6. The Repetitive Action Scenes
As great as they are, they become a bit monotonous. Instead of Battle #507, how about a scene – or even a handful of lines – dedicated to world-building and back-story? In fact…
Dear Writer-Director George Miller: you’re playing with so many interesting ideas. Don’t be afraid to flesh them out. Your audience wants substance as well as surface. Don’t be afraid to make us think. (The Matrix, for example, was 90 percent dialogue, and you didn’t hear anyone complain.) Maybe my questions are answered in your previous films, but we shouldn’t have to be Mad Max scholars to keep up with the lore of the land.
P.S. What’s the deal with the all-female biker gang? They must have an interesting story. (About which, sadly, we can only speculate.) Please elaborate in Mad Max 2.
7. The Missed Opportunities
The most interesting shot in the film is also the most enigmatic. (And not in a good way.) It occurs as Max & Friends drive past a group of scavengers roaming around on stilts. Colored in a haunting moonlit blue, this image is gorgeous, fascinating, and utterly unique – yet Miller cuts away from it almost instantly, leaving the audience (as usual) with nothing but questions. Who are these people? Where do they come from? And what do they do during the day?
Granted, this is a minor scene, but it’s another in a long series of missed opportunities. Every time Miller comes close to filling us in, he backs away and throws another set piece at us. Which would be fine if mystery is part of the point. But it isn’t. These questions deserve answers – if not immediately, then at least by the end of the film. Instead, they simply tease, puzzle, and fade as quickly as they arise. Such imperfections, however minor, are not the markings of a masterpiece. They are symptoms of superficiality, of a film that doesn’t respect its audience.
8. The Cartoonish Villains
Think of the great movie villains: The Joker in The Dark Knight, Harry Lime in The Third Man, Darth Vader in Star Wars, Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. What do they have in common, besides funny names? Originality. Sophistication. Charisma. They are horrible yet fascinating, brutal yet sympathetic. Their ideas disturb, but they also intrigue. What ideas does Joe have to offer? In what sense is he original? Sophisticated? Charismatic?
He has the trappings of a villain, but lacks the soul. Murder, torture, slavery, and rape are just a handful of Joe’s R-rated pastimes, yet his villainy is forgettable because, simply put, it’s too villainous. He has none of Vader’s ambivalence or Chigurh’s philosophical wit. He’s just angry and ugly and evil. As a result, the moral landscape of Mad Max is depressingly black-and-white. Joe and his buddies are bad; Max and his buddies are good. Start your engines.
Except tragedy, according to Hegel, is the struggle between right and right. Both sides need to be sympathetic in order for genuine drama to occur. That’s why Antigone continues to resonate 2000 years after it was written. Because Creon isn’t a black-and-white villain. If anything, he’s more reasonable than the play’s protagonist. The same, however, cannot be said about Joe, who is pure malevolence with a dash of my-infant-son-just-died-and-I-feel-sad-for-ten-minutes, added for seasoning.
9. The General Lack Of Believability
From Furiosa’s outrageously accurate sniper shots to the bottomless gas tanks to the tree in the middle of nowhere that helps them pull the truck out of the swamp to Max’s random gunfire that just happens to graze (instead of maim) the girl’s leg to the successful smuggling of five barely clothed, pregnant women onto a truck to the amount of abuse Miller thinks the human body can take (falling off cars, falling off trucks, being stabbed, being shot), there are many things to criticize. For a complete list, check out the comments section beneath any positive review of the film.
10. The Guitar Guy
Author Bio: Chris Gilmore writes fiction, plays, and screenplays. His first short story collection, Nobodies, is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2016.