There is probably very little I can say that is different from the enormous amount of ink that trails after the Mad Max exhaust streak. I also wont bore you with comparisons to the original, which also seems to hound after the film.
The general consensus is that Fury Road is an achievement in cinema that pushes boundaries- some accidentally. Now that my heart rate has returned to normal and I’ve been able to absorb some of what I saw, I’d like to discuss what I think might be a controversial point of view.
There is a lot to appreciate about this film. The fact that it forces the audience to experience the film rather than passively consume is arguably one of it’s greatest achievements. I counted only two actual moments in the film where the audience took a collective breath and sighed relief, only to be shoved right back into the adrenaline rush. That goes without saying in a film such as this.
But who is the hero? Notice I did not ask who’s story it is.
We obviously have the two leads and an antagonist, along with an assortment of colorful characters to round out the roster. It is easy to debate which character is actually the lead, as our narrator is Max but the clear catalyst for events is Furiosa. While both of these circumstance-hardened individuals pack a powerful punch, I don’t think either of them are the actual heroes of the story. In fact I think the hero is one of the colorful subordinates Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult.
Now calm down a minute. Max and Furiosa are both formidable characters that go on their own journey, redemption being their mission. While they both achieve their goals, neither of them has to go through a serious transition or do any self-reflection to hit their mark. Simply put, these ass-kicking individuals whose prime directive is to survive are limited in their growth by their line of sight. Often their goal is to make it to tomorrow, or in the case of this film to the end of road.
When we meet Nax, he is dying. He is kept alive by a grotesque “blood-bag”, a line of injection tied directly to Max. When the War Boys head out to hunt Furiosa, Nax insists on going hoping to die with his boots on so to speak. While it may come from a point of cult like fervor that possess all the War Boys, it’s still a noble sentiment that is often attributed to the hero or lead: live or die fighting.
After an intense chase that barrels both Nux, his blood bag Max, Furiosa and the rest into a tornado of fire and ash ends in a violent attempt to sacrifice himself to stop Furiosa, we get our first moment to breathe. Max is alive. Furiosa and the wives are alive. Nux is, amazingly, alive. Hero by classical definition is a person of god like prowess or a warrior possessing special strength or courage. I think it’s safe to say that a man on his death bead who survives a crash like that possesses a certain element of strength and courage.
The road gets more complicated when our assortment of crazy and desperate are all thrown into the same war machine. Nux is abandoned not once, not twice, but three times. Yet he still manages to crawl back to the central plot, and when he does he finally has a revelation and a change of heart. He’s the only one who does a real 180 from the path he’d been following from the beginning- help the people he’d once been hunting.
When the road runs out, the one who stays behind to make the sacrifice so that others may live, is Nux. You might say it’s been his purpose since the beginning. Only now, instead of dying in vain for a warmongering tyrant parading as a demi-God, it’s for freedom and hope.
So yeah, Max and Furiosa are brave. They are our (sometimes reluctant) leaders who bark orders and kick ass. It’s in their DNA to do so. Nux, not so much. Still, he somehow manages to stay along for the ride, undergo an enormous change in perspective AND throw down the sacrifice card to seal the deal. If you either live a hero or die trying, that is the foundation of his journey.
Nux might be an anti-hero, but still a hero.