Mad Max: Fury Road is a high octane action flick that carries with it interesting themes and characterization. Throughout the film, the audience is exposed to different aspects of the desert wasteland, and how it has created a culture of violence, oppression, excessive coercion, slavery, and hatred. These are – amongst other elements – the aspects of a subtly intense dystopian film. Subtle is used purposefully; the intent of the film is clearly to captivate audiences with its imaginative action scenes, over the top violence, and compelling characterization. In the process, the film gives a glimpse of what it would be like if the we destroyed the world and were forced to make do with the scraps.
From the beginning, it’s clear that the world has become a violent place. We are introduced to Max at the beginning of the film, and within five minutes his car is being blown up and he is taken to presumably be enslaved. The carelessness with which the War Boys attack, capture, and torture Max shows the prevalence of violence to the culture of the wasteland. The War Boys pride themselves in their acts of violence, even going as far as committing suicide for the glory of Immortan Joe, their warlord. This echoes Umberto Eco’s understanding of fascism; that is, a culture of heroism, machismo, and violence are used to indoctrinate and control. They are used to distort reality and create an “us vs. them” mentality, further placing subjects under the mental control of a totalitarian authority. Immortan Joe’s use of these concepts wreaks havoc on the wasteland, and causes damage to these young men as the War Boys, but also the innocents not perpetrating such violence.
Another aspect of dystopias shown in this film is the effects of such violence on the people, particularly women. The major plot is driven by Max and Furiosa as they try to get Immortan Joe’s enslaved “wives” to freedom. Immortan Joe is hellbent on retrieving his “wives” (more appropriately, slaves) so that he can have a child free of any ailments. Immortan Joe’s use of his power to control the bodies of these women is indicative of many different aspects of a dystopia. For if one cannot control their own body, then how can they be said to be free? Immortan Joe is the government, and his control over these women’s bodies is eerily similar to the control the Party exudes over the bodies of the people in 1984. George Orwell wrote 1984 with a goal of demonstrating how control over the body and mind is how governments create dystopias. This message is also reflected in how Immortan Joe controls the War Boys through heroism and permission of violence and the women through domination and coercion. These are hallmarks of a dystopia steeped in the ideals of powerlessness, violence, and exploitation.