Imperator Furiosa and the Amazing Female Characters of “Mad Max: Fury Road”

 

By Jacob Wampfler

*SPOILERS FOR MAD MAX: FURY ROAD FOLLOW

Right away, I need to be honest.  I absolutely loved Mad Max: Fury Road.  Having seen none of the previous films in Max’s narrative, I imagined Fury Road as an opportunity to dive into the universe and lore of George Miller’s post-apocalypse world…and I don’t think I have ever been more stunned, awestruck, or astonished as I was upon my first viewing of this film.  I loved it so much, in fact, that I went back a second time the very next day.

Somewhere between my first and second viewing, though, something began to take shape in my mind.  This was no ordinary summer action flick that I had just witnessed.  This was a story of rescue, redemption, and new life at the hands of strong and courageous female characters, led by the unflinching Imperator Furiosa (brilliantly acted by Charlize Theron).  Was this film packed from beginning to end with heart-pounding action sequences?: absolutely.  But Mad Max: Fury Road has heart and depth because it explores themes and ideas other action films of its kind have never even touched.  Without Imperator Furiosa and the other rich female characters of this film, Fury Road could simply be tossed aside as yet another loud, summer explosion fiesta.  Instead, what we now have is a defining genre film of this era, one that will stand the test of time for years to come.

For starters, most of the male characters in this film are absolutely deplorable.  In fact, most of them are visibly and aesthetically grotesque (by design, I would imagine).  Led by Immortan Joe, the War Boys and all Joe’s minions want nothing more than to die for their leader with the misguided hope that they will “live again” in Valhalla.  This, of course, sets up Joe as a deity of sorts…and with his god-like power he enslaves women for his own pleasure and use, among other tyrannical deeds.  In fact, the central conflict of the film revolves around the escape of Joe’s five female slaves, including his favorite and most precious: Splendid.  She is carrying “his” child, and Joe goes absolutely berserk when he discovers that she and the other four are gone, with Furiosa as their liberator.

This central plot device creates levels of intricate depth and symbolism within the film.  First off, when Joe storms into the prison in which he keeps his female slaves, we see that his former captives have left him a few messages.  On the wall and floor, we read the words, “WE ARE NOT THINGS” and “WHO KILLED THE WORLD?”  The viewer is reminded of both of these phrases throughout the duration of the film.  So, who did kill the world?  In Fury Road, the answer is simple: MEN.  Men like Immortan Joe killed the world through their lust for power, gasoline, and bullets, and they continue to poison the world with their unquenchable thirst for more.  This aspect of Miller’s narrative foreshadows a shift in power that will arrive at the hands of benevolent and gracious leaders, different from Joe in almost every way imaginable.

Also worth noting is the impeccable relationship between Max and Furiosa (yes, this is the first time I have even mentioned Max’s character in this post!).  Furiosa is no damsel in distress and Max is no hero.  Max realizes throughout the course of the film that in order to survive, he must work with Furiosa and her female companions.  What unfolds between Max and Furiosa is not the stereotypical girl-falls-for-guy-then-guy-saves-girl-from-baddies trope.  Rather, they become equals; comrades in arms willing to lay down their life for the other (this was reminiscent, for me, of the relationship between Mal and Zoe in Joss Whedon’s Firefly).  The result is a gripping and emotionally complex relationship that I have rarely witnessed on screen in the past.

Added to all the above, we are left with the fantastic ending of this film.  With a beautiful, lingering shot on Furiosa and her companions there is a glimmer of hope for a new world, a “green place,” held by those who had been unspeakably tortured and abused by the vile, evil Immortan Joe.  They had been treated as objects, as “things,” and they will treat the world and its people far differently.

While not an exhaustive take on themes within Mad Max: Fury Road, the above is meant to commend George Miller and his team for creating an action film that also develops its female characters beyond laughable and egregiously misogynistic caricatures.  As a result, Fury Road is a summer action blockbuster with surprising depth and utterly righteous female characters.  And, for me at least, the point is well taken: it might be best not to mess with Furiosa and company.

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Three John Hughes-Styled Spider-Man Movie Suggestions for Sony

By Sam Wampfler

After the most recent success of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, super hero movies continue their incredible boom which, arguably, started with the first Tobey Maguire Spider-man film way back in 2002. Over a decade after the premiere of that ground breaking film, Sony Pictures continues to cling to the ghost of their once successful franchise.

In an attempt to Lazarus Spidey back into relevance, Sony has teamed with Marvel Studio’s Kevin Feige to produce 3-4 new films that will see our favorite webslinger in an environment that he hasn’t spent much time in past films: High School. Not only are they exploring new territory with a younger, possibly more angsty, Peter Parker, but they have also gone on the record saying that they want these films to follow the vein of legendary director John Hughes‘ 80’s teen comedies. Given Spiderman’s tendency for humor and shenanigans this could be a winning combination.

On the other hand Sony has routinely done worse things to Spiderman than any of his villains could have ever done ever since Spiderman 3 hit the theaters. In preparation for this I have decided to submit three script synopses that Sony can feel free to use. You hear that Sony execs? You like what you see? Use it!


Sixteen Tentacles

First off we need to start with a big villain to draw moviegoers in. Most villains have already been used pretty thoroughly. This includes Doctor Octopus. But there is one thing the studios haven’t tried yet.

In this film Doctor Octopus will appear as a chubby, awkward looking teenager instead of a chubby, awkward looking middle-aged man. Clever, right?

Anyways, the plot begins pretty simple, opening up on Mary Jane‘s Sweet 16 birthday party. Everyone at the party seems to be enjoying themselves. Neither Peter nor Doc Ock are anywhere to be seen. In the next scene we find both our protagonist and eventual antagonist working together to sneak into the party that they were so rudely not invited to due to their awkward-looking nerd status.

When they finally break in (through the back gate or the sewers or whatever) they realize that they are both vying for the affection of Mary Jane. This of course causes the first epic backyard-spanning super battle in the movie. Doc Ock is defeated and skulks off to his lair, which doubles as their high school’s chemistry lab. In order to combat Spidey and woo Mary Jane he creates a clone of himself. One to fight and one to flirt.

The next scene is a classic Hughes montage where we see Spidey continually losing to the Doctor Octopus clone while the real Doc Ock takes Mary Jane on a series of more and more elaborate sea creature themed dates. It seems like Peter will never triumph and Mary Jane will be lost to him forever. That is until the clone gets jealous of the real Doc Ock and teams up with Spidey to take down his creator.

The final confrontation takes place where it all began: in Mary Jane’s backyard. Peter and the clone take down the real Doctor Octopus while only causing a few million dollars worth of damage to the surrounding neighborhood, because after all this is a superhero movie.

In the end, the three of them reconcile their differences and realize that there is no need for such hostilities to happen just because of a girl. They quickly become friends and form their high school’s first ever Chemistry Club.


The Chemistry Club

The lead in to this one is simple: The Chemistry Club (Spidey, Doctor Octopus, and the clone who some people call Brian?) has been punished with a Saturday of detention for causing a small explosion and cloning a spider/octopus hybrid which escaped into the vents of the high school.

When the club gets to detention we are introduced to the other Saturday afternoon detainees. There is the rich jock Harry Osborn, who is in for duct taping a classmate to the locker room wall, the social outcast Eddie Brock, who is in for starting a fire and then blocking the doors so the firemen couldn’t get in, and Mary Jane, who is in for skipping school to go shopping.

Tensions mount as the teenagers fight verbally over their differences (Causing 1.3 million dollars in damages). As the fight starts turning more physical, they start to see that they all have weaknesses that make them more similar than they had first realized. Peter is an orphan who also lost his uncle. Eddie has an abusive father who he feels he isn’t strong enough to stand up to. Harry’s Father is more interested in his green Power Ranger cosplay than he is in spending time with his son. Mary Jane is addicted to red hair dye. Brian is a clone.

After these realizations the kid’s fight slowly transforms into a montage of them smoking weed and doing choreographed dance numbers. They realize that their real enemy is the evil task master of detention, Mr. Curt Connors. They spend the rest of the movie growing closer together, playing harmless pranks on Mr. Connors (13.5 million dollars in damages), and learning that life is easier as a team….. of super powered teenagers (and one powerless redhead).

The last scene sees the teens leaving school one at a time and leaves the audience wondering if they will stay friends or if they will be right back to battling each other on Monday.


Peter Parker’s Day Off

This one starts out on the Monday after the previous film. Peter has decided that after having to spend his Saturday at the school he shouldn’t have to attend today. He convinces Aunt May that he is sick by hanging upside-down from the ceiling by a web until he looks light-headed and flushed. She buys it seeing as her sight isn’t what it used to be.

After Aunt May leaves for quilt club, Peter calls up his chronically depressed friend Matt Murdock, who he correctly guesses is also skipping school. Peter tells Murdock to bring over his car so they can go have some fun in New York. Murdock reminds Peter that he is super blind and does not own a car. Peter decides to web swing over to Murdock’s instead.

When he gets there he sees a classic Ferrari convertible sitting in the garage. He asks Murdock who it belongs to. Murdock tells him that some guy named Fisk gave it to his dad for all the good work that he had done for him. Peter says they should take it into New York. Murdock says no, fearing the repercussions that would come if he let Peter take the car (Getting grounded, a punch to the face…).

In the end, Peter gets his way and they take the car. Before they head for New York though, they stop by their high school and break Mary Jane out with a fake story about her Grandma dying in an attack on New York by Rhino. They let her out to go to the “funeral.”

The trio arrive in New York and shenanigans (and a montage) ensue. They go to a baseball game and Peter catches a fly ball with his web. They go to an art museum and Peter and Mary Jane look at art while Matt looks at a wall that he assumes is art. Finally they talk their way into a fancy restaurant by convincing the maitre d that Murdock is the son of renowned scientist Hank Pym.

As they leave the restaurant they encounter Mr. Curt Connors, who reveals that he was searching for them all day after figuring out that they were ditching. He has held a grudge against Peter ever since the incidents of “The Chemistry Club.” Connors tells them that he has created a serum that will help him detain them and bring them back to school. He then turns into a lizard man. The trio is a bit thrown off by this.

Then, the largest battle that we have seen in these movies so far takes place. Peter swings around Connors landing punches where he can. Murdock accidentally punches a pedestrian thinking it is Connors (15 million dollars in damages). Mary Jane checks her hair in a broken TV screen to make sure it looks okay. In the end, the teens triumph and are able to escape back to Murdock’s house in the Ferrari.

When they get back they realize that the Ferrari took extreme damage in the battle. Peter offers to take the fall for the damage but Murdock refuses. He has finally learned that he has the strength to stand up to his dad and says that he will confront him after he gets home from his boxing match against Rocky Davis that Fisk had set up for him.

Peter takes Mary Jane home by way of web swinging and then races home in hopes that he will get there before Aunt May gets back from her bridge club. He makes it and has just enough time to get in bed before May opens the door. She comes in and when she sees that he is sleeping she exits the room smiling.

Peter rolls over, looks at the ceiling, and thinks of all the great fun he had. He falls asleep having learned nothing about the consequences of his actions.


Bonus Movie Ideas

Webs, Webs, and Webs

This is basically just the story of Spidey trying to get home for Thanksgiving by any means necessary… or really just by web swinging because that is his only means of transportation. This becomes increasingly difficult when he meets Rhino along the way and feels sorry enough for him that he offers to bring him along for the ride… or the swing. Wacky shenanigans ensue.

Weird Science

Peter is approached by Tony Stark about making a new AI that will end war forever. Together they work nonstop for about as long as it takes a montage to happen. When they are finished they realize that they have accidentally created a sexy female version of Ultron. They name it Ultrana… or Lady Ultron…. or Barb. Whatever, you decide Sony.

How “Avengers: Age of Ultron” Betrayed Black Widow

By Josiah Wampfler

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD… OBVIOUSLY…

 

A SHORT PREFACE: I had so much fun with this film and you can listen to my full thoughts on it in our Cinema Bros podcast. This article, in the grand scheme of my enjoyment of the film is honestly nitpicking, but I feel these thoughts had to be shared. 

 

Black Widow and The Hulk; Natasha and Bruce, or maybe… Brutasha?… It’s a thing. Yes, the only female Avenger has finally decided to show her feelings for one of the boys. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” made sure of that.

In “Age of Ultron,” Black Widow finally succumb to (or was victim to) the long-standing Hollywood tradition of seemingly strong female characters falling for their man. That is not to say this trope is always bad. After all, love is one of the most important things in the human experience. But, how it was done in “Ultron” completely betrayed what made Black Widow’s character so great.

Black Widow’s character arch throughout the MCU is very interesting. When first introduced she was intended as little more than eye-candy, but as the films progressed she started to turn that around on its head. This culminated in the opening scene of the first Avengers film where she pretends to be a pretty damsel in distress only to reveal she had everything under control the whole time.

And this is what makes her character so great: While the other members of the Avengers are brooding about their various failures and regrets, she keeps a level head; she has everything under control. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her demons though. In “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” when she finds out Shield was just Hydra in disguise, we see her emotionally open up to Cap, expressing her doubts. In the end of the film though, she regains her composure basically telling a congressional committee to shove it in not so many words, and walking out of the room like a bad ass.

Compare that to the character we get in “Ultron” and it seems like Joss Whedon didn’t even watch any of the other films. Her compelling buddy relationship with Cap is completely discarded and in its place is an out-of-the-blue romantic attachment to Banner. Instead of the cool confidence we know Black Widow for, we see a strangely vulnerable woman who seems more concerned with getting her man for much of the film than actually fighting Ultron.

That is not to say that the relationship between the two isn’t well done. Their chemistry is wonderful, the individual performances are superb and the dialogue is great, but even well written and well acted story lines can be wrong for a film.

Where once we saw cool confidence and loyalty, now we see a woman who keeps talking about running away with her man. Where once we saw a woman who stood her ground in battle, now we see a woman that basically serves as a plot device to empower her man to fight.

I am not saying Black Widow is not a strong character in this film. I am not saying that she doesn’t kick a ton of ass in this film. I am not even saying that her relationship with Banner in and of itself weakens her character. I am questioning is why she had to have a relationship with Banner. I am questioning why she had to be the plot device that compels Hulk to fight. What I am saying is that Black Widow could have been a much stronger and better character had they just not worried about including this relationship or at least done it in a way that made more sense with her character. Because in the end, Black Widow feels much more like the “typical love interest” than the bad ass confident woman she always should have been.