Posts Tagged war

Mad Max: Fury Road – a burning world

After watching the movie, I can say the trailer does it justice, while at the same time leaving out one of the best side stories. Most important, it works. The images got stuck in my mind since seeing it before Fast and Furious 7, and I knew I have to watch it.

You’ve got in this trailer the beautifully mastered start of the movie, with the broken rhythm of reality for a mind lost in madness. You’ve got the oppressive ruler who aims to bend life to his own will. You’ve got the action pumping crazily like the flames exploding in a city set alight by a dozen of arsonists at the same time. And you’ve got the deep, dark and broken voice of the guy whose eyes see it all: Max. The mad one. No madder than the rest of the world.
And there is something else, which charmed me at first sight: the images worked with surrealist refinement. I know, this is some quite pretentious language I am using right now, but please believe I cannot help it.
I’m also pondering on how much to reveal as not to spoil it all for you, but to say enough of what I really want to express.

After debating with myself, I have decided I will not reveal anything about the very first image on screen, which made me whisper to my friend, Ana: “Wow, it looks amazing!” (and it wasn’t a flowing summer dress, a pair of gorgeous shoes or a picturesque landscape – well, a landscape it was, burning your retina rather than soothing it)
What I will tell you is how impressed I was with the start of the movie in itself. It has all it needs: good timing, good rhythm, great vision over the jerked movements of the outside seen by a mind gone mad, over the haunting fears and regrets lurking inside.
A small gem in its own, it sets high expectations for the rest of the movie, while it gives you just enough to be satisfied from the very first steps into the story. I would say it was a clever strategy from an experienced director, in line with basic entertainment (and not only) principles: give them enough to keep them interested, but not too much as to overwhelm them. Or put it this way: meet people’s expectations as much as needed not to frustrate them, but go one step further and surprise them as well. This makes the best scaffold for any good entertainment product for the large audience, after all.

In this respect, George Miller marks point after point with Mad Max: Fury Road . I must confess that I have seen the first series a good while ago, probably as a young teenager, and I am not that young any longer (by biological age, at least). So besides Mel Gibson’s charisma, some good action and a misty, faint image of the post-apocalyptic world in that series I cannot remember much. Of course I have always loved Mel Gibson and I can confess that the beautiful madness in his passionate eyes cannot be equalled, at least by my (emotional or not) standards. But then Mad Max: Fury Road  gives you more than one great charismatic actor burning from inside out on the screen. The new movie brings a truly memorable world, the madness spreading through and along, in such a way in which it becomes almost touchable. It imprints its setting into the viewers’ minds with powerful and haunting images not soon to be forgotten. And it does this while pumping crazy action scenes one after another.
Apparently, it has been reported (according to imdb.com) that this was the director’s intention: beautiful settings and breath-taking action to speak for itself.

I have mentioned the images so many times now that I need to give you a few examples, without spoiling the story. See the trailer: the War Rig (huge oil truck), escorted by a few other vehicles, rolling down in a dessert landscape, under a bright sky. Then watch the chasing party catching their tail, the radioactive sand storm, the young woman in bride like attire walking from the oil tank to the truck’s cabin, the beauty and sadness in Furiosa’s eyes. See the water flowing from a burnt huge rock to the people waiting for a drop to keep them going.
And then what you don’t see in the trailer is even better: the night scenes, engulfed in a surreal hue of blue, almost glowing but still heavy like the shadows of death, of all the lost souls who roam a wasted land not entirely alive, but not dead yet.

The way this post-apocalyptic world has been designed and set into motion looks most compelling. No one is spared pain or disease, not even the rulers and their packs of War Lords. Tumours, blisters, poisoned lungs, weakened limbs are the most common things. Never mind the masses waiting at the foot of the high rocks: they seem to exist out of inertia, only due to this self-preservation instinct that all forms of life, but even more human beings, with their sense of self, posses.
Immortan Joe, one of the three dictatorial rules of this world, decides who gets what around his Citadel. He gives the masses speeches and a little water every day, with a voice tone and tactic reminiscent of Hitler. He keeps the right to breeding to himself and his own, he decides for all the rest.

For someone as interested as I am in society and humanity values, certain scenes have a strong impact. I found myself impressed at showing how a handful of peopl decide who gets to have the basic survival needs met and who doesn’t. Immortan Joe gives them words and a little water, while growing lush gardens and vegetables on the top of the rocks for him and his chosen ones, on whose support his power rests on. Somehow this is not necessarily a post-apocalyptic world of the future, it happens today and most people do not think of it, some probably say it’s just the way things are, we cannot do anything to change them, and some even support this state of facts, as they probably feel they are the chosen and entitled ones.
There was another thread of the story which touched me. The character appears in the trailer, but you would not expect much of him, nor think he actually has an important role whatsoever. Besides the two strong lead characters, Max and Furiosa, this guy grows a personality and his personal development is one of the most delightful parts of the whole movie.

While he is still only chasing targets set for him by a choice deprived society, he embodies the fanatic. However, there is innocence in this character throughout. In a certain scene when he gets blessing from the big guy, and my friend Ana was somehow showing her disapproval, I whispered to her, actually with tears stuck in my throat: “give the faintest string of hope, even in death, to somebody who has nothing to expect in this life, and you’ve turned them fanatic”.
To my delight, this character has kept his innocence and supported my observations.

Without spoiling the action, the twists and turns, the dark humour and how the story grows in between the fighting scenes, I can say that Mad Max: Fury Road  is a movie about hope. It shows what happens to people who do still have hope in a non-egotistic way, as they share it with others (Imperator Furiosa). It shows how one without hope, who lost a lot and who is still haunted by all the losses can go mad (Mad Max). It gives the perfect image for egotistic greedy unscrupulous people, who build all their hopes and expectations on the shoulders of others and of taking whatever fits them from all. It gives a touching delicate image of the ones who have just received hope and now have not only what to fight for, but what to die for fighting.
At some point, Max talks about not having hope, a powerful striking statement, but I will let you discover for yourselves.

What this movie is not is a “feminist propaganda” product. Whoever (sorry I cannot be bothered to check) uttered such non-sense could possibly be a person with nothing else to say or do in order to attract more attention on themselves.
Strong women? So now you have to be a feminist and to spread feminist propaganda (whatever that is) to approve women are strong and can fight for themselves, need be?
Strong women escaping an oppressive regime? Please, just read the newspapers and you will see over and over again examples of women standing for their human rights and against discrimination in regimes where they are mere breeders and sexual objects, as well as servants for the man around them.
Or is it really so far-fetched that, in a post-war world ruled by warrior men, who take all the can take and make the law with no respect to other human beings (who are breeders, blood banks or just cockroaches lurking at the foot of the Citadel), women would be treated as providers of babies and pleasure and nothing more? Is it now?

The two main characters in this movie play their part beautifully and success depends on both of them. Imperator Furiosa chases a dream from her childhood, fights for her own when nobody cares for women other than they themselves, but finds her dream shattered. She cannot give up on her paradise, is ready to carry on running to catch its illusory shapes. Max helps take the right turn, his madness proves to be the needed element to change the world whilst making it collapse inside. While his drive is survival and as such he finds himself alongside the fugitives, at some point his perspective changes as well, the hope he lost stays alive in these women, and he cannot fight its bonding strength.
And, as men are said to tend to, he comes up with a solution, in the end.

Last, but not least, George Miller thinking this movie as standing on its own and not a remake of his earlier works proved brilliant. Not a fan of remakes whatsoever, I appreciate how he used a setting and a character to create something new and to emphasize on society and the way it is still heading today.

As we were getting out of the cinema, Ana told me this was the craziest action movie she’s seen in a while, comparing it only to Kill Bill. Then later on, back home, she expressed she liked this one more than Ex Machina, yet another production that I have to write on as I found it clever, refreshing and haunting at the same time.
Definitely, it is the movie which made me think, debate and analyse the most of all I have recently seen.

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The fantasy world of my generation

 

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For the second year in a row going to the movies has been a festive thing to do around Christmas. Why? Because “The Hobbit”, that is why. I dear you to try and find a better reason.

Me and my partner have been yesterday in Tower Park, Poole, to watch it and, as I have already mentioned on Facebook, I came back with such a good energy that I did ALL the dishes myself, hand-washing, without a flickering thought in my head to try and avoid it. And if this doesn’t say a lot, I don’t know what will.
Not to mention that I had such a good, deep, relaxing sleep, waking up after almost 10 hours (which I have not really been able to do lately, work or no work involved), with such great dreams, that I have to link it to something out of the ordinary.

Now that I have mentioned the possible effects of the last part of the trilogy, I can go on and tell you a couple of things about it, trying to control myself and not spoil it for you, although this would be hard. Maybe come back and read after you have seen it as well. But then, why would you bother? I guess there won’t be anything I could add as to make the movie better or worse.
However, for the movie passionate, finding out about what others see in them can be a way of extending the joy and fun. So here we go.

Let’s start with the little guy who gives the name of the original book, as well as the name of the trilogy: the hobbit, here for you, Bilbo Baggins. There is not much to tell of the halflings, other that they have no special abilities, can’t fight, and love their homeland above all. And yet…
In this last part, as in the previous two, Bilbo continues to be the most adaptable of them all, the one who finds a way to go where others can’t without bigger risks. He is a burglar after all, isn’t he? One specialized with the art of breaking locks and opening closed doors. And yes, he keeps at it and he still has the best humour in the whole movie, him and his good friend Gandalf.

But that is not all. Bilbo dares to do what others can’t. Being the new friend, without old ties to the whole group, and at the same time not being a dwarf who has to be loyal to his king’s wish, Bilbo can push things where the others can’t, even if they all see what is going on and how mind racking the power of gold is.
I won’t tell you more, as I really do not want to spoil one of the most dramatic story lines of the movie.

What of the others then? Be them elves or dwarves, they are all fascinating in their own ways, but when their ways come to impose themselves and vanities flair up, they turn  ugly in their unreasonable and arrogant attitudes. They prove all the same ready to burn down the world only so that they can claim what was meant to be theirs, but taken by a common enemy, undefeated until now. And there is no time for patience, negotiation and finding common grounds. They want it now and they will start a war to have it.
In the end, aren’t Tolkien’s books in essence speaking of this, how destructive and absurd wars are, but at the same time how people can come together and prove qualities which in time of peace they might not have deemed possible in themselves? And isn’t such a harsh and absurd situation as war also a test for true friendship, devotion and courage?

After all, look around you. In today’s world, we can see people blaming one another for everything that goes wrong and, mostly, for what they think they are entitled to possess. This subtle hatred that is spurred of British people towards immigrants, between the Western world and the Middle East, of Gipsies and of Eastern Europeans, is mostly based on fear to lose the comfort and financial prosperity people want and feel they are entitled to. “The Hobbit” might be a fantasy movie, but, just like all fantasies and fairy tales, is deeply rooted in the real world.

So I myself see the same kind of despise and arrogance in the way dwarves and elves perceive each other. The dwarves, with their hearty, “what you see is what you get”, loud and jolly ways, very stubborn and ready to get into a fight for the fight’s sake, and shake hands afterwards, are the complete opposite of the very composed, very rational, elegant and aristocratic elves. But both creatures value loyalty and courage. And both are as determined when they want something as they are stubborn beyond reason.
Under the circumstances, the love story between an elf lady, Tauriel, and the dwarf Kili comes as a bonus for me, although it was an addition in the movie. Shamefully, I have not read the books yet, but I intend to and I must. However, I have read about the books as being a big fan of the movies so far.

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In this last part of the trilogy, there isn’t much time for love. Once the dragon is down, the people of the Lake Town go back to the mountain to rebuild, the dwarves are busy with the treasure, the elves want their gems back and all of them are on the brink of starting a war. Only that one stupid conflict comes to an end with a real threat from the orc armies. Everything is alert, no time to stop and smell the roses whatsoever, and the in love elf and dwarf part on the lake shore, with tearful eyes, only to meet again in fight with a force that seems undefeatable.
While this is somehow a Romeo and Juliet tale introduced by Peter Jackson, it is not only that. The two love each other despite being different creatures and despite the hatred between their kin. However, this is not all. Legolas himself, the Elf Prince, is in love with Tauriel, as we could suspect in the first two movies. And here comes that part about devotion, even if the one you love cannot love you back the same way. While Tauriel leaves her kin to fight with the dwarf to start with, Legolas himself stands by her side until the end, disregarding his father’s wish to retreat from the battle. It’s a beautiful side story, and the way the relation between father (Thranduil) and son (Legolas) unfolds is also a good addition.

The last part of the trilogy is as alert as it gets. Once war starts, there is no moment to catch your breath, your eyes are gasping at the very elaborate battle scenes and those of individual fights, such as first Tauriel against Bolg, who defeats her, then Legolas against the same Orc leader, or Thorin against Azog. Even more than the big clashes between armies, these individual battles are intense, with some unpredictable twists and turns and very well rendered by use of visual effects.
Now here is something that some criticised in the movie: too much computer work, too many visual effects, too much green screen (at least that was what Ian McKellen repeatedly found difficult and I completely understand him, as an actor who comes with a long theatre experience), too much of the 3D stuff. Well, I disagree.

For a generation of people who grew up with the classic computer games such as Heroes III or Age of Empires, Pharaoh and Caesar, World of Warcraft and Starcraft, which all started with basic visuals only for some to develop to today’s versions, all with computer animation movies for each of the chapters, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is just our fantasy worlds coming alive. While I am not the greatest gamer alive, I still play on my laptop from time to time and I can only say that, as somebody who used to treat themselves to an all-night session at local internet café’s when I did not own a laptop back in Romania, seeing the Dwarf leader riding a boar made me jump with joy whispering “Look, A., it’s just like in Heroes!”. A bit of a child still in me, I must admit.

But at the same time I would ask the ones who criticise on these grounds: when you have all of this technology to use, why not put it to work in building a fantasy world? What better use would be for it on the screen? You want a realistic movie, you watch a realistic drama. You want something else, you expect a lot of visual effects, don’t you?

And now, to conclude, and please be aware that I will make it a bit of a spoiler, I must say that the end of the movie is as sad as optimistic at the same time. They have lost friends and loved ones, people to whom they never had the chance to tell how they felt for them. They have all been shaken deeply. But at the same time they have the memories of their adventures and battles fought together to last for a life time.
Even for the ones that died, what better death would be than to be able to tell your friends who survived “go, plant your trees and watch them grow”?

All of these, and probably more, all reason for me to keep being a fan of Jackson’s movies. And when this last part of the trilogy ended, I told my partner now I have to go back and see Lord of the Rings again, as well as, finally, read the books.

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