While the Oscars predilection for genre films, let alone science fiction, has been non-existent, last night George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road performed exceptionally well. One of two sci-fi film nominees for Best Picture, Fury Road (alongside The Martian) joins only a handful of films of this genre to have been recognized by the Academy. The film didn’t win the arguably deserved Best Picture despite a worldwide box office of over $370 million, but it did take home awards for Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Production Design, Makeup, and Costume Design – more awards than any other film nominated this year.
But why was its nomination for Best Picture so important? Take a look at the cast and the so-called controversy surrounding the film. As soon as the film was described as a feminist, the backlash began. Max doesn’t speak much during the film, but that makes his presence and actions even more pronounced, and Tom Hardy‘s performance was outstanding. The women featured prominently in the film include an amputee as well as actresses from different nationalities/racial backgrounds and various ages. Charlize Theron commands respect brings the importance of the overall plot to the audience through her character, Imperator Furiosa. The women at the center of the film (portrayed by Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton) are sex slaves escaping the Citadel and the nightmare of Immortan Joe (Mad Max alum Hugh Keays-Byrne). The War Boys that work alongside Furiosa trust her in a way that regards her position with a tremendous trust prior to her betrayal that isn’t overtly obvious to the audience – and that’s the point.
In the end, the arguments of why the film isn’t feminist are unsurprisingly reasons why the film is feminist. The chastity belts the women have locked around them are toothed, threatening to put any potential rapist in peril – but these were placed by a man who wanted to save the raping privileges for himself. The women are owned, kept captive, raped, and called “breeders”, and this denotation is purposeful in the storytelling as the mantra of the movie is We Are Not Things. The weak arguments of a feminist story being shoved down the throats of the Mad Max franchise’s fans doesn’t hold up, and the efforts Miller made in creating a story that was compelling and included female narratives was deserving of the Best Picture nomination – not because there were women, but because it was a great film. The movies, while centered around Max, have always been about the people he interacts with more so than him specifically, and the continuity of specific moments over the course of the films such as Max trying to retrieve his belongings (jacket, boot, his iconic V8 Interceptor) and the fallible shotgun shells and weapons jams were perfection. The War Boys and their worshiping the V8 was a great addition, and Nicholas Hoult‘s Nux was an interesting and wonderful character for the Mad Max universe. The story, visuals, editing, choreography, special and physical effects, and the sound were all outstanding, and the Academy served the film well with the nominations and awards it received. If only it could have received the award it deserved – Best Picture.