I promise this journal will function as something of a movie/show review in time, but before I get to that...
"Mad Max: Fury Road" beat me on the first try.
Which is to say, I had to walk out about 20 minutes into my first attempt on account of a health issue that's been dogging me for awhile. I won't bore you with the details, but the basic meat of it is that I'm an anxious person, have been for some time, and it's something that's snowballed with time. At its most basic, it means I generally avoid social situations or unfamiliar places. At its worst, it means pacing the house and freaking out over ridiculously mundane things, and going into a panic over life, death, money, age, disease, ambition, etc. Usually there's an explanable reason, followed by a comedown and general malaise. But this weekend, just a few minutes into a FANTASTIC movie (seriously, but more on that later), my heart rate peaked, my head panicked, and I couldn't come down. I've had minor heart palpitation issues before, but it usually stops short of breaking into wacky ascending dubstep beats. Anyone who's had a panic attack might be able to assure you that yes, it will probably pass. For that moment, though, I didn't know that's what it was, and sure as balls wasn't thinking it'd just drop away. So it was off to the mercifully nearby ER (didn't know where else to go) for a few hours of monitoring and blood tests.
Here's the good bit: I've been cleared of any major physical concerns. While there're doctor visits ahead, for now I can put to rest the possibility that something sinister is physically monkeying with my insides. I've been given a trial prescription of anti-anxiety hoodoo that, so far, seems to be working as intended. Apart from being a little drowsy, nothing that usually triggers me into fits of anger or panic is doing what it used to. (The monster is just tapping at the window, not inside knocking over the dishes and drawing all over the walls, as it were). I'm breathing easier, sleeping without waking up every 90 mins, and the best part: holding random conversations with people without gasping in shame at my ineptitude (as much) immediately afterward.
AND I went back and watched "Fury Road" right through to the end a few days later. WITNESS ME!
So let's get on that! (Here endeth the boring "me" crap. Many other people have it SO much worse, after all).NO SPOILERS HERE,
"Mad Max: Fury Road" is one of those films that has a simple objective, a crazy amount of ambition and resources to do it, and knows what works to get there. I don't need to tell you how amazing it is to see--others have done that aplenty--but for my two cents, the desolate and expansive environments, the insanity of the vehicles and the freaks driving and climbing and shooting all over them, and the grotesque and demented and beautiful suite of characters themselves...all of that ground into a blender of a flick that revs up right from the start and keeps that pace going through to the end. It's a feast, and it's big, loud, dirty, fast, and fun as hell.
But some of my favorite elements (apart from the war drum rig complete with screaming, flaming guitar CAN I GET A HELL YES) are the slightly less tangible things in the undercarriage that make the movie run like it does:
: Exposition can be a burdensome but necessary load, and in general it's a prickly principle to balance just right. MMFR goes incredibly spare on the exposition with just the barest touch of narration, and it WORKS. We don't need a sprawling explanation at the opening of the whats and the whys of the world or even of Max and the other principle characters. The characters are presented and their actions and expressions convey so much as the world opens out in front of them. We're shown living conditions and armies and vehicles and twisted humans and they stand for what they are, and we can figure it out as we watch, and the action rolls on.
: Now I don't have a script in front of me, and action films don't generally require long conversations or scenery-chewing screeds. But if I recall correctly (and feel free to correct me if you know/feel otherwise), there is relatively little spoken in this movie overall. Max Rockatansky speaks very little to begin with, and apart from some wonderfully bellicose grandstanding by our head bad guy, Immortan Joe, no one launches into expository screeds or flowery conversation. Dialogue is meted out sparsely and effectively, functionally and occasionally insane ("WHAT A LOVELY DAY!!!!") Which dovetails nicely into the next point, which is...
3) NO GRATUITOUS ROMANCE!: (*crowd erupts into raucous applause*)
Well, after all, look at what sort of thing we're dealing with. If, during the writing stage, someone suggested having this whole rolling convoy of thunder stop for about 15 minutes of lovestruck characters gazing into the sunset and going on about "this crazy world of ours" before looking into each other's eyes and embracing tenderly as the score lovingly swells, it seems apparent that someone rode in on a HEAVY METAL WAR RIG and blasted that idiot out of the room with a shredding solo. Naw, son, this thing keeps moving. Even the "quiet" moments are mercifully brief, counting the ammo and the dead and plotting a new course before gunning the engines and kicking the dust off the tires and back into the fray. This movie sheds the unnecessarily overdrawn feels like the dead weight off a pursuit vehicle. All killer and speed, no luxury. And that's exactly what you want out of this.
4) THE WOMEN:
First things first: Imperator Furiosa. (deep breaths, now!). *ahem* moving on...I haven't read a whole lot about whatever stink's been kicked up about this being some sort of "feminist triumph" or, conversely, "forced feminism" because, frankly, people are way too sensitive sometimes. I don't know what you or the creators or the invisible sea of fans and detractors think or thought, but here's my read on it: This bastard WORKED.
The women didn't fall into some caricature of mewling, helpless joke-people with eyerollingly painful quips, nor were they unstoppably badass fighting machines. Same with the guys. Big and strong, weak and desperate, crazy but resolute, etc. Everyone gets their shot at pulling off something awesome and amazing, but also gets a shot at getting their ass kicked or rolled under the tires of war machines. My basic take take is this: in a movie that wears structural simplicity and speed on its sleeve, MMFR made slick, deceptively simple characters that worked in a way that just felt right. LIKE A RESPECTABLY BUILT ENGINE, MATE. Boy parts, girl parts, all of 'em forged perfect-like to make this V8 ROAR.
So there. If you haven't seen it, this one gets my steering wheel of approval, right on the enormous pile with the others.