I saw Mad Max: Fury Road with my family yesterday and we loved it. The film is a beautiful showcase of non-stop action wrapped around an intelligent script which defies all the sexist tropes of most Hollywood action films. My wife and I talked at length about how refreshing it was to not only see a great action movie that knew how to keep you on the cliched edge of your seat, but also one where none of the women in the film are victims.
To say Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action movie I've seen in years is an understatement. I believe this film will stand as a testament to what big-budget action movies can accomplish. I also believe Charlize Theron's character of Imperator Furiosa is on the fast track to becoming a cultural icon.
But all that said, don't expect the film to immediately change Hollywood action films.
Believe me, I wish it would. I am tired of going to action movies which are merely carbon-copy CGI dreams of what excitement should be. I'm exhausted by the sexist and racist tropes which fill blockbuster after Hollywood blockbuster. I'm tired of Hollywood action movies which use sexual assault and abuse and victimization as a plot device because the director is too unimaginative to find any other motivation for the film's characters.
With Mad Max: Fury Road, director George Miller shows how an action movie should be done.
But the problem is that Hollywood studios will look at only one thing about the new Mad Max film — it's financial return. With a $200 million budget, the film is on track to earn around $45 million this weekend. Even if word-of-mouth and great reviews give the film powerful legs, it's unlikely Mad Max: Fury Road will earn more than a half billion dollars.
Yes, that kind of money is nothing to laugh at. But compare that to the one billion dollars earned by Avengers: Age of Ultron and guess which movie the big Hollywood studios will want to emulate? It won't matter to Hollywood that the second Avengers movie sits firmly in the same tired old sexist tropes we always see in action movies. All that will matter to Hollywood in the short run is how much Marvel and Disney made off of a crappy film.
But all that said, I'm optimistic that in the long run Mad Mad: Fury Road will be incredibly influential. When the dreck which passes for action films these days is forgotten, George Miller's film will still be watched. New directors a decade or two from now will describe this film as their inspiration to become filmmakers. These directors will create the direct heirs to Fury Road, films which have women as the full partners and leads in action movies while Avengers: Age of Ultron is laughed at as that old-time crap people used to watch.
After all, it's been more than than 35 years since Sigourney Weaver first starred as Ripley, and 24 years since Linda Hamilton showed in Terminator 2 that women could also be muscled heroes. Those pioneering roles didn't immediately change how Hollywood action films treat women, but they were still influential (and it's impossible to imagine Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa existing without the characters first created by Weaver and Hamilton).
So yes, I'm optimistic about how Mad Max: Fury Road will eventually change Hollywood. But don't expect the journey down the apocalyptic road Hollywood has built to be quick or immediate.