This post contains minor spoilers about the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, which is one of the best movies I’ve seen in ages and my favorite blockbuster in forever.
1. Because hot damn, real physical objects look good on camera. I know it’s a cliche by now to complain about CGI and nothing being or looking real, but this movie justifies it all. It just looks fantastic. Compare the average scene in Mad Max to the average scene from, say, The Hobbit movies and you’ll probably just get mad, you know what I mean? Why are we being forced to endure so many beautifully rendered movies that look… beautifully rendered? Why can’t I look at real people in real places interacting with real objects in big-budget movies anymore?
3. Because, as goddamn dorky as this to say, Tom Hardy looks and sounds really cool.
4. Because it demonstrates that you can have a tough, near-silent, ass kicker of a protagonist who isn’t some terrible aphorism-spouting cliche or macho goon.
5. Because every since Skins I’ve known that Nicholas Hoult has had a great career in him if he could just find the right vehicle, and he found it in this movie and he’s fantastic.
Is it weird that I think the most romantic movie moment of the year is Furiosa resting the rifle on Max’s shoulder to aim
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) May 17, 2015
Not just that moment, though. It’s a movie with almost no romance, in the typical sense, but which is achingly romantic. It just shames so many other movies with explicitly loving relationships or “will-they-or-won’t-they” structures. There is so much tenderness in Furiosa and Max’s brief, quiet, concise conversations with each other. When Furiosa approaches Max and says “Can I talk to you?,” it’s more affecting than every romantic relationship in all the Marvel movies put together.
7. Because it doesn’t do what many of its admirers are saying it does — it doesn’t, actually, replace Max with Furiosa. It doesn’t think that making a feminist movie necessarily involves rejecting the male characters. Instead, it demonstrates the power of shared strength, mutual commitment, and communal goals. Its politics are the radical notion of spontaneous family and leaderless community.
8. Because Charlize Theron plays an impossibly impressive warrior figure without doing some dumb robot voice or similarly affected way to signal “strong female character.”
9. Because of the Doof Warrior, obviously.
10. Because it understands the difference between portraying bleakness, suffering, and pain and falling into teenage grimdark portentous nonsense. Because it portrays a world of terrible darkness without acting like human beings are irredeemable. Because it knows that representing humanity as an unbroken string of senseless cruelty and universal selfishness is the opposite of mature. Because it satisfies the call Anthony Lane has been making for years in marrying the portrayal of violence to a consideration of suffering. Because it’s a sad, hopeful, bleak, uplifting story. Because it’s adult. Not serious. Not grim. Not “dark” in the usual sense. Adult. Of all things. Imagine that.
11. Because it’s an action movie with a plot that isn’t fundamentally driven by revenge.
12. Because, as someone said in a tweet that I can’t find now, it’s a modern tentpole film with strong themes and ideas where no character ever comes out and says what the point is or how we’re supposed to feel.
13. Because its world building is monumental while seeming effortless. Because it has tons of obscure slang that is understandable without some character making a groan-inducingly obvious statement to explain. Because the parts seem to fit together without seeming like some executive is trying to build a franchise or sell me an action figure.
14. Because there’s no goddamn stinger or other commercials for the next movie that make me feel like a chump while I’m watching it. Because the movie itself is not an advertisement for some later experience that we’re assured will be better than the one we’re getting now. Because it’s a blockbuster where I’m allowed to be present in the actually-occurring movie that’s in front of me.
15. Because it is resolutely feminist and unmistakably political without once being preachy or seeming like the type of exercise in moral hygiene that the internet’s culture industry constantly calls for.
16. Because everything about the movie — the plot, the themes, the politics, the characters, the genre — agitates against a romantic relationship between Max and Furiosa, and I agree with that completely, and it makes so much better dramatic and artistic sense for everything between them to remain implicit and unspoken, and I think it would be a worse movie if we saw anything happen between them, and yet I wanted to see them kiss sooooooo baaaaaad and I kind of hate myself for it but I don’t care. They speak a dozen lines to each other and yet their chemistry leaps off the screen, and it’s an earned attraction driven by shared adversity and admiration and a mutual protective instinct, and yes, by the fact that those are two goddamn gorgeous human beings who have never looked better. I’ve always thought shipping was a little juvenile but man I ship those two so hard. Sorry!
17. Because it’s a character-driven, intelligent, action-packed, well-developed, romantic, genuinely epic blockbuster film that doesn’t insult its audience or play down to low expectations, a story with high dramatic stakes that are fully earned and an ending that is deeply satisfying and ultimately positive, achieved with real sacrifice.
That’ll do, for now.