Mad Max: Fury Road with Sasha Fletcher
Previous retrospective takes on the original Mad Max trilogy are available here: Mad Max, Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome.
1. Max’s family was dead to begin with.
2. But you knew that. You knew they were dead, and that Max was a ball of guilt and grief wrapped up in bones and sinew and flesh and fucked knee full of festering buckshot rocketing around the wastelands of Australia, which now, in addition to a sincere shortage of gasoline, also suffers from a shortage of water. The water wars have happened, and here is Max, pissing in the wind, biting the head off a two-headed lizard, and then he sees something, and dives into his trusty Ford Falcon, and drives the fuck off.
3. What he saw were Immortan Joe’s War Boys roaming the wastelands and soon overtaking Mac, flipping his Falcon, which they tow with a chain they chain him to, and take the party to the Citadel, where his back is tattooed with words like UNIVERSAL DONOR and ROAD WARRIOR and he comes to during the tattooing, the needle stabbing the ink into his skin deep enough you can’t scratch it, to a brand burning in his general direction, which Max does not take to, and so he flips the script, in which the script is that which he is tied down to, and runs.
He runs through hallways and men until he comes to his car and pauses, watching them lift the engine out the hood, separating the heart from the body, and but Max has no time to mourn, he has time to run, and he runs into a room with a roof made of bars and jumps up onto them but looks up and sees a child who asks Max why he ran, why he didn’t save them, and Max he freaks a bit, and drops, and runs some more, hordes of War Boys dusted white on his trail, snatching at his heels, he runs, he runs through ghosts of the dead his mind tells him he let die, every soul he ever let down, every life he let touch his and that died in the process, and he runs right through them, onto a cliff. He stops! Because it is a fucking cliff! But! Lo! A big hook is coming his way, and he jumps onto it using the chains around his wrists!
But the War Boys drag him back and muzzle him up in a cage where he gives of his blood forever.
4. Immortan Joe has a bad back full of radiation or another form of death wrought by man’s minds and hands and he suits up his clear armor and his respirator in the shape of a skull’s mouth and the steering wheel they mount on his dick and he addresses his people while distributing water via dumping it down a cliff onto the barren ground while the roving mass of humanity holds out their buckets and Joe shouts that he is their redeemer.
5. And anyway there’s the Imperator Furiosa, her hair cut short, an arm strapped to what’s left of her arm to drive the War Rig, her war paint covering the eyes to the hair and the head, all black, and glaring, all eyes. She is driving the water to Gas Town to get some gas. Gas Town is near Bullet Farm and they’re both run by a bunch of fucks what are in all likelihood Joe’s brothers. It is, as the man would say, A Family Affair.
And so Furiosa drives the Rig and its accompanying escort in the direction of Gas Town, until she turns the wheel, and goes east.
There’s a man on the side of the Rig relaying her orders back and forth because it isn’t so much that she barks them or shouts them or whispers them so much as it is that when Furiosa speaks, you tend to listen.
6. Obviously Joe sees that the Rig is off course.
7. Obviously he freaks out.
8. Obviously he goes to the bank vault revealing a wonderful room with a small pool and a piano and a chandelier that should be full of women for him to fuck a baby into, but is instead full of the absence of women for him to fuck a baby into, along with the following sentences: “We don’t want out babies to be warlords” and “Who killed the world?”
9. Joe, he is not exactly pleased. Because Furiosa, who he trusts to do what he tells her, has absconded with his property, and so he sets out after her with all of his War Boys! Everyone is going to go get Furiosa! Enter the Doof Warrior, mounted on his bungees behind his guitar which he strokes to spit flames riding astride a sea of amplifiers! Enter Nux, who is not doing so well, you guys! He is at the end of his half-life! Get it, because of nuclear war and the fallout of such an event! Anyway he needs fresh blood! Max has fresh blood! But Nux can’t drive without that blood! WHAT WILL THEY DO OH I KNOW THEY’LL STRAP MAX TO THE FRONT OF THE CAR AND RUN HIS BLOOD THROUGH A TUBE IN A CHAIN CHAINED TO THIS GUY NUX WHO HAS CUT ON HIS LIPS TO LOOK LIKE THE TEETH OF A SKULL! ISN’T MODERN LIFE GREAT!
Just kidding. Everything is a disaster you guys. First there’s these raiders with spikes all over their cars speaking some language that isn’t English and then after they die Joe and his dudes catch up to them and then they drive into a sand storm, and Max’s car crashes, and also Max loses a boot.
10. There’s this thing that happens when a War Boy dies. When a War Boy dies first they spray their mouth with chrome paint and then they shout about Valhalla and then they turn around and demand that anyone around witness them, and not until they feel witnessed do they then give of their lives for to bring about a death.
11. Anyway Max pulls himself out of the sand, muzzled, and chained, and bleeding into another. Max pulls out the tube and the hook and pulls on his chain but Nux is stuck. Anyway he drags him over his shoulders through the desert. He comes upon a vision of women in white bathing in water and cutting of chastity belts. There are some misunderstandings, and a spat of violence, and who can blame them?
12. Here’s the thing. Who killed the world? The first answer is whoever dropped the bombs. But then there’s the other answer, because this is never simple, because it’s also whosoever was the reason that those bombs were the only possible solution, in addition to whosoever thought those bombs were the only possible solution.
But then what then? Because, to a certain extent, that’s what these stories have been about. Is the what then. What then in the stories is that Max roams the wasteland of his life trying to stay alive and survive long enough to outrun his guilt and his grief at every person he ever met who died because they knew him, because that’s how he sees the world, because, well, everyone he’s ever met kind of died because they knew him, but also because Max lives alone, in the desert, with only his grief, and his guilt, and his car, and his guns, and this is basically absolute shit in terms of a situation geared towards self-love and towards self-care. But this isn’t just about Max anymore. This is about the world. Because now, people are asking: Who killed the world?
13. So anyway the rest of this movie is a chase scene, and it’s basically amazing, the chase scene, real cars flipping over real shit and just a total death race, dudes on poles on top of cars swinging over and back again, snatching ladies and dropping death. There’s this idea that on some level the brain recognizes when it’s seeing something made by computers and when it’s seeing something that is actually on some level, happening. And it’s maybe a thrilling thing, to see all these things that are basically actually happening. There’s not a lot of dialogue. There’s not a lot of exposition, really. People are fucking running from things, and they are running from people who view them as property to be re-collected.
14. And so people are property like things and have value in that they’re things, not people, and this is their value. You wonder at times in this world if people would give more of a shit about the casual slaughter of lives if the lives weren’t people, but property. It’s not a point this movie hammers home, but it’s a point it makes.
15. So let’s imagine here that you’re a little girl who for whatever reason was named Furiosa. Let’s fucking pretend, OK? So you’re a girl named Furiosa, and you’re just hanging out with your mom, and a member of a tribe of women called the Many Mothers, which is basically the most epic girl gang of all time, and everyone is an expert fucking farmer. You live in a place referred to as The Green Place, because, well, it was fucking green, and lush, and in the middle of the desert wasteland, and it was a home, a home full of women who looked out for each other, who brought life into the world, who nurtured nature, and whose nature was to nurture.
And but so one day you and your mom get snatched up by a band of War Boys and your mom dies and you, you get branded the property of Immortan Joe. You learn how to kill and how to hurt and how to drive. At one point you lose your fucking forearm. You try to go home, all the fucking time, and it never works. You can’t ever find a way to make it, and you either get taken back, or you just come back. Eventually you get tired of failing. You work hard. You rise in the ranks. You have a little ball of hate inside you next to an even littler ball of hope that you put in a fucking trunk under the floorboards in the closet you board up called your heart, because everyone, fucking everyone, has to have a reason to keep breathing.
Because it’s not like we’re dolphins. I mean that dolphins can’t ever actually totally sleep, because breathing, for them, is a conscious act. They have to choose to take a breath of air, or they drown and die. We breathe in our sleep. We breathe all the time. Our bodies will keep us alive regardless of how we feel about that, so it’s good, or, it helps, to come up with a reason to keep doing it, day after day, hour after hour, moment after undefeatable moment.
And you do this. You breathe despite it all. You smear grease over your forehead so from the eyes up it’s just an endless void of shadow. You are the Imperator Furiosa, and fuckers do what you fucking say.
And then, one day, these girls come to you. And they ask for your help. And something in you feels like it breaks, except it isn’t breaking. What it is is that you remember, right now, what it was like to see people live for something other than hate and fear. You remember the Many Mothers. You remember that life, and that place, and what it felt like to be loved, and to feel, if even more a moment, safe, and at home. And this, you realize, this matters. This is a thing to breathe for. So you decide you’ll get them out, and you’ll get them to the Many Mothers, and the Green Place, because you are a fucking warrior, and a living act of vengeance, and may woe betide those who get in your fucking path to redemption, may their dicks be torn from their bodies to never stab at a woman again, may their jaws be ripped from their fat expanse of a mouth spitting words at the gathered masses to lead them further into their own death, may their shriveled excuses for hearts give out into nothingness, into dust, into ash, into fuck all.
15. And so you’re a bunch of ladies, mostly even girls, and you’re dressed all in white, and you live in a room with a chandelier and a piano and running water, and every night a guy who looks like this:
comes into your room and fucks you in order to put a baby into you who is a boy who will grow up to own things and kill things and view the world as a piece of property he deserves to acquire, and this is it. This is your life. Is sitting in a room waiting to be fucked, as has been since you were at the point where a baby could take root in you, could wrap its life up in yours, and that’s it. That’s all you’re good for here, is having a baby boy fucked into you, who will be ripped from your arms and brought up to rein over death. Anything else gets you stabbed, anything more gets you dead, and if you can’t bring a baby, well, you only had one point anyway, which was the babies, it was what you were good for, being pretty enough to fuck a baby into, and then belted back up with a belt made of teeth lashed over that thing cut into you.
And then one day you just can’t anymore. You’ve got a baby taken root in there, and you think, every night, about what it’ll grow into. Just another war lord to fuck the world. And that, you start to think, isn’t any real kind of a life. It isn’t a choice, it isn’t a life, it’s just another death. And the whole world died before you were born, before anything in you took root in another, and then, right then, something takes root in you, and slowly grows into a thought that slips past your teeth and asks if this is even what anyone wants.
And it isn’t, it turns out. It turns out this isn’t even half of a want. And so you go. You leave. And maybe you die. Maybe you die! But it’s better than being fucked into nothing but sand and ash and bone.
16. So you’re a bunch of ladies who are also mother called the Many Mothers and you live in The Green Place and you farm. And then the water goes bad. I mean bad bad, toxified to shit, nothing grows but dead trees, and then the crows come, and they pick apart anything there; they don’t care about death anymore, which isn’t even true, it’s just that now everything smells like death out here.
So you leave. You go out, and you find some place to call a home, and you can’t grow anything, and these fuckers keep trying to kidnap you to rape you more easily, so you learn how to shoot out the medulla from the brain and sever the spine snapping them up like the useless thing they always were. Because this is your life now. This is how you nurture out here in what passes for nature.
Then one day up comes a caravan smelling like death carrying a bunch of girls dressed in white and two assholes with their dicks swinging around somewhere and Furiosa. Your Furiosa. And you have to look her in the eye, she who got taken from you as a child, who has counted every one of the 7,000 days since she last saw your face, about how you now nurture out here in what passes for nature. You have to look her in the eyes and tell her how her past is dead. How her history was a thing written in sand. How this is all there is. Nothing but salt, and sun, and the gun.
17. And there are so many things I’m not even telling you about, like the bullet farmer bearing down upon them in his monster struck shaped like a bullet, totally blind, screaming out how he is Justice itself, bursting off some rounds like stilted jism to choke the life from you; or the king of Gas Town with his foot like an elephant; or the desert at night, on fire; or the men on stilts in the dead bogs of the green place gone to death surrounded in all sides by crows; or the ways we live and die for the people we love, and how it feels to finally understand what kindness feels like, and to know that you’d do anything for someone willing to look at you like that, like the kind of person who is alive. I’m not telling you about any of this, because I don’t know how right now.
18. Once upon a time you were born a baby boy after the bombs fell and the world grew into half a life due to half-life and fallout and what fell out was you, a boy, with bad blood, at the feet of Immortan Joe, who stands tall before you, and gave you a mountain to live in, away from the desert, with water, with milk, and a fucking car, a car you could drive and a spear you could throw and a gun you could shoot and a thing you live for, could aspire to, which is to die in the service of your redeemer, of your lord and savior, Joe, to ride into glorious battle, painted chrome, on a hot rod to Valhalla, where you will be reborn again, because you died for Joe, you died for Joe and you lived for Joe and, for an instant, you were seen, you were witnessed, your life was real and valid and valued, and you would fucking not waste it, because your death will be the most magnificent thing the world has ever seen, will be carved in mountains, and on the face of the fucking sun, broadcasting forever your name out through the desert, which is the world, which is everything there ever is or was or will be, because if you don’t die for Joe, your blood’ll get you first, your tumors’ll choke off the air or the water or whatever else it is that you need to live this life of yours which you’ve only ever thought of as half a life since you heard about fallout, since you learned about shelter. This is you. This is your life. You live to die for the one thing that stands between you and the rest of the world, which is the desert, which is a void, which is utter obliteration into unseen nothingness. You’re a War Boy. You war.
19. It’s called Mad Max and we’ve seen Max get mad but now we get to see him gone mad, long gone mad. Mel Gibson walked around with his grief and his guilt leaking out his pores, screaming out his lungs, his eyes, his limped leg fucked by a shotgun forever ago. But Tom Hardy, he doesn’t exude. He’s haunted by ghosts that have swallowed up his guilt and grief, that come running at him the moment he slows, calling out his name, asking him why he left, why he left them to die, him wanting to tell them he left because he couldn’t see them die again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and then, then he sees something. He sees a thing in the distance for a minute, he sees a body with a thing in it, a thing carried around like a burden, he sees a thing he knows, or he doesn’t, because he can’t, because there’s a weight to it and of it, of pain, of his own pain that he knows and that fills his lungs and pushes him down and around, an engine of hurt, of grief, of guilt, of ghosts, and they’re talking to him about hope, like he doesn’t know what it can do to you, like he hasn’t seen it in the eyes of a hundred strangers asked for help, seen it carry them into the arms of death, seen it burn and crumble into nothing. This is Max now. Broken and beaten down. And he goes along with it though. Because of course he does. Because there’s someone he can see a thing in, a thing long thought gone, which is, basically, a shot at redemption.
Except it’s not his redemption. Max has, I’m going to claim, been looking for that. Been trying to nudge people to safety, to joy, to make up for his failings as a father and a husband and a guardian of justice and life. And he knows that thought. And he knows its wants. And he sees maybe, just maybe, he can help someone get to that point he can’t see anymore, and stay there. Rooted in a life lived for something fucking real.
20. And so Joe dies and the women come to the city called the Citadel full of half-dead men and boys who were only ever half alive, and full of the poor, of the living, of the teeming biomass of hopes and dreams and fears we call humanity, and they carry his carcass to the city, and the set out to build a life, a life to be lived; and Furiosa, she stands there, seeing this thing before her, and not knowing what to do but smile, because what is bursting inside her isn’t her lungs anymore, it’s a thing she never had a name for, and she looks to Max, to see what’s in his eyes, and he’s gone. He’s in the crowd. He’s out in the wild, with his ghosts, with his grief. He’s seen hope though. Maybe. In other people. He can, if he works at it hard enough, remember what it tastes like to breathe the kind of air gives you a reason to rise. And that’s it. That’s how this ends.