Posts Tagged ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

It should come as no surprise that I, like many other devoted nerds, spent the weekend binge-watching Marvel’s latest Netflix series, Jessica Jones. Thirteen hours of my life gone, but they were still thirteen hours well spent on what I feel is Marvel’s most fully realized character to date. And yet I’ve come away from Jessica Jones with a sense of unease. Maybe it’s the aftereffects of nearly two days spent diving back into the world of Hell’s Kitchen, but unlikeJessica-Jones-1-1200x674 the mostly triumphant victory of Matt Murdock by the end of Daredevil, Jessica Jones maintains a bittersweet tone from the opening theme right up to the closing shot of the series.

If you need a brief plot synopsis: Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is hired by the Schlottmans to find their daughter Hope (Erin Moriarty) after a dramatic change in behavior and disappearance. While investigating Hope’s case, Jessica learns that Kilgrave (David Tennant), the man responsible for her abduction, trauma, and PTSD, is still alive and using Hope as a pawn in a horrific plot to reunite with the one plaything that got away. Though her first instinct is to flee, Jessica is convinced by her foster-sister, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), to save Hope and fight back.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil this one for you. This article isn’t really a review so much as it’s me needing an outlet to process how I feel about the series. I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on how “dark” the series is, which isn’t untrue, though the dry wit and sarcasm shouldn’t be overlooked. But what struck me after the first few episodes, what continues to linger in my thoughts days after viewing the show, is how real it felt. This series doesn’t have the flashiness of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, nor does it have the action-heavy prowess of Daredevil. What Jessica Jones has is authenticity. It’s raw and it doesn’t shy away from showing you the ugly side of the little corner of the Marvel Universe Jessica inhabits. By the end, you feel like you’ve been raked over the coals of Jessica’s complicated, messed-up life, but in seeing her for who she is, warts and all, and what she’s overcome, you have a better appreciation of what showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and the Jessica Jones cast and crew have accomplished. The series is unapologetic in its depiction of a flawed female character who just happens to have superpowers, but it uses the genre and the series format to talk Schermata-2015-10-23-alle-21.00.36about the far more relevant topics of rape, abuse, and recovery.

Part and parcel to this character portrait is the story from which it was adapted. Based on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’s comic book series Alias, Jessica Jones is a former superhero turned private investigator after her enslavement under the thrall of Kilgrave (aka The Purple Man) – a powerful mind controller – leaves her traumatized and suffering from PTSD. In putting her life back together, she finds herself uniquely qualified to handle cases involving Marvel’s mightiest heroes though she still seeks her peace at the bottom of a bottle. The Netflix series, however, takes the Purple Man story and removes the greater Marvel Universe in order to frame Jessica within the reality of a post-Avengers world. Gone are her first forays into the superhero game as Jewel, though the series does a clever nod to her comic book past, and what we’re left with is a woman struggling to pay the bills and keep the demons at bay only to find that the Devil has come back into her life.

I can’t say enough how impressed I am at the show’s very deft handling of rape and abuse as part of the narrative. Jessica’s arc throughout the series is that of a woman in recovery. She’s been violated in both mind and body because of Kilgrave and the series treats his mind control abilities as just that, a violation. In trying to track down Kilgrave, Jessica inadvertently creates a support group for other people he’s controlled, including her neighbor Malcolm (Eka Darville). The way the group share their experiences, the language they use, reads exactly like a support group for people who have experienced sexual assault or abuse. Jessica and Kilgrave both act as metaphorical representations of silent victims and rape culture, respectively. Because of her abilities Jessica continues to blame purple manherself for not being stronger, for not fighting back. What’s the point of having these abilities, being able to punch a guy through a brick wall or leap from the sidewalk to the rooftops in seconds, if you can’t stop someone as psychotic as Kilgrave from harming you? It’s why Kilgrave’s power, and the consistent disbelief in that power, is essential to the story.

In the Marvel Cinematic and television universes thus far most, if not all, of the “gifts” displayed by heroes and villains have been clearly visual. Everything they do has some element of spectacle to it, but Kilgrave’s power isn’t easily observable. It’s a suggestion or an order that you’re compelled to carry out and it doesn’t matter to him how you feel afterwards. He’s an infection and his presence lingers long after he’s done with you. The fear that Jessica shows at the idea of Kilgrave still being alive is the same fear people experience after being attacked and the assailant isn’t caught or gets released. Every street corner becomes a potential point of attack, every person a possible threat. Your trust in the world, in people, has completely crumbled because, even if you survive, the person that did this to you is still out there and they still have power over you. Unfortunately, prosecuting something that has to be experienced to believe is rather difficult and that’s only if you can get someone to believe that it actually happened. It isn’t until Jessica fights back (literally, in the show’s case) that she understands Kilgrave has no power over her. That’s not to say that everything ends up being sunshine and lollipops, because it doesn’t, but there is a valiant effort being made on the part of the Jessica Jones team to treat this type of story with the respect it deserves. Also a huge round of applause goes to Rosenberg and company for taking the Mad Max: Fury Road route and not showing Jessica being raped by Kilgrave. It would have been exploitative and unnecessary had they gone through with it. The writing in the series, however, is so strong and the character of Kilgrave set up so well that all we need is to hear Jessica give voice to her pain for us to believe her.

luke cageIf you feel as though I’m focusing too much on one aspect of the series, then guess what, you’re in my head. What a lovely place, right? But, yes, there’s so much more to Jessica Jones worth exploring. Like I said, Jessica is the most fleshed out, multi-dimensional character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the get-go we understand that Jessica is a hard-drinking, shit-talking, hot-headed asshole of a person (she fully admits to it!) and the series never shies away from showing those aspects of her personality. She’s also tempered by her fierce loyalty and the love she has not just for her friends and family, but for people in general. And in keeping with the show’s unapologetic nature, she’s a sexually active woman who likes having sex and isn’t looked down on by other characters for it. Probably because the supporting cast features characters of varying personalities who have their own hangups to deal with instead of getting all up in Jessica’s business. Well, some of them at least. Looking at you, Robyn!

This is also a gender balanced cast, which gives the creative team ample room to explore their characters, specifically the women in the cast. With four female leads and several more supporting members, Jessica Jones manages to shine a much needed spotlight on women as complex people capable of doing right, wrong, and everything else in between. Carrie-Anne Moss, in my opinion, gives the second greatest performance in the show as Jeri Hogarth, a lawyer with a moral compass practically smashed to hell. There are very few redeeming qualities about Jeri, but Moss finds a way to make this manipulative, stuck-up, shark of a human being somewhat sympathetic. It’s an understated performance, to say the least, but my God does Moss get a lot of mileage out of an icy stare. The confidence the show has in its audience to invest in some awful characters is tremendous. None of these people are pure of heart and mind – but, then again, who is really?

Another piece of the show’s excellent writing and storytelling is in the ethical dilemmas it places Jessica in as she decides how to confront and bring Kilgrave to justice. The eighth episode, “AKA WWJD”, addresses the issue head on, taking its time to really put Jessica in a moral quandary about Kilgrave and his abilities. If someone can control minds, is there a way to harness that power for good? What if considering morality and justice didn’t occur to this person? Would you sacrifice your personal happiness and devote the rest of your days to keeping a sociopath on the straight and narrow? Even if that sociopath is the source of your greatest pain? Are you obligated to at least try? It’s a brilliant way of exploring what it means to be a hero and the entire series is peppered with these decisions that actually have consequences for Jessica and the people around her. It also helps to set the show apart not just from the other Marvel movies but also from its predecessor, Daredevil.

For obvious reasons, Jessica Jones isn’t Matt Murdock, but what’s really fascinating is where the two differ on a philosophical level. Despite his vigilante leanings, Matt still believes in the necessity of justice even if one needs to go outside the law to achieve one’s goal. His personal struggle throughout Daredevil surrounds whether or not he can fight the monsters of Hell’s Kitchen and still remain the good guy. The show rewards Matt for his efforts, finding an optimistic outlook in the emergence of Daredevil. Jessica, however, doesn’t share Matt’s idealism. Her world is, more than anything, about survival. There are no grand visions of saving the world, or Hell’s Kitchen, as far as she’s concerned. Instead, her primary focus is on getting paid so she can pay her bills and use the leftover cash on a cheap bottle of whiskey. Her job makes her a voyeur into the sordid lives of others, which doesn’t leave you with the rosiest outlook on humanity even on the best days.

daredevil-season-2-news-jessica-jones-crossovers-the-defenders-release-more-netflix-545795And yet, for all of Jessica’s cynicism, she still aspires to be heroic. When we first meet Jessica, she’s a broken person struggling to get through the day without suffering another panic attack or flashback. She certainly doesn’t see herself as a hero. But when she chooses not to run and commits to saving Hope from Kilgrave that’s when we get our first real look at the Jessica who almost donned a spandex jumpsuit and called herself Jewel in order to help others. Unfortunately, she never got the chance to prove herself before Kilgrave showed up, but in taking back control of her life, Jessica finally starts to believe in her own ability to be the hero. It’s another element of her character that separates her from other heroes in the MCU. Most of the Avengers emerged fully formed in who they wanted to be and how they would apply their abilities with little hesitation. Jessica questions herself constantly, but the voice of opposition comes from people like Trish and Malcolm, people who see her for the hero that she is and do their best to foster that confidence in Jessica as well.

Jessica Jones is definitely worth your time. Don’t worry about binge-watching it either because I’m certain the conversation surrounding the show is in no danger of dying off any time soon. While I didn’t really touch on the humor of the series, trust me when I say that there are some choice comedic moments that keep the show from completely going down the grimdark path. I especially love Jessica and Trish commenting on Kilgrave’s choice of name for himself. “I mean, Kilgrave? Was Murder Corpse too subtle?” And even though David Tennant is playing a character who is just the worst, he still manages to bring his quippy charm to Kilgrave, which does its job of making you question your own moral compass.

So, go! Go watch Jessica Jones and get excited for the Luke Cage series! And Daredevil season two! And Iron Fist! And the Defenders! Just be excited!

 

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Before we begin: Okay, I know I’ve been a bit light on articles lately. All I can say is I’m working on a few things right now that will keep me preoccupied through the month of June. There are still podcasts lined up, but op-eds and most in-depth articles, at least from me, are off the table until July. So, to fill the great hole that has no doubt formed in your hearts, I figured some quick Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Imperator-Furiosa-Fulland easy lists were doable.

Cool? Cool.

Anyway, with the recent release of Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron’s amazing Imperator Furiosa has sparked a fantastic following of artists, cosplayers, and just fans in general who see a kindred spirit in the rebellious driver of the war rig with her shorn head, dieselpunk prosthetic arm, and desire for redemption. Aside from the brilliant action and over-the-top insanity of the movie, many a blogger and critic see the importance of having a character like Furiosa stand out and attract so much positive attention. Hollywood is still struggling with all kinds of representation issues and yet here we have a movie where, arguably, the main character isn’t the guy in the title but the physically disabled female lead. And she kicks all kinds of ass! Seriously, even without her prosthetic, Furiosa still manages to best Max with her stump arm and at no point in the movie is she questioned as a leader, driver, fighter, or as a woman. She just is, no justification necessary. Again, this is extremely important as far as representation in media goes. So, in honor of the newest addition to the pantheon of badass women in sci-fi, I thought I’d put together a little list of other badass characters who just happen to be missing an arm or a leg. Or Both.

 

Hiccup – How to Train Your Dragon 1&2

 

Gobber should also count, but I’m trying not to cheat on this one. How to Train Your Dragon is one of those films that was How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-how-to-train-your-dragon-19498379-900-506utterly charming, emotional, and did something I can’t recall any other children’s film in Western animation doing: it maimed its main character. For all of the Disney films I’ve seen where the hero and heroine get their happy ending, HTTYD made sure that Hiccup was changed on all levels philosophical and physical. The scene where Hiccup wakes and discovers he’s lost his leg is so well done I get emotional just typing this. Everything from the silence to the expressions to Toothless providing strength and support is so well done. Best of all, the culture of Berk is one that doesn’t look down on those who’ve lost their limbs. Though Hiccup’s new leg is meant to parallel Toothless’ lost tail fin, he’s never thought of as handicapped by the injury. This extends into the sequel where 20-year-old Hiccup thrives as a young adult but his prosthetic is never used as a means of limiting him as a rider or a leader.

 

Misty Knight – Marvel Comics

 

One of those characters you wish Pam Grier could play now in a live action tv show or movie! NYPD officer Mercedes “Misty” Knight lost her right arm during an explosion but didn’t let a little thing like having one arm stop her from helping people. WitMisty_Knight_Heroes_For_Hire_-7-560x281h the help of Tony Stark and a bionic arm, she became part of the roster of Marvel heroes. Misty was created during the 70s when blaxploitation films and the kung-fu craze were at their peak so it’s fitting that she’d end up associating primarily with the Hell’s Kitchen cadre of Heroes for Hire that also produced Luke Cage and Misty’s on-again-off-again love interest, Iron Fist. The bionic arm may have endowed her with some super strength, but Misty is a capable fighter all on her own, which makes her the ideal hero to have on speed dial if you’re in a pinch.

 

Cherry – Grindhouse: Planet Terror

 

Laugh all you want but at least when you go into a movie directed by Robert Rodriguez in the style of a Grindhouse movie you know you’re going to be entertained. Planet Terror is a ridiculously entertaining film and at the center of it is Rose McGowan’s395dfd151dd2d232b82acd8717028cd1 Cherry, a former go-go dancer who finds herself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Grindhouse movies are all about sex appeal, horror, and gore and Planet Terror definitely delivers on all fronts. But for all of the exploitation going on the heart of the story is Cherry’s rise as a badass leader. Amidst the chaos of civilization literally crumbling before her eyes she loses her leg but gains a ton of confidence. And a machine gun for a leg. Surprising how something like that can be a real self-esteem booster. Again, you can laugh at the ridiculousness, but when you saw Cherry shooting all those zombies with her machine gun leg you were ON. BOARD.

 

Ash Williams – Evil Dead 2 & Army of Darkness

 

Few actors can carry a film on charm and wit alone, but Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams showed us exactly what the future Titan of B-movies was capable of. An expressive and physically gifted comedic actor, Campbell had to sell audiences on a lot of the insanity of Evil Dead and Evil Dead II with the limited budget he, director Sam Raimi, and producer Rob Tapert were working ash-williamswith. The result? When Ash’s hand gets possessed in Evil Dead II, we believe that the hand is in control and kicking Ash’s ass! So when Ash has to CUT OFF HIS OWN HAND we’re not only rooting for him, but we’re also cringing as blood splashes in his pain-filled face. The silver lining, though, is the extremely awesome montage of Ash gearing up to fight the remaining demons and our boy leveling up. Before Cherry got her machine gun leg, Ash had his chainsaw arm! This extends into Army of Darkness where Ash is still pretty capable using his stump but once he realizes his chainsaw isn’t going to do him much good in Medieval Times he fashions himself a new, more metallic hand for everyday heroics.

 

Edward “Ed” Elric – Full Metal Alchemist

 

The only double amputee on the list, Ed lost his arm and leg (and his brother’s body) when the two youngsters attempted to resurrect their mother with alchemy. The Law of Equivalent Exchange, however, demanded much of the brothers but the Elric’s don’t go down easy. After a year’s recovery in which Ed received automail prosthesis for his limbs and Alphonse got his soul attached to an armored body, the two managed to become state alchemists with Ed receiving the call sign of the “Full Metal” tumblr_m73sj4nkLm1qazawzo2_1280alchemist. Throughout both versions of the anime, the writers always found time to focus on the price Ed and Alphonse paid for their hubris. Primarily, Ed’s automail drives a great deal of discussion about the amount of pain he suffers from physically and mentally but it’s very rare that any of the other state alchemists or his enemies believe the automail is a hindrance. Sure, it gets broken quite a bit, but Ed treats the damage like an annoyance and when his automail mechanic Winry steps in to repair the physical damage, she doesn’t treat him with kid gloves. They act like regular teenagers around each other, for the most part. If anything, he gets more digs for being short, which you really do not want to bring up around him. Trust me.

Before we start, I’m telling you now that there will be spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road. You’ve been warned. Proceed.

Like a massive amount of people this weekend, I saw Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s return to the Mad Max franchise thirty years after the last installment, Beyond Thunderdome (1985). How was it? So good, guys. So very good. You should all go see it so we can all incessantly talk about how perfect of an action movie it is and how George vhs-mad-max-fury-road1Miller should be given back the reigns to the scrapped Justice League movie from 2007. Tom Hardy does an admirable job taking over the role of Max from Mel Gibson, but what everyone’s been really talking about isn’t the titular character but the real hero of the movie, Furiosa, played fantastically by Charlize Theron. Though Max finds himself in the middle of a long drive down an endless, unforgiving road the movie is really about Furiosa and her search for redemption as she tries to smuggle the brides of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) back to the idyllic home from which she was stolen as a child. It would be very easy to launch into a review of the movie, but I think the phrase “GO SEE IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT’S SO GOOD!!” is sufficient enough. Instead, I wanted to talk about Furiosa and her namesakes, the Furies – primordial deities of Ancient Greece who punished people for insolence, oath-breaking, unjustified murder, and anything else that might be construed as destruction of the natural order.

Descriptions of the Furies, or the Erinyes, often relegate them to a triptych of goddesses with interchangeable features like snakes for hair (not to be confused with the Gorgons), dog’s heads, bat’s wings, bloodshot eyes, and coal black bodies. It’s really more up to the author in question. Even the tri-goddess motif is subject to authorial whim since the Ancient Greeks didn’t exactly have a set number of cthonic revenge deities. We mostly have Virgil and Dante to thank for the three named Furies, Alecto (“unceasing”), Megaera (“grudging”), and Tisiphone (“vengeful destruction”). The triptych also works on a thematic level with other triple goddess groups such as the Fates, the erinyesCharities or Graces, and the Muses; there were originally only three Muses, but more were added. Still, nine muses fits with the “Power of Three” theme that’s carried over into modern day Pagan and Wicca practices and their pop culture equivalents like The Craft (1996) and Charmed (1998-2006). Fun fact: Charmed had an episode where the sisters were turned into the Furies (“Hell Hath No Fury”). But then again, they were turned into just about everything, so make of that what you will.

The Furies have actually made a fair number of appearances, and honorable mentions, in television, movies, and literature. As a trio, Xena: Warrior Princess used them in a handful of episodes, mainly as combatant figures sent by other gods to mete out punishment; they were also the main antagonists in the video game God of War: Ascension. As far as inspiration goes the Female Furies of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World were the ruthless bodyguards of the god-like despot Darkseid – and formerly led by one of my favorite heroines, Big Barda; and Barbara Stanwyck starred in the gripping Western, The Furies (1950), about a woman who cunningly gets hold of her family’s ranch after her father disowns her. The commonality of women in the position of protagonist and antagonist, sometimes Female_Furies_001concurrently, could be interpreted as harkening back to the idea that the Furies themselves were not necessarily malicious deities. Depending on your perspective they were either dispensing justice or executing unfair punishment. Or it’s just a happy accident.

The use of the word “fury” has had a long tradition of use in popular culture as well. Mad Max: Fury Road notwithstanding, we’ve also seen the rise, fall, and rise again of the Fast and the Furious franchise with the latest installment, Furious 7, giving the biggest finger to the laws of physics for the sake of pure entertainment that ever was given. If we go back a little further, William Faulkner’s 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury has been a staple of American literature classes for decades, the novel’s title coming from a soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth wherein “the sound and the fury” is our need for significance in a meaningless existence. Indeed, the use of “furious” and “fury” in a modern day setting has been more closely associated with anger whereas the Furies depicted in the plays of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, and the poetry of Virgil and Dante were more concerned with “fury” as an extension of justice.

In Mad Max: Fury Road we get an amalgamation of these varied depictions. For starters, the second half of the title reveals not just where most of the action takes place, but it also indicates that Max isn’t the singular hero of the film. If anything, Max is just the means to an end for us so we can meet Theron’s Furiosa. It can’t just be coincidence that the leading woman is named Furiosa and she’s driving a war rig across Fury Road. If Miller and co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris had wanted to be subtle (they didn’t), then there were better ways to go about it. FURY ROADFuriosa fits the duel role of protagonist and antagonist, a badass driver looking for redemption by saving a group of women and a foil for Max, in the beginning, who will do anything to survive. More to the point, Furiosa is the one to enact punishment and get revenge on Immortan Joe. As the supposed main character, Max has little to do with Joe’s demise. If he did, it wouldn’t make sense. After the brides, Furiosa has the most dramatic and narratively satisfying resolution in killing him and bringing down his tyrannical regime. If Max were the one to do so, then it wouldn’t ring true.

The culmination of Furiosa’s efforts to get the brides to her childhood home, however, unwittingly results in the creation of another form of the triple goddess motif, the maiden-mother-crone. Reunited with the remaining members of her people, all of whom are women, Furiosa becomes the “Mother” figure, the woman of middle age to the “Maiden” brides and the older “Crones” of her former home. Again, this may not have been the intention, but it sits there and whether you realize it or not you’re watching three generations of women fighting back in order to survive. Yes, Max is there and helps facilitate the plan to take on Joe and his army, but the heavy lifting is done as much, if not more so, by Furiosa, the brides, and the clans-women. Oh, and Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is there too.

There is so much to love about Mad Max: Fury Road. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa kicks all kinds of ass, even with one arm, and Tom Hardy looks like he’ll have no problems picking up the reins of the franchise. George Miller is so on point with a frenetic, fast paced, and gorgeously realized dystopian world gone mad but he also succeeds in giving us a cast of characters capable of meeting and exceeding that madness. It’s beneath the surface, however, that we see Fury Road‘s place in the long tradition of women looking for justice and my God is it glorious. Well done, Mad Max. Well done.

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