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or: Nowhere and Back Again

Max Rockatansky is back after thirty years, leaving behind both the Thunderdome and Mel Gibson’s face to take up residence along Fury Road. But while all the promotional materials still have him officially billed as Mad, this post-millennial Max is less cop-turned-vigilante and more lizard-eating drifter. Gone is his no-mercy, black leather battle-gear, replaced with earthy layers of comfortable canvas and cotton. (And possibly some cashmere underneath; hard to tell.) Gone is his sawed-off, double-barrel, low-slung intimidator and in its place is a Glock 17. (Not exactly the kind of firepower you’d want to fight off a marauding albino death-cult pursuing you from Australia to Namibia and back in supercharged monster trucks.) Gone is steely-eyed, rock-jawed retribution and instead there is a lot of general running for the border. In fact, aside from frequent phantasmagorical familial flashbacks, there’s little mad at all about this current incarnation which, in comparison, kinda makes him Mild Max.

Make no mistake: George Miller’s traveling BDSM roadshow returns in a huge way with never-before-seen man-on-man-on-machine mayhem and bone-shattering vehicular carnage. But through most of the uncivilized exercise, it’s the pointed character of Furiosa who exhibits all the madness in their drive for survival. Max, meanwhile, does a lot of getting captured (twice, actually, in the first five minutes), squinting, running, distrusting and taciturning. He shows brief flashes of martial prowess now and again, but too often is found on the periphery of the action rather than being its primary instigator. For most of the film, he is: suspended in a basket; traveling across Africa as a hood ornament; sleeping; pointlessly refusing to divulge his name; hugging it out with a large tree; staring at the horizon; sitting down; hiding; and fainting from a crossbow bolt to the hand. And then occasionally he’ll wander offscreen to kill some people. This is a violent, high-octane (yet curiously bloodless) action extravaganza built around a titular hero who seems content to take a back seat to Furiosa, and a disillusioned defector, and five fashion models wrapped in tactical taffeta — one of whom happens to be pregnant. All of these non-Max people have to, at some point, take up the slack in the action department for the slowed warrior.

Furiosa, incidentally, is played with appropriate pathos, anger and literal grease paint by a one-armed Charlize Theron. (Unclear if her sacrifice was worth it, but Hollywood is doing wonderful things these days with plastic surgery. A little Botox, maybe a little Miracle-Gro, she should be ready next year to hoist that Oscar for Best Mad Max in a Mad Max Movie.) But in the film, her character’s metal arm is the most inscrutable post-apocalyptic appendage since Baal in Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn. Her prosthesis is so strong it can easily hang a hunky, hapless hero upside-down off a speeding War Rig for what seems like miles; so dexterous it can rapidly secure a conveniently available pipe wrench to the War Rig’s steering column; so substantial it can punch opponents into unconsciousness; so precisely calibrated it can stabilize binoculars at eye-level without crushing them or Furiosa’s orbital sockets; and so stable it can serve as a mobile bench rest, enabling her to blind a pursuer with shattered-spotlight shrapnel at 1,000 yards. Yet, despite this miraculous mechanical ability, the arm can also drop lifelessly into the sand when dramatically necessary for it’s also exceptionally easy to detach, thanks to its breakaway shoulder strap. Fortunately, none of the bad guys are bright enough to remember it has that feature.

All of this enraged estrogen in the form of women struggling to not be “things” by battling unchecked testosterone across hundreds of miles of cruel desert has led many to label Mad Max: Fury Road as feminist. At first glance this is understandable, given the male hero’s relatively casual attempts (whenever he’s not being incapacitated or uncooperative) to aid their desperate cause; but, in reality, the idea is absurd. The sisters aren’t doin’ it for themselves; they’re running for their lives from literal monsters. Their grotesque captor, “Joe”, the whey-faced psycho mutant with gratuitously transparent armor, is a cross between Bane’s crazy uncle and a cephalopod. His presumed cousins who join the pursuit are: the ostensible mayor of Gas Town, a Mos Eisley escapee complete with metal nose and elephantiasis (oh, and chained nipple rings—because, why not?); and The Bullet Farmer, a Pattonesque senior citizen sporting dentures made with actual removable bullets (because, again, why not?). This triumvirate leads a band of wild-eyed, screeching maniac warriors spurred on by a rolling, four-place timpani section that is fronted by a fettered, sightless, lead guitarist shredding the latest in custom, double-necked, flame-throwing axes. Running from these circus demons is not a feminist cause; it’s a demonstration of basic sanity.

In their quest to preserve humanity—or womanity for those who insist—Furiosa, her fugitives, and the semi-reluctant Max speed toward a mysterious oasis destination only to finally get to where it isn’t—as explained by a shrieking naked woman perched atop a derrick—and then speed back to the very place from which they escaped. Why? Because they’re stickin’ it to The Man, that’s why. All the while, they are chased and attacked by scores of nasty, screaming death machines (the kind drawn by twelve-year-olds in the margins of their books during 6th period math), until Furiosa—not Max, naturally—manages to kill Joe by ripping off his face. You go, grrl!

In the final shot, as Furiosa takes her place of prominence among newly-freed slaves, Max, an impassive look returning to his face, wanders off through a crowd of filthy unfortunates. His one instinct: survive, sure, but let’s not get all crazy about it.

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or: Where the Streets Have No Shame

Attention, all runners. Specifically, all runners who look as though you’ve died mid-run yet continue to stumble forward because, being dead, you forgot how physics works. Are you listening? Of course not. Because you can’t run and listen at the same time. And you are running right now. This is known. Because you’re always running. On the street. Against traffic. Like you’re being hunted. And as an added bonus, the look of twisted anguish on your ashen faces haunts every innocent motorist who has the misfortune to roll past your lumbering, Nike-clad horror show.

That is why, if you were listening, this would be the message: Find the nearest stop sign and memorize it. Your masochistic insistence on pretending that you actually possess the coordination and stamina to run in public is a crime against humanity that should be punishable by up to five years in the grill of a ’72 Buick.

Have you ever seen yourselves? You have the tormented look of someone who has been forced to circumnavigate the globe on foot—twice—while being fed nothing but microwaved swamp water. If zombies were real, they would speed-shamble away from you, throwing moon-eyed looks of concern over their tattered shoulders. Melting Raiders of the Lost Ark Nazis are terrified by your faces. The Elephant Man thinks you’re animals. Eraserhead shrieks at your grotesque appearance. The gallons of sweat oozing from every pore; the eyes rolled back into your heads, searching in vain for a functioning brain that could stop the madness; the slack-jawed, quiver-lipped, please-kill-me facial expressions; the desperate, heaving pulmonary detonations; the useless hands dangling like wind chimes at the end of seized forearms; knees blowing out, ankles akimbo—all this in broad daylight on some of the busiest streets in the nation. For the love of all that is ambulatory, pick a different, less misanthropic hobby—serial killer, perhaps. You’re just not good at this one. Because you already look like this by the time you’ve reached the end of your own driveway. And then you continue to push on, raining terror on an unsuspecting, street-using populace.

This is an unconscionable attack on the fabric of society and the sanctity of human sight. You were not meant to run. This should be obvious simply by contrasting your meandering displays of personal bipedal agony with the activities of real runners.

People who can run do so with the ease of a hypnotized gazelle. Have you seen these people? They’re on their tenth mile and they look like an ad for department store mannequins on Xanax. No visible respiration, half-naked, faces aglow with the look of casual indifference, and gliding along more effortlessly than the two fingers you’d hold up to your seven-year-old face and squint at through one eye as they “ran” along the landscape passing outside the window of the family car on the long trip to Grandma’s while your brother sat beside you, picking his nose.

You are not these people. You will never be these people. Admission is the first step to recovery. Get real, get right and get off the street. Literally.

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or: The Deceit of Cyanoacrylate

Superglue is never the hero it purports to be. Sure, you can glue your nose to your kneecap, turn your hands into flippers, seal your urethra so tightly you eventually expand and explode like a slow-motion re-enactment of Yaphet Kotto at the end of Live and Let Die. But none of these practical biological applications fall within the product’s advertised usage parameters.

Why does anyone buy superglue? You buy it because you want to glue your hardhat to an I-beam and hang from it, thereby demonstrating the inhuman strength of your average insane person. But before you can do that—once you’ve purchased the superglue and it’s rattled around in your junk drawer for a year—you are struck by the idea that if superglue can dangle a deranged, beefy riveter over a deadly construction site with no ill effects then certainly it can repair the broken handle on your $1.99 spaghetti scooper.

So you grab the tube and try to squeeze a drop on the handle. Out instead flows a gallon, coating half your body. Somehow you are still able to connect the broken pieces and you leave the repaired scooper to set while you retire to the master suite to bathe in fingernail polish remover.

The next day, confident in your newfound ability to actually serve it up, you cook spaghetti. And here’s where the superglue really fails to live up to its designation. No doubt it truly can suspend a construction worker since that feat would never ever be needed in this universe. But once you’ve mixed sauce into the spaghetti and the scooper emerges from the pot cradling a heaping horde of strands, the superglue suddenly realizes the scooper pieces are most definitely not the hardhat and I-beam it believed them to be and immediately releases its magical bond, sending half a pound of spaghetti plummeting onto the cat. The cat thoroughly enjoys this and indicates her glee by racing throughout the entire house, depositing one strand per square foot onto every exposed surface of your previously spaghetti-free dwelling.

As you come completely unglued, you realize, with escalating fury, that superglue has finally accomplished its true mission.