Mad Max actor Tom Hardy: Don’t want to invest in being famous

17 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Mad Max actor Tom Hardy: Don’t want to invest in being famous.

Whereas the first Mad Max films were inspired by the ‘70s oil crisis, Fury Road is an unabashedly feminist manifesto about women’s ownership over their bodies. The Mad Max franchise’s lasting legacy is, first and foremost, one of post-apocalyptic scenario and style—not to mention vehicular insanity pulled off without CGI gimmickry.

Australian auteur George Miller’s seminal series has paved the way for the past thirty years’ worth of after-the-fallout sci-fi, imagining a world of dust and grime, of chaos and mayhem, in which roving packs of animalistic marauders roam the land scavenging for necessities and raping and pillaging along their malicious way. After announcing the fourth Mad Max film in 2003, Miller battled a spate of financial difficulties and security concerns over plans to shoot in Namibia before bringing audiences back to the Wasteland. Be it direct descendants like Neil Marshall’s 2008 Doomsday, or a TV show like AMC’s The Walking Dead, the notion of humanity fending for itself in a lawless post-civilized land has its roots in Miller’s Mad Max. The original, released in 1979, was a low-budget movie featuring Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky, a former cop and lone wolf who sets out to stop violent motor gangs and marauders in a dystopian Australia, where society has broken down following an energy crisis.

That’s also true of the revved-up action of so many modern car-chase films, including the Fast & Furious blockbusters, although those hits employ a level of digital effects for which Miller has no use, a fact reconfirmed by the practical stunts of his latest opus, the magnificent Mad Max: Fury Road. Things begin when Max (Tom Hardy) is captured and made a universal blood donor for the pale-skinned “War Boys”, led by the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who, in a nice touch, is played by the original film’s villain, Toecutter).

His skin covered with pale white powder and breathing through a skull-mask inhalator, Immortan Joe also owns specifically selected women to give him children. George Miller’s tale concerns cop Max Rockatansky (a fresh-faced Mel Gibson, in his first lead role), who patrols suburban Australian streets—as well as those that stretch into the vast, forbidding Outback—that have been taken over by gangs of criminals driven by a hunger for anarchy and a thirst for oil for their roadsters and motorcycles. However, he grows enraged when learning that his five prized breeders have fled with the help of a trusted lieutenant, the one-armed Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). But more universally, it’s portrait of a forthcoming world starving for the very energy—oil—that powers its infrastructure helped the film resonate on a grander scale, in that such a premise stemmed directly from the global gasoline calamity that had taken place only a few years earlier. We would get up in the morning, have breakfast, drive about 70 km in the middle of nowhere, get painted, strap on bike padding and then put on a leather suit.

The 1973 oil crisis came about when OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) chose to punish the U.S. (and many Western allies) for their support of Israel by instituting a petrol embargo—a decision that led to vast shortages and, famously, serpentine lines of cars waiting for a few drops of precious fuel at nationwide refill stations. A stark reminder of not only our dependence on oil, but of how that dependence makes our society vulnerable in the event of political disputes, Mad Max preys upon fears that we might be one geopolitical disagreement away from calamity and ruin. And moreover, that in such a situation, it wouldn’t necessarily be the fittest who survived, but those who were able to acquire, or had access to, the gasoline that could provide them with the means to stay alive.

In that framework—also involving the larger concept that oil was a fundamentally exhaustible commodity which would eventually run out—Mad Max’s sci-fi wasn’t just thrilling and haunting because of its brutal highway crashes and rugged violence, but because it felt ripped from our own collective nightmares. When the director chose to return to this material, on a more Hollywood budget, with 1981’s The Road Warrior, he dug even more deeply into those phobias.

Miller’s sequel opens with a newsreel-y recap of the prior film that, in effect, recontextualizes that earlier story as having taken place in an oil-starved post-apocalyptic world, thus setting the stage for a new adventure about Max competing with hordes of face-painted, spike-adorned psychos for the barren Outback’s last gallons of gasoline. The film’s dialogue is minimal, embodying Miller’s vision of a film that can be understood by non-English speakers without having to read subtitles.

Nicholas Hoult stands out as Nux, a young and unhinged Immortan Joe soldier, more than willing to crash himself into an enemy’s car or set himself on fire in hopes of reaching Valhalla in the afterlife, as promised by Immortan Joe. Recasting Max as a reluctant Western-archetype hero, Miller’s follow-up operates like an ominous fable about how our continuing need for oil threatens to send us back to a more primitive age. Straddling the line between the past and the present, all while providing a slew of stunning images and set pieces the likes of which had rarely been seen before, it remains a classic of adrenalized allegorical sci-fi.

While the series’ third entry, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, boasts its own politicized ideas about capitalist enterprise and have-vs.-have-nots dynamics, its devolution into Peter Pan-style fiction renders it a moderately interesting misfire at best. Aside from Furiosa’s struggle, the film tells about the five ethereally beautiful women, who wage a fight for freedom and challenge their broodmare status. With his latest, the 70-years-young Miller confirms that he’s the undisputed maestro of auto-lunacy, delivering what amounts to a largely uninterrupted two-hour chase sequence full of more mind-boggling, startlingly visceral car craziness than just about any film in history. Directed with a precision and clarity that’s astounding, it’s a summer spectacle that truly must be seen to be believed—and to see it, one realizes that just as Miller has not lost his touch for road rage, so too has he not lost his interest in pressing political commentary.

Fury Road commences with news report soundbites about oil shortages blaring over its opening credits, thus firmly situating the film in familiar territory. Yet even more than those undercurrents, Fury Road ultimately bolsters its gonzo vehicular warfare by turning its story into an all-too-relevant treatise on reproductive rights. Her mission is one of rescuing female prisoners from their male owners, and in doing so, to re-imbue them with agency over their own lives and bodies. It’s a mission that draws the ire of King Immortan Joe, a paternalistic fiend whose interest in enslaving women as veritable baby-making cattle (and, in the case of his other captives, milk-producing cows) is presented as the future’s true evil, which must be combatted by both women and all those (including Max) who believe in female sovereignty of both a political and corporeal nature. He refers to them as “my property,” while their mantra is, “We are not things.” Consequently, Fury Road functions on a distinctly feminist wavelength, championing feminine revolt against a society that would place control of reproductive rights in the hands of tyrannical men.

And in the process, it turns its real heroine, Theron’s icon-in-the-making Imperator Furiosa, into the embodiment of the politically charged spirit that, decades later, continues to define Miller’s incisive Mad Max saga.

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