Mad Max: Fury Road, Hollywood’s latest attempt to revive a moribund franchise, drew a lot of attention even before its release by causing outrage among “Men’s Rights Activists” for daring to portray women as capable, heroic human beings. All their fuss is because the titular character (updated from Mel Gibson to Tom Brady) is joined on this outing by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), an action hero cast from the same mold as Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner. In fact, Fury Road is every bit her story; Max is just along for the ride as she helps a post-apocalyptic tyrant’s harem escape to freedom.
  But that focus on the story of a handful of women in a hellish post-peak-oil, post-peak-water landscape in no way softens the movie. Fury Road is Metal As F%&k. The tyrannical master of the Citadel, Immorten Joe, looks like an extra from a GWAR video. When the chase for the Wives begins, he churns his War Boys into a frenzy with the help of a vehicle carrying war drums and a wall of amps connected to a guitarist whose instrument literally shoots fire. Much of the value of the Wives is their beauty, and that’s driven home not with the sort of slow, lingering camera exploitation you’d see in a Michael Bay film but simply by everyone and everything else being so gloriously, joyously ugly.
  It doesn’t soften the story of what those women have been through, either. While the life the Wives are escaping from isn’t used to sexualize them, it’s not glossed over. One of them is even heavily pregnant, and in a land where humanity has been deeply damaged by pollution, it’s clear Immorten Joe wants that potentially healthy child as much as he wants his favorite woman back. Furiosa herself has a prosthetic left arm, and yet this sort of disability is so familiar in this world that it’s never commented on. The world of Mad Max is a cruel one, but the story treats every one of these human lives as valuable, even though — or perhaps more so because — the setting doesn’t. They are tearing back their agency, and even Max himself understands that enough to help them without trying to take over.
  Fury Road has the kind of emphasis on visual style that you don’t often see in modern action movies. The use of color goes far beyond the cyan-and-orange shift that’s become so popular lately, instead coating everything with a bright desert dust that makes you feel the dry heat beating down. The cobbled-together post-apocalyptic vehicles were part of the genius of the original Mad Max movies, and the ones in Fury Road are every bit as glorious. It also relies on practical effects to a degree that’s rarely seen anymore. Every vehicle, from the muscle car body on a tank chassis to the tractor trailer with a town car welded on to it, was a real working thing constructed for the movie, and plenty of them were actually blown up.
  Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie to see for the spectacle of it. While there’s plenty that’s intentionally uncomfortable about it — it earns that R rating — it’s an egalitarian discomfort, one that doesn’t exclude one group for the sake of titillating another. And it may well be the most beautiful ugly action movie of the year.

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