1. I loved it, though I didn’t get everything I wanted from it. I loved what was in it and I would have enjoyed quite a bit more.
2. I concluded that The Road Warrior was a better action movie, but Fury Road was a better graphic novel. The concepts were better in Fury Road, but Road Warrior looked more physical. Every shot in RW was something that actually happened, whereas FR seemed more virtual – even when the action was photographed as it happened. I’m drawn to action scenes that document something that happened: spectacular images that look like they were pieced together in an office aren’t as interesting to me.
3. I found it very hard to keep track of which car was moving in which direction, who was attacking whom, and exactly what the goal of any group was at any specific time. Great action movies present the chaos in a certain way that allows the viewer to understand and follow the action even at blinding speeds – but in Fury Road, the style, scope and technique of each shot often obscured the action, even while the images looked fantastic. The original Road Warrior movie took better advantage of the expansive landscape to frequently illustrate exactly where the warrior vehicles were in relation to one another, and what they were each trying to accomplish.
4. For that reason, I seriously would have preferred the six-hour version. Mad Max: Fury Road often seemed like one episode out of a long-running series, or a sequel to an established franchise. It took me a while to remember that it was, essentially, a sequel. I had assumed it was a remake.
5. I think the story would have been stronger if it had been more clear how each of the characters had arrived at that time and place. The story taking place here seemed much too large to tell in this one movie. Yet the disorienting style of storytelling, where little is explained even about what the characters hoped to accomplish with each decision, also added to the film’s rich and murky character. Only in the last moments of the film does the title character even speak his name.
6. “Post apocalyptic” is almost a cliché now: in a world where anything might happen, it seems the same things always do happen. Yet very few stories follow that storyline past the first few steps. “Mad Max: Fury Road” shows a kind of second-generation post-apocalyptic society, where the survivors have at least had time to grow from basic gangs into societies with technology, religion, and more complex hierarchies of power.
7. By introducing warrior cult religion into the story, Mad Max: Fury Road has mostly solved what I call “the evil henchmen problem”. In many action movies, evil henchmen insist on hurtling themselves into mortally dangerous combat, only to be mowed down by our heroes. Why would anybody, good or evil, do that? Don’t these people have families and hobbies and a desire not to die?
As warrior-cult fanatics, the antagonists pursuing our heroes in MM:FR hurtle themselves into conflict in pursuit of their own greatest rewards. I’m not planning to convert, but it worked great for the story.
8. At risk of oversimplifying the sexual politics of MM:FR, I was intrigued by the way it presented the power of femininity in so many different forms. Female characters were ass-kicking commanders, vulnerable breeders, aged brigands, young lovers, capable fighters with missing limbs, desperate grandmothers preserving hope for the future. Such a range of characters is rare for any genre of movie, men or women. A friend reminded me of The Bechdel Test: Does the movie include at least two female characters, who talk to each other, about anything besides a man? Yes, yes and yes.
9. Burning Man borrowed much of its rugged, re-inventive look from The Road Warrior, even to the point of bringing “Thunderdome” directly to the playa. Yet I’d bet money that George Miller took many Fury Road ideas back from a visit to the playa. (These characters wear dyed hair, skimpy outfits, art cars blasting music, everybody’s wearing goggles – CLEAN goggles?) I’m guessing Cirque du Soleil’s KA show was also an influence, along with whatever else George Miller has come across in the last few decades. All fine with me.
10. The desert-wasteland look wasn’t the most important thing that Burning Man borrowed from The Road Warrior. The visceral appeal of the annual festival came not from the costumes, but from the combination of tribal life with technology: our most primitive instincts combined with our most modern tools. Burning Man is fun to look at, but the real gravity of the event is felt in the way groups drift together to pursue specific goals and live within specific set of shared limitations and loyalties.
In the movie, even when it’s not clear what the tanker truck of fleeing rebels or gang of scarified warriors or army of motorcycle brigands are trying to accomplish, they each may be identified by their unity of purpose in a vast and unwelcoming landscape. The vision may not exactly be appealing, but it’s visceral. Its effect is powerful and deep. Whatever goals we pursue, whatever tools we use to pursue them through the barren desert – we all want, somehow, to belong.