The new Mad Max film is finally out. George Miller has been trying to make it for about 25 years now. But don’t be fooled – he hasn’t spent 25 years working on it. Instead, he’s been paying close attention to what hollywood has been doing lately (being braindead), and religiously updating the Mad Max script so that it apes the latest conventions.
I was really excited for it – decades later, I still consider Mad Max 2 to be the greatest Australian film ever made. The trailers made me both more excited, and nervous – That’s the pursuit special! That must mean that this movie is set between the first and second films, right? But the second trailer showed me the flame-throwing guitar, which made me nervous, fearing style over substance.
Still, style over substance isn’t in itself a bad thing – films like Shoot Em Up (which is awesome) are all style, and a balls-to-the-wall, all-style Mad Max film could work, so perhaps it will be great.
It came out, and the reviews started coming in – near-universal acclaim! Wow, maybe it’s actually good.
There’s been some debate over whether it’s a sequel or a reboot. Anyone who thinks it’s a sequel hasn’t been paying attention. But I think that’s the idea – this is a movie for people who don’t pay attention. It’s not a sequel or an interquel which goes inbetween the first and second movies – the pursuit special was destroyed in Mad Max 2. But it’s also destroyed here, meaning that it’s a reboot. I read one argument that it had to be a sequel, because there are flashbacks to the previous films. Whoever said that hasn’t seen the previous films in a long time – none of the flashbacks are from previous films, they’re just miscellaneous flashbacks showing us how haunted Max is. Not that it matters, since he’s not the main character anymore.
Sure, it has lots of spectacular things. And lots of cool things. The vehicles are awesome, and the world is very cool. It looks great. I can’t think that the musical war-rig with its guitarist is anything other than goddamn awesome. But none of it makes any sense – it’s cool for the sake of looking cool, logic be damned.
For instance, if water is precious, why do you hand it out it by pouring ten thousand litres out in the space of 30 seconds? Ninety percent of it is wasted. Wouldn’t handing it out in bottles be much more efficient and less wasteful? Answer: because it looks cool.
If you use human power to raise and lower your war-rigs to the desert floor, how do you pump ten thousand litres of water at such a rate? Answer: because it wouldn’t look cool if you didn’t.
Why are there weird people walking around on four stilts in a swamp? Answer: because it looks cool. Or maybe Miller is just a big Dark Crystal fan.
Why is the war rig loaded with enough water to keep a whole village alive for weeks? Wasn’t it being sent to collect fuel from Gas Town, which is close enough to be visible on the horizon and at worst a couple of hours’ drive away? Answer: because Miller wanted a scene where the wives were hosing each other down, because that would look cool.
How do you keep “mothers milk” from spoiling out in the hot desert for a couple of days? Is the war-rig’s tanker also refrigerated, in addition to having massive water and milk tanks? Is any of that tanker space actually used for the stated purpose of storing and transporting fuel? Why do you even need “mothers milk” for a 2-hour drive?
Why is the fuel pod filled with fuel? Is your war-rig so thirsty that it needs thousands of litres of fuel to get to a place that’s perhaps 15-20km away? apparently not, since I don’t recall them refuelling at any stage of their 3-day high-speed journey. Answer: furiosa had struck a bargain to exchange the full fuel pod for passage through the valley. So I guess she just…uh… stole thousands of litres of fuel from a place where fuel is scarce and precious, and nobody noticed?
Why are there so many american accents in post-apocalyptic Australia? Answer: because it doesn’t matter – you can’t see sound, so it doesn’t not look cool.
And at the end of the movie, they take over the citadel and turn on the pumps so that everybody can drink their fill of water. Aaaw. My reaction: “And they all lived happily ever after for the next 6 months, when they discovered that they’d emptied the aquifer at an unprecedented rate with an unprecedented amount of waste, and everyone died 3 days later.”
Max Rockatansky is now an incidental character in a movie which bears his name. He’s gone from being the ultimate badass anti-hero to being just some savage who is easily captured, communicates in little more than grunts (and when he’s not grunting, he’s talking in a really weird accent) and is just along for the ride.
During the making of this film, the phrase “wouldn’t it be cool if…” was uttered many, many times.
Mad Max 3 wasn’t brilliant, sure, but at least it had something to say – there was some substance there, and genuine world-building. This film has no substance at all, and the world-building is nonsensical – everything is secondary to looking cool, with the possible exception of beating us repeatedly with the “men are bad” sledgehammer.
This movie kind of reminds me of Shoot Em Up, only with less sense, plot and style. If you completely disengage your brain and you have no interest in or memory of the previous films, then you might like this movie.
Oh, wait, I just described most of the population of this planet, so: near-universal acclaim! Expect sequels. Meanwhile I’m going to pray for a porkyclipse.