Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why I Cried On The Fury Road..

So it has been nearly two weeks since George Miller stunned the world with his long-in-development return to the accidental mythology he kicked off decades ago, and I'm still emotionally dizzy from it. Not only has it instantly become one of the best contemporary examples of what I go to grand scale films for, it has also spawned the kind of enthusiasm for an R-rated film that has become anomalous in this day and age. And based upon a recent Facebook post where I openly admitted to weeping openly to it upon the second viewing, it felt proper to explain why this megabudget blockbuster allowed such an impassioned case of sheer waterworks to happen. Hint: it wasn't because of simple geek out.

While one can certainly express satisfaction by merely being affected by an impressive piece of art, there was something truly remarkable about my second viewing of Fury Road. True to what many colleagues and friends have expressed, viewing the film once simply isn't enough. The initial physical and borderline psychic shock that followed that first go-round was something that pretty much never happens to me in films. It is something more in line with what can happen at a live concert where something truly extraordinary occurred, or perhaps even a jarring life event. And while I knew for certain that I had indeed enjoyed the film's journey, it was the second watch that allowed me to soak in the surprisingly rich emotional and thematic landscape with greater impact.

What especially took me this time around, was not only how confident the entire film is with its "Show-don't-tell" methodology, but in how restrained it is with characterization. To best get emotional mileage from any story, is to best know what to tell and what to allow the audience to fill in on their own. And in the case of virtually every character in the film, this is done with a sensitivity that simply doesn't happen, especially with action cinema. Everything is meant to be told on a move, and yet Fury Road never shortchanges the viewer into best understanding where Furiosa, Max, Nux, the wives, and even the villains are through the course of their shared journeys. Knowing full well that the entire film is practically one large action scene, fragments of who these people are from the beginning to the fiery finale, are delivered with a precision and care that implies spending a great amount of time with them long before cameras rolled. Quite true to the adage that all characters in a story are but elements of one person's psyche, there is a deeper feeling at work that never feels less than personal. They are all but the cataclysmic, desolate, hopeful, and cooperative parts of a larger heart.

Something that is often all too rare in grand scale action films; heart. Despite Miller's admission that the film's sincere hopes for a more gender pluralist society weren't initially the core reason for doing the film, it certainly found it's way deep into the process. So when we take in Furiosa's last ditch effort to make up for past sins, there isn't a moment that feels grafted on, or telegraphed. Her concerns are completely understandable, and the implications of her past horrific. She has taken everything upon her shoulders to see that the society she has long helped solidify no longer clings to submission and desperation. And while her journey with Max in tow takes on truly unexpected turns, it comes like a personal revelation. We, with her, come to realize that so many suppositions about a "mythical place" are more about fostering a rebirth than escape. This is the first Mad Max film to take on the possibility of a better world on our doorstep, and it does so with a sense of personal epiphany.  

And perhaps that's it. The waterworks came, because everyone's journey is based on hope. Even as Max seems bent on taking advantage of his ride on the War Rig, and making his own way, there's still this need for him to witness some semblance of the cop and father he once was. As the odds become ever more desperate, the notion that Furiosa could be able to even fight this hard for something that might be little more than a fairy tale, not to mention the heart displayed by the wives and even Nux, a boy who could for a time only be a playback machine to a madman's dogma, becomes something even he can't deny. So by the time they encounter the Vulvalini, and choose to take back the future, everyone's journey is sealed. I felt the early distrust, to the selfishness, and later the respect and camaraderie without it ever feeling forced or false. Each character gets under the skin with just the right amount of coverage. By the finale, I was able to feel the struggle becoming that of a shared dream. Something larger than that of a mad dash between motor vehicles, crazies, and heroes. It felt like the journey of a life's purpose realized. As if all the dangers and tragedies that occurred on that path were much in line with how life can often be. The revelation of your life, and what it means to finally have a family and a goal to seek no matter the difficulty ahead.

The Fury Road becomes something of a culture's turning point, a woman's path to becoming an emissary for change, and an artist's viscerally poetic realization of a dream.

Of course, Max Rockatansky had to be there. A personal torch was there to be passed. And likely for the better.

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