Fridays and Sundays are quickly becoming the “Take the Night Off Writing” days, because that’s what happened yesterday: damn near no writing at all. Oh, sure, I tried, I really did, but I made it like two hundred words past where I was the last time, and just skated on by with the work. Some of this is due to watching movies on those nights, because I need to get my mind on other things once in a while, and I need that.
Though normally I’m thinking about sex for my characters, so don’t judge me.
Yesterday, since I’m all by myself and there’s nothing to do, I went to the movies to see Mad Max: Fury Road. This was the first movies I’ve seen in the theaters since seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, which gives you an idea of how often I get out to movies–it’s like one time a year if you’re keeping track. Now, full disclosure: I am a big Mad Max fan. I had the first two movies on bootleg video tapes, which meant the first one was without the dubbed voices (when Mad Max was first shown here in the US all the dialog, even Mel Gibson’s, was dubbed to get rid of the Australian accents). I’ve even seen the one and only “Lost Version” of Mad Max 2, aka The Road Warrior, presented on NBC, which included a lot of added scenes as well as the infamously changed opening and closing narration, redone by someone with a bad US Southern accent.
I’ve also looked up a few spots where filming has occurred, in the instance that I ever get Down Under I can head for Broken Hill and check out some locations.
So I went to the movie expecting to be entertained. I also expected to be blown away, ’cause I’m a sucker for fast cars and explosions.
I didn’t expect to almost start crying when the movie ended.
I’ve said, time and again, that your characters are the most important part of the story: if they are no more than cardboard cutouts, then it’ll show throughout your story. Now, I had read over the last few weeks how surprised people were at the strong characterization of people in the movies, particularly Charlize Theron’s character, Imperator Furiosa. (And that’s FuriOsa, not FurioSAR. Hermione wants you to get it right.) The people making these statements were correct, but there seemed to be so much more to them . . . there was depth. There was a lot lying below the surface of most of the characters, and during the course of two hours it all bubbled out.
Tom Hardy’s Max went through a number of changes during the movie, even though he’s given so little to say. He doesn’t need words; it’s done with looks, with body language, and late, with the tone of his voice. (And before people start pointing out that Tom’s dialog was cut down to give the focus of the movie over to the women, in Mad Max 2 Mel Gibson has sixteen lines, and two of them are, “I only came for the gasoline.” Yeah, people living in the Outback after the end of the world usually don’t have much to say.) The one thing you do get about Tom’s Max is that he is truly mad, and he’s yet to come to grips with his madness. Like many of us with mental illness we learn to cope, and this Max copes by just staying the hell out in the middle of nowhere and staying away from people, ’cause he might do someone harm otherwise.
At the end of the movie I was almost crying because I’d been sucked into the spectacle. I found characters that I liked and wanted to know more about, and found their struggle to reach the end worthy and believable. But then I’ve found this with a lot of action movies made outside the US: you get sucked into the story, either because the characters are compelling (Hard Boiled and La Femme Nikita instantly come to mind) or you get drawn into action that is both real and over the top (The Raid and The Raid: Redemption cover this one nicely). Action movies here, on the other hand, seem to be designed to sell toys, and if you want anything serious, well, you’ve not come to the right place.
Which is why every time I see the latest Baytacular, where gigantic toy robots that you’re going to buy off Amazon later get into a battle that ends up killing millions of people for whom you give zero shits, Act 5, Scene 5, of Macbeth comes to mind:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
If there is one thing I never want to do, it’s create a story that signifies nothing. And our characters are everything.
Without them, we have nothing upon which to care.