‘Fury Road’: Why the film is a work of George Miller genius

For all the reasons that Mad Max: Fury Road is a modern masterpiece on par with films like Citizen Kane, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and Ben Hur is to look at the film itself.  In 1981 if anyone would have predicted that the maker of the Road Warrior would 30 years in the future create such a scathing representation of human culture nobody would have believed it.  Yet our current society has devolved to such a degree that the evidence of such a future nightmare is fast upon us which brings a sort of exasperation at the end of the film.  Fury Road is many things all at the same time; it’s a modern morality western on wheels and can be enjoyed as popcorn entertainment.  This part of it was clear already in the previous Mad Max films.  But, there was always a hint at something deeper, which a younger director in George Miller probably wanted to utter, but didn’t yet have the whole package ready to wrap.  Fury Road dives deeper into the well of the human condition seamlessly like all great works of art.  It gives the viewer more of what they already know, and dares them to step beyond their comfort zone in a way that Picasso’s cubic paintings did.  But then again, Fury Road is deeper than even that—it jumps headlong into the vast depths of James Joyce’s literary masterpiece Finnegan’s Wake to play at Giambattista Vico’s four cycles of civilization.   When it is said that Fury Road is the work of genius, this would be the reason, it is modern art evoked in some of the most provocative ways ever put to film, and it is done so in a way that at the end viewers will wonder what the just saw.  Was the movie just another summer blockbuster in superhero clothing, or was it the genius of a new religion after mankind has fallen back to its beginnings as it has so many times before?

If George Miller was not a fan of Finnegan’s Wake, and had a firm understanding of the Vico cycle, I would be surprised—because that is clearly the theme of Fury Road.  Human beings have devolved from a race that once put satellites into the sky to a society clamoring over water.  Anarchy has given way to a new theocracy and at the end of the move, the last line shown on the screen before the end credits read like the first sentence in a new book of Genesis.  I can’t say that I have ever seen a critic rating of 98% on Rottentomatos.com for a movie, yet Fury Road had virtually everyone who had seen it eating out of its hand—something that certainly would not have been the case in 1982 when the Road Warrior came out.  Some radio movie reviewers on the Friday of the film’s release were actually giving the movie 5 out of 5 stars—which is something else I can’t ever recall happening.  Even great films typically get a 4 or a 4.5, but many critics were giving Fury Road a full unfettered five stars essentially calling it a perfect movie.  I don’t think Fury Road is a perfect movie.  It was on par to me to all the great western’s I have seen over the years—but it has the added dimension of hidden sophistication that all viewers sense which hangs in the air at the end of the movie.  It touches something very primal in us all and hints at long suppressed beliefs touched for the first time perhaps in some people’s lives.  Yes, the Vico cycle is well at hand.   In a time where nearly every movie is a retread from the past society has forgotten that all these retreads came from a period when our culture produced these kinds of stories every couple of months.  Just like the mixed up cars in Fury Road are representatives of a previous society which mass manufactured them, they are assembled on the screen hodgepodged together in bizarre and imaginative ways that still evoke a lesser society that inherited something great from the past yet didn’t quite know how to sustain them.  Fury Road is a metaphor of itself in a very tongue in cheek way.  There seems to be a very firm knowledge from George Miller of what he’s doing as he is clearly an artist at the top of his game.

Other progressive reviewers saw in Immortan Joe a greedy capitalist regulating vast resources to enslave people.  To their minds Immortan Joe was the Bilderberg bankers and Illuminati currency manipulators of the current times and the revolution of the people to overtake such a greedy bastard is communism so everyone can have equal share in the wonders of water stored in his magical pumps within his fortress Citadel.  Yet again, Fury Road is a deeper movie than that—it cuts to a primal rage contained within every human being—the desire to be free.  Immortan Joe might have been slain, and a new government might rule in his place—but the results would be the same.  So long as mankind follows the trends of the Vico cycle whoever is in power will always seek to suppress those under their control.  The reason the film has such high critical ratings is because of things like this, where the kinds of topics that are really important to people are expressed.  But like all great works of art, those people are limited by what they can see.  They may not have the ability to see too far, so they only see representations of feminism, or communism as factors for redemption—but there is clearly more going on.

I thought the most powerful part of the movie was a quiet scene where the characters named brilliantly, Toast the Knowing, Cheedo the Fragile, and the Capable were watching a star filled night sky as they saw a satellite flying across their view from horizon to horizon.  They contemplated the previous culture that actually made such things that could talk to people across the whole of the world.  They wondered who killed the world.  It’s not global warming which has done the destruction.  It was the Vico cycle—mankind’s innate desire to advance and regress along its formulated parameters.

As I bought my ticket for Fury Road the attendant whispered to himself, “Max, great choice.”  He locked knowing eyes with mine.  “I loved it.”  And that was the general feeling of everyone I bumped into who saw the movie.  They realized that they were seeing something that was strangely important, yet they didn’t really know why.  It is our present story played out in a way that they can easily see no matter what vantage point of political reality they approach the subject—because the road all leads to the same place.  It doesn’t matter if the vantage point is conservative, liberal, deeply socialist, fascist, or manically religious it all ends up in the same place, the cycle of Giambattista Vico, theocracy, aristocracy, democracy, followed by anarchy which has persisted in human lives for as long as we have had breath.  Most of us want to be Max or Furiosa, but know that they will always ever be at best like the old lady in Fury Road, the Keeper of the Seeds.  Worse yet, most people will spend their whole lives begging for water, or allowing themselves to be harvested for their bodies–their motherly milk, or their blind devotion to a male patriarchy more concerned with their place in a masculine peaking order than in inventing satellites to go to space.  Even though the world has gone mad Max at least has not surrendered himself to its cycle.  In the end he is the hero who carries those who want to back to a hope of advancing their cause instead of just retreating from it. It was a brilliant film by a brilliant director at the absolute top of his game.  The above and below line talent in the picture are all at the peak of film making genius and if there is any justice Fury Road will win many Oscars in 2016.  But that in and of itself will prove just how valid Fury Road truly is.  In a free culture capable of making all the stories it can deem possible, it is a retread from the past that is evoking so much of a response in a culture that subconsciously seems to realize it is slipping back into the abyss of anarchy and theocracy.   They don’t understand why or how—but know that it’s happening.  And the only way they can measure that slide is with a good ol’ Mad Max movie which shows them the map of how it’s happening, even if they are powerless to stop it.

Rich Hoffman


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