Mad Max: Fury Road George Miller (2015 USA) Tom Hardy; Charlize Theron
Viewed: 15 June 2015 Gate Cinema Newcastle upon
Tyne; Ticket: £7.95
They’ll love this in Ramadi.
Mad Max: Fury Road, the colon in the film’s title is interesting. It anticipates the movie in as much as the self important looking colon seems to mean something but actually means nothing. A bit like the portentous philosophical twaddle disguised as dialogue put into the mouths of the the film’s characters.
The movie opens with the lines spoken in deep gravelesque male gothic: ‘My Name is Max my world is Fire and Blood.’ Add Allah as a final flourish to Max’s opening declamation and you have a perfect advert for Islamic State. And the movie’s script written by Miller seems to have picked up a trait or two from the killer Islamists.
For instance the War Boys, sort of punk Rude Boys stylistically cloned from one of the Ring cycle farragos, are Jihadi simulacra’s scripted by Miller to seek death in battle so that they may enter Valhalla, rather than Isis’ preferred destination: the Garden of Allah. And Max’s punishment for trying to escape is to be lashed to the front bonnet of War Boy battle vehicle, with his face shackled in a steel mask. Shades of the Daish’s cruel execution pranks such as burning men to death in steel cages and executing people with rocket propelled grenades. Terror is the best advert both in fact and fiction.
The problem is that it is not possible to make a movie like Mad Max without paying homage to the current practitioners and masters of Terror. Which is why I suspect that just as Hitler and Stalin liked nothing better than to spend the evening watching Hollywood gangster movies. The current master practitioners of extreme politico religious ideologies will like nothing better than to settle back in their bunkers in Ramadi Mosul and Fallujah, light a fag and press play on the pirated DVD and cheer on the War Boys.
Away from Islamic State turf, Mad Max impresses as a cultural desensitising vehicle for the mass audience. A film that in a sense normalises extreme violence both proactively and perhaps in our response to these sort of events in the world. The issue is whether this desensitisation is a consciously adapted Hollywood stratagem or rather a absorption of the mood of the times. Either way you could say that films like Mad Max are preparing us for the logic of evil, a moment when we might have to decide whether we in the West are to become ciphers in that logic.
The film itself although it looks like a quest\chase movie, in fact belongs to that genre that we may call ‘Computer Game’ movie. The film takes its characterisation, its format its testosterone fuelled reactive insistent pace from the world of the electronic game. There is only technically induced tension and there is no dialogue only declamation (cf Allah Akbar) as people ask: Who killed the world….? ( I said the fly with my little eye!). The film is designed like computer games to be immersive: incessant action repeated time and again in escalating variations, overwhelming the audience with image, music and big sound effects. Don’t think – you exist only in the action. One for the Jihadi recruiters.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a stylistic scatter gun sampling of every epic ever churned out in the history of Hollywood, made possible of course by the modernist galley slaves thousands of SFX manipulators and compositors chained to their machines. So we have appropriately enough given the quasi religious text, lashings of Cecil B de Mills, full on old testament stuff, Niblo’s Ben Hur (also OT), Grithiths, and more recently LeRoy’s Quo Vadis. In some ways the stylistic form reminded me most strongly of the Western, you know cowboys and Indians where the Indians circle endlessly around the wagon train allowing themselves to be neatly if acrobatically picked by the whites. And of course Miller also owes big time to Scott and his sci-fi design teams as well as Jackson for his characterisations of Tolkien. Mad Max is not original in concept but certainly cleverly stitched up in a familiar way.
And of course it is a successful and popular movie, so perhaps subliminally it is giving us what we want: an initiation into the dynamics of a coming world order. Adrin Neatrour firstname.lastname@example.org