crime.
When she appeared in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot was one of the few redeeming aspects of that shipwreck of a movie. And she, as Diana, provides a stupendous, complex portrait of her character. From a requisite stiffness at home in Themyscira to her wide-eyed curiosity the first moments she visits London for the first time to a combination of compassion and horror approaching No Man’s Land, Wonder Woman is a demanding role for Gadot and may be as demanding as Hugh Jackman’s final go-around as Wolverine in Logan (2017). But where the seasoned Jackman was acting almost entirely on physical intensity, the relatively inexperienced Gadot rises to the challenge of nailing her physical and verbal acting, along with some sharp comedic moments. If Gadot watched Christopher Reeve’s performance as Clark Kent/Kal-El in Superman (1978) for inspiration and guidance, it would come as no surprise. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, as she was crafted by creator William Moulton Marston and written for this film by Allan Heinberg, is what humanity could be, rather than what it is now or in 1918.
Nothing encapsulates that more than Wonder Woman’s introduction to humanity. It occurs in a scene somewhere in Belgium as she emerges from the trenches, her iconic costume revealed for the first time. The No Man’s Land scene is one of the most effective superhero introduction sequences one could ask for – from Jenkins’ sense of timing to the stakes involved. Rupert Gregson-Williams’ (an acolyte of Hans Zimmer at Remote Control Productions, but more on Gregson-Williams later; the name of this cue is “No Man’s Land”) score is lacking any discernible secondary themes apart from Junkie XL’s Wonder Woman electric cello-driven action motif that was established in Batman v. Superman and his own Wonder Woman motif, but it accompanies the grimy violence of this moment brilliantly. Here, Wonder Woman is acting on her convictions that something larger, something beyond the pale of even her own mythos, is operating in this nightmarish grove of dead, uprooted trees, mud, and untended corpses. In retrospect, those convictions underestimate the scope of human agency – which will provide greater irony in the film’s concluding act.
World War I is one of the least understood conflicts of the twentieth century. Patty Jenkins, in an interview, notes:
World War I is the first time that civilization as we know it was finding its roots… the way that it was unclear who was in the right of WWI is a really interesting parallel to this time. Then you take a god with a moral compass and a moral belief system, and you drop them into this world, there are questions about women’s rights, about a mechanized war where you don’t see who you are killing.
And yet Jenkins and Heinberg squander an opportunity to explore those complexities. The world apparently needs evil Germans, it seems, and the one-dimensional portrayal of German soldiers and officers without paying attention to the militarists spurring the war on at the time is contrasted with a mostly rosy view of the Allied Forces. Even when Steve Trevor’s potential deceptions with Diana are hypothesized, there is not even a question that such a dashing blue-eyed American is ever in the wrong. The entire conceit that Allied spies and politicians would pilfer German plans to create an even deadlier mustard gas and choose not to replicate such a chemical weapon is laughable. It is irresponsible, delusional. Though the Central Powers were first to use lethal chemical weapons in 1915 (the French introduced tear gas in 1914), the British, French, Americans, and Russians responded with their own lethal chemical weapons. All sides were culpable in this new form of slaughter we are still reckoning with in contemporary warfare.
What helps the film in this regard is that it does not hide the fact that Steve Trevor is coding Diana’s thinking to make her believe that she is fighting for the “correct” side. But this conflict that arises in the final third of the film is attached to their romantic chemistry. Jenkins and Heinberg seem afraid to complicate the good-versus-evil dichotomy that might be better established in a film taking place during World War II (perhaps they wished to distinguish Wonder Woman’s ethical dilemmas from the straightforward timeline found in 2011′s Captain America: The First Avenger?). All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) it is not, Westfront 1918 (1930, Germany) it is not. Yet Wonder Woman attempted a narrative of the most calamitous war ever seen at that point in history and a sincere commentary on the nature of violence within the confines of a superhero’s story. The filmmakers are responsible for such portrayals, as all too often history is rewritten in reckless fictions.
By film’s end, Diana realizes that though humanity’s capability for violence needs not activation from Olympian gods. Simultaneously, humanity’s capability of love of understanding is in continuous conflict with its darker tendencies, which makes living profound. What struck me – a twentysomething male who does not consume superhero comics, but has seen a share of superhero television and movies – about this depiction of Wonder Woman is that, unlike many recent superhero (male and female) depictions, that this is largely not a tale rooted in some sort of vengeance. Wonder Woman’s motivations for coming into the human world is not a retaliation to violence against her. Yes, the final fight – without venturing into spoilers – has some element of vengeance, but it is not the primary operating emotion. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, too, is the master of her own future. Too many times female superheroes in today’s movies and television are depicted within the contexts, frameworks, and stories of a male superhero. Of course, Wonder Woman follows Steve Trevor around quite a bit at the Western Front. But she is still there on her own initiative, with motivations that are hers and hers alone (if you don’t count the Amazons, but they are all women, too).
Because Wonder Woman has not been as widely depicted in film and television as Superman or Batman, her origin story is more susceptible to change. Wonder Woman in the DCEU is a demigod, not just an Amazon. The Amazons, framed as a matriarchal society meant to spread peace among humans, have secluded themselves in paradise. Usually, a contest among Amazons takes place to decide which one of them will accompany Steve Trevor back to the human world; this is not depicted in Jenkins’ film. Though the bonds between Amazons are decently established, this contest’s inclusion could have provided greater emotional linkages to the Amazons at large. Upon departure, Diana, in most incarnations including this film, undertakes a coming-of-age journey to a place which might not accept her. Her vulnerability is most compelling when she arrives as an Amazonian. That feminist resonance is weakened when she is portrayed as a demigod with powers derived from Zeus as this film does or as a disempowered pinup figure or a Goddess of War. At its purest conception, Wonder Woman is an empowering narrative that requires no support from men or gods; this cinematic treatment does not completely fulfill those demands, but it came far closer than many of Wonder Woman’s fans believed it would.
Despite a push to have a female composer score Wonder Woman (female composers are an extreme rarity in Hollywood), Rupert Gregson-Williams of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions – which is close to monopolizing film scoring among tentpole blockbusters for the major studios, partly resulting in the sameness heard in film scores today – was ultimately tasked to write the music. His score to Wonder Woman is, from the first few minutes, far more orchestral than Zimmer’s percussion-crashing, synthesizer-deafening, one-dimensional superhero scores. Stylistically, Gregson-Williams’ work is more reminiscent of the compositions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – with their reliance on orchestras grinding away at repetitive ostinatos without harmonic depth or variation – but that is not necessarily a compliment. Where “No Man’s Land” (provided earlier in this write-up) is the score’s pinnacle of action scoring, “Amazons of Themyscira” introduces a motif for Diana (at 2:26, but listen to the whole cue) that did not appear in Batman v. Superman. The rise-and-fall of Diana’s motif – also well-used in “Angel on the Wing” – is layered with brass primarily, with winds and strings providing harmonic texture that is absent almost throughout the score. More of this layering, this attention to harmonies could have resulted in a more memorable film score.
Wonder Woman has taken a circuitous route to reach cinemas. Though the final product is imperfect, the very fact that her standalone big screen debut has finally navigated through the maze that is today’s Hollywood studio politics is a remarkable achievement. In the last several years, superhero films have pounded cynicism – social, political, personal – without respite. Wonder Woman steps back, kicks ass, and inspires. It dares us to wonder. And it’s one of the best superhero films of the last decade.
My rating: 7/10
^ Based on my personal imdb rating. My interpretation of that ratings system can be found here.
No matter what is written in the coming decades, Haifaa al-Mansour’s Wadjda will always be remembered as the first feature-length film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia – a nation without a film industry as of 2015 (Wadjda was financed in Germany and many of its crewmembers are German). It is also the first feature-length film directed by a Saudi woman. Almost three years after its debut at the Venice Film Festival, Wadjda has not even received an official release in its country of origin – which has only one cinema: an IMAX theater that screens documentaries as part of Scitech, a science-technology museum in Khobar. Reaction from religious conservatives to the very existence of Wadjda has been hostile; for the foreseeable future, Wadjda will be more warmly received abroad than at home. If one eliminates all of these historical precedents, Wadjda is a rather simple, personable story with a typical rebellious, assiduous protagonist you can’t help but root for.
10-year old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) lives in Riyadh with her mother (Saudi TV actress Reem Abdullah) and dreams of purchasing a new green bicycle so as to race her friend Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani). Girls should not be riding bikes, so the Islamic scholars and self-appointed moral police – her parents, other elders, other men, teachers, etc. – say. Wadjda’s traditional mother is distracted by her husband’s (Sultan Al Assaf) philandering and attempts to secure a second wife. She is not only a rebel in the streets or the household, but also the classroom. Though not raising hell for hell’s sake, she often finds herself in trouble with her Koran teacher (Nouf Saad) and the headmistress of her school Ms. Hussa (Ahd). Later on, Wadjda learns that there is a Koran recitation contest with a cash prize that could pay for her fgreen bike and then some. Guess who wins? I’ll give you three tries.
How much of a rebel is Wadjda? Where the rest of the girls at her school wear traditional shoes, Wadjda prefers to take along her worn black Converses. She listens to heavy English-language modern rock and sells mixtapes of that music for her bicycle fund. When other girls follow custom and head indoors when there are men present, Wadjda continues to play outside, finishing a round of hopscotch without a care in the world. She speaks up when she is supposed to stay silent – “A woman’s voice is her nakedness,” Ms. Hussa insists as she sees a bit of her rebellious past in Wadjda; Wadjda’s elders and teachers believe her behavior is just a phase and will be unsustainable as childhood falls away. A rebellious young girl defying gendered and religious expectations is no longer groundbreaking; only the setting of Wadjda prevents the film from being mired in more cliché.
What surprised me is the fact that Waad Mohammed, who played Wadjda, is a non-professional actress in her first – and, at this moments, appears to be perhaps her only – film role. Recalling Italian neorealism’s commonplace practice to hire non-professionals, the practice works here. Never does Wadjda feel needlessly precocious or overly nasty. Instead, Mohammed retains a playfulness and determined face in spite of all the men and women telling her character how she should behave, dress, and speak.
A more contemporary influence on Mohammed’s performance and how Wadjda is written can be found in certain children’s films of Iranian and Japanese cinema. In Iran, filmmakers have long realized that concentrating their narratives on children allow them to insert more social commentary than typical as they hide their messaging under the guise of a supposedly well-meaning children’s movie. Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven (1997, Iran) and Abbas Kiarostami’s Where Is My Friend’s Home? (1987, Iran) are Wadjda’s cinematic spiritual predecessors. Go even further back and one might find the likes of Yasujiro Ozu’s I Was Born, But… (1932, Japan) and Ozu’s color (partial) remake in Good Morning (1959, Japan). In all of these films, children are the mobilizing dynamos of their personal desires and – for their respective eras and political climates unconducive to freedoms of dissent – embody the anxieties and fears of their parents and other elders. Notice how little agency – if not agency, than motivation – the adults have compared to their children to promote positive societal change. Yet in those small snippets where Wadjda and her mother are out shopping, Wadjda interacting with the store owner who has the bicycle she wishes to purchases, and sliver of regret in Ms. Hussa’s voice as she reminds her students of Wahhabist norms and how they should not be broken.
Could Wadjda have been a bolder political statement? Perhaps, but over-politicizing a girl’s desire to purchase and ride a bicycle could have touched nerves within the Saudi conservative camp that might have turned public opinion against the film and any sense of a newfound Saudi film industry (even now, any notions of a Saudi film industry are a distant dream). Al-Mansour, who has been living in Bahrain with her American diplomat husband for the last several years, elects instead to concentrate on the mundane. Her film is positioned towards a foreign audience, not a Saudi one. Instead of sociopolitical commentary, Wadjda would rather show ordinary life episodes to show what Wadjda and her mother do around and outside the household. Whether her mother is trying out a new red dress she couldn’t possibly wear outdoors, her father partaking in violent video games (it’s a PlayStation 1 of all things), taking kettles off of stoves, or getting ready for school, this is a film that a leisurely pace. Some of these moments are as seamlessly integrated as they should be. Supporting characters are one-dimensional and Wadjda herself is a relatively static protagonist whose insubordinate brilliance is a constant means to an end.
But none of this should take away from the fact that Wadjda and her mother have a joyous, beautiful bond. They have shared moments of subversion from Saudi gendered cultural norms and a lot of their understanding is communicated without dialogue. There’s a familiarity between these two, a mutual adoration that is an immense pleasure to watch.
Perhaps Haifaa al-Mansour may not be the one female auteur from the Middle East that will come to define a generation of filmmakers in the region. Geez, talk about hyperbole and unhealthy expectations. What should be celebrated instead is that Wadjda simply exists and that it is a good film that depicts a sphere of life many who will see the film have never even seen before. Other than literature, I have always believed that cinema is one of the most democratic art forms; its youth compared to other art forms has made it the offspring of economic and sociopolitical internationalization. From its onset, film allowed for a diversity of voices never encountered before. Wadjda is one of many milestones in a need for ideological and narrative diversity. Just because it is one of many does not diminish its achievements; in fact, the circumstances surrounding its existence and lack of an official premiere in its country of origin makes it all the more remarkable.
As Wadjda pedals her bicycle out across an empty, sand-strewn Riyadh street, for the first time, there is a gleeful, infectious smile on her face as bright as the cloudless sky above her. It may take time, but there needs to be more cinematic stories with a remorseless independence to consume, whether they be intended for Saudi audiences, foreign audiences, or one of the world. It should be the wish for anyone who loves cinema that it is so. May Wadjda lead to the blossoming of something of extraordinary beauty and meaning.
My rating: 7.5/10
^ Based on my personal imdb rating. Half-points are always rounded down.
George Miller waited almost twenty years to bring the fourth Mad Max film into existence but was postponed due to the attacks on 9/11. The original Mad Max (1979), which is the only other film of the franchise I have seen, has almost no connection to the newest edition except for the name of the central character, the Australian setting, and the appearance of a few weathered, dusty V-8 Interceptors as seen in the provided picture. Mad Max: Fury Road is neither a reboot or sequel to any of the films in the original trilogy (Miller says Fury Road exists in parallel with the other films); it is instead a reconfiguring of the vehicular chaos of that trilogy where Australia has moved into the post-apocalypse, water has replaced oil as the commodity of scarcity and one that begets violence, and where the main villain has a tireless fellow with a guitar that ejaculates flames as his hood ornament. You don’t have to be a psychologist to get that one and, yet, that isn’t even the wackiest thing in this damn movie.
Despite what has been written, Fury Road is no cult classic. “Cult classic” necessitates that the film be obscure, known by few. Get rid of the “cult”. Mad Max: Fury Road is an action classic, perhaps the best action film of the young century. Its 120 minute runtime is essentially a pursuit film from the opening seconds; its plot paper-thin. But the thing is, cinema – more so than other art forms such as literature and especially television – is a medium of ideas, not narrative. Fury Road is a monument to that very idea and executes it so terrifyingly well.
Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is a former police officer who finds himself in the captivity of the War Boys, pawns of dictator-cum-deity Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the villain in the original Mad Max). Joe has a stranglehold on an aquifer in which he exerts control over his penurious populace in a place called the Citadel. During what was supposed to be a routine expedition for gasoline, Joe realizes Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has driven off with his five wives – sexual slaves, but Joe has naming rights – in hopes to escape Joe’s tyranny. Joe checks on his wives’ quarters, releases the requisite baddie-is-furious scream, dons beskulled battle armor, and joins a war party to bring his wives back. Furiosa is able to escape the pursuing parties save a War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who has strapped Max to the front of his car. Max will join forces with Furiosa and the wives – Capable (Riley Keough), Cheedo (Courtney Eaton), The Dag (Abbey Lee), Toast (Zoe Kravitz), and the pregnant Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) – in their attempt to escape from Joe’s forces. And, after some time and due to circumstance, Nux will join our heroes, too.
With the three previous Mad Max films produced on shoestring budgets, Fury Road seems to be the film that Miller was destined to make. Despite the expectations that Max will be the central character, he is instead a supporting character swept by the merciless dust storms of history
that embrace this rocky, deceased land. The dictatorial patriarchy that Max is hinted to have fought has emerged victorious; the counter-order that Max came from has been destroyed by climate change, thermonuclear war, and the disintegration of a monopoly on violence. As the laconic Max and others like him (wherever they may be) are no longer in a position to affect change, that task falls upon Furiosa – sporting a shaved head and a prosthetic arm – who, to me, is the central character of this motion picture. Theron is up to this task, giving the film’s best performance. Through grunts and facial expressions suggesting past griefs and traumas, she endows our heroine with a mistrust of men without ever having to say a word about it. Furiosa is driven by one thing alone (permit me to be a sappy bastard as my write-up to Inside Out follows this) – the future of the women she has promised to protect and deliver to safety in this radical, perhaps fatal, act of defiance. It is almost as if Theron is channeling the ghost of Maria Falconetti, whose shaved head and nuanced facial expressions in The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, France) surely must have influenced Furiosa’s characterization and, subsequently, Theron’s performance. Stay tuned silent film fans, I’ll be name dropping another silent film shortly!
The screenplay by Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris is skinned of exposition. The psychology of Immortan Joe and the indoctrination of the War Boys are never explained; the dissolution of identifiable law and order as seen in the original Mad Max trilogy is only mentioned in the prologue and never suggested again. We don’t know to what extent Immortan Joe has been physically/sexually violent to the five women Furiosa must hide in the belly of her War Rig when Joe’s cacophonous caravan of carnage draws near. When the time comes to fire back and plunge makeshift weapons into the abdomens of onrushing War Boys, Furiosa maintains an appearance of eerie, unearthly calmness – not tears, not despair. There will be time for that later. More than any of the Mad Max films that preceded Fury Road, the newest entry is more concerned with liberation – not simply political liberation or sexual liberation, the latter being more problematic than most of its proponents will admit. Furiosa nor any of Joe’s five wives know what lies beyond the oil rig where Furiosa occasionally ventures towards. The plan is to simply escape from the sexualization and violence that has followed them all their lives. As one would imagine, such violence is stubborn as it cries for bloodlust and the diaphanous objectification of those who might continue Joe’s lineage. Who knew that one could mine so many feminist ideas in an ultraviolent, saturated action movie (just note that the presence of feminist ideas does not necessarily mean a film is feminist)?
Also, if a film can anger men’s rights activists, it must be doing something right!
Fury Road shares structural storytelling similarities to Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton’s The General (1926) – mostly because both films are centered on a life-and-death pursuit – and shares more in common with Looney Tunes antics than the action found in 1979′s Mad Max. The film is covered in as much shameless batshit as the most violent Looney Tunes shorts and the wackiest Buster Keaton comedies. It’s as if Furiosa and Max’s War Rig was Roadrunner and Joe’s forces were collectively Wile E. Coyote. But Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote exist within the confines of wholesome, anvil-dropping animation. I would have no idea why, if you have not seen the film, you will have read this far into the write-up but some spoilers will be divulged from now until the end of this paragraph. From the chrome paint that is applied before the War Boys attempt to enter Valhalla, all the masks, the milk, War Boys who don’t mind cackling and dangling over the sides of cars while they speed upwards of 100 mph, and War Boys hanging on massive poles in hopes to throw explosives and land on Furiosa’s War Rig, thank goodness Miller never feels the need to explain all these cockamamie details because there is no conceivable way one could concoct a serious explanation to these eccentricities. Needless to say, WTF meters will be broken. Fury Road takes the pursuit scenes, throws in too many flashing lights in an early example (those who are sensitive to such moments, please be warned that these lights occur within the first half-hour and never appear again), raises the stakes, and de-digitizes the effects to elevate the gravity of this desert chase. Yet within the traditions of Wile E. Coyote-Roadrunner shorts and silent films, the madness of Fury Road is content to express anti-oppression ideologies through the actions the characters choose to take, displaying their evolutions in characterization without lecturing.
Cinematographer John Seale and editor Margaret Sixel are the unheralded forces behind the camera. Seale, persuaded by Miller to come out of retirement to shoot the film and whose previous credits do not suggest that he would have shot anything like Fury Road, saturates the film with harsh oranges and blues reminiscent of the days in Hollywood where night scenes in color films weren’t really shot at night but instead shot with a filter. The emptiness of the desert engorges on what looks like Technicolor. It makes the outback – the film was supposed to have been shot in Broken Hill, New South Wales but, due to heavy rains that saw wildflowers spring up, was moved to Namibia – a wordless, harsh character that only contributes to an uncertainty of what lies beyond the horizon. If anything, Seale does not use the flatness of the landscapes as much as he could to maximize that uncertainty. Sixel has a difficult task in that Fury Road contains a noticeably larger proportion of action sequences than the average action film. Her rapid-fire cutting from so many different angles will make hearts race amid the minimized CGI (Miller committed himself to use as many practical effects as possible); the decisions to accelerate the frame rate in select scenes proves distracting, making Fury Road resemble too much of a silent film and allowing for some unintentional comedy.
Junkie XL’s (the stage name of Tom Holkenborg) electronics-heavy score to Fury Road is nothing like Brian May’s work to the first two Mad Maxes and Maurice Jarre’s for the third. In line with the need to reimagine Mad Max for the purposes of Fury Road, Miller selected a Hans Zimmer disciple for this film. Now, as many of you know, I have been highly critical of Zimmer the last several years for his synthetic sameness. Junkie XL’s score to Fury Road, like Zimmer’s many scores since Batman Begins, is a brutal one. But that brutality – when mixed with ceaseless ultraviolence, slavelike drummers, and a guitarist with a pyromaniacal streak that I wanted to smash in the face with his own instrument – makes Junkie XL’s score make more contextual sense than your average Zimmer score. With pounding percussive elements, passages that are all about that bass, and strings that have nothing to do but ostinato mindlessly away, Fury Road’s score is curiously disjointed and non-action motifs rarely carry over from one scene to the next. It is a textbook example of how a film score works far better in context than heard independently. The occasional anarchy of Junkie XL’s score sees dissonance in the non-action scenes, making for an unpleasant – at least, to the bias of my ears – listen.
For its presentation of feminist ideas to an extent almost unheard of in action films, its spectacular CGI, and spellbinding performances by Charlize Theron and Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max: Fury Road is a glorious action film that has more similarities to an American Western than a piece of dystopic science-fiction. Well, that is if you can picture a Western with stagecoaches with dozens of ten-foot long spikes, horses sprinting with layers of paint on them, and a steaming locomotive run by really attractive renegade women escaping a violent land baron who remains in power despite the incursions of a John Wayne-led cavalry regiment. Oh, and for extra measure, let’s throw in Gene Autry perched on top of the pursuing locomotive rocking out to “Back in the Saddle Again” (if it is possible to rock out to “Back in the Saddle Again”) on his flamethrowing guitar. As is evidenced in this last paragraph, I still haven’t recovered from the FUCK, YEAH, nearly seizure-inducing adrenaline rush that is one of the greatest action films made in many moons.
Miller threw all the batshit he could scrape up at the fan and boy, am I grateful for the mess he has made.
“Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”