Max is mad, and hoo-boy do we mean that in every sense of the word. He's angry—at everyone, it seems, but especially at anyone who trucks with his car. And he's stone cold crazy. It's the nasty and inevitable side effect of being a Lone Ranger in an empty world.
When we meet Max, we can barely even see his face. As director Miller put it in an interview for the DVD extras, "he's no different than a wild animal." Hardy adds in his own interview that Max is "monosyllabic, can't talk, doesn't know his own voice."
Plus, he's covered in dirt and, yes, hair. It's clear this dude hasn't seen the business end of a razor—or a shower head, for that matter—in quite some time. But he also probably couldn't give less of a hoot. After all, as he puts it:
"I am the one who runs from both the living and the dead."
Who are the living? Well that part's easy. If Max wants to survive, he's got to outrun any number of rampaging gangs ready to make swift work of him and his car. That's just life in post-apocalyptic Australia. But what about the dead? Why must Max run from the dead?
This, folks, is a harder question to answer. Here's what we do know: throughout the movie, Max is haunted by voices and visions. He sees a young girl, an old man, and a bunch of other people who all accuse him of abandoning them somehow. While we don't get many details beyond that, we can guess that at some point in his wanderings, Max came upon some people who needed his help.
And he failed them.
Those now dead people haunt him day and night, which sounds like nothing but a bummer. But these visions are also Max's prime motivator. At first, he runs from them. But as he gets to know Furiosa and her "righteous cause," he begins to see a way to make up for his past mistakes.
At Fury Road's beginning, Max is what the war boys call "a raging feral."
From that, we can gather than in this reality, it's not all that rare for a loner like Max to spend his days slowly becoming more and more nuts. There's gotta be more than one crazed loner around. We mean, think about it: the world as we know it has gone to hell in a handbasket, and it's not like Max has a lot of people to talk to.
He demonstrates his particular brand of crazy in a number of ways:
(1) He fights dirty. Check out how he fights his way through a billion war boys in the movie's first sequence. The dude really is reduced to only one instinct. We don't see him cleverly making a plan, or trying to charm his way out of the situation. He just rages.
(2) He doesn't talk. Mostly he grunts. When he does talk, it's to yell at people for stealing his car. And his blood. And for almost lancing him in the head with a thunderstick.
(3) He doesn't show remorse. He's totally ready to leave Furiosa and the women stranded in the desert. Clearly this is someone who's been living far beyond social mores and ethics.
Okay. So if Max has gone all the way 'round the bend at the movie's beginning, the question on everyone's mind should be, does he gain back his sanity by film's end?
What's not debatable, though, is that he does stumble upon some reasons to get his act together: Furiosa and the women. Once he throws his lot in with them, things start to change for our hero—and that's the arc we're interested in.
So when do things start to change exactly?
When the women first meet him, they're not exactly fans. Dag calls him "a crazy lunatic who likes to eat schlanger." We'll let you brush up on your Aussie slang on your own. Just know that's not exactly Dag's version of a compliment.
To be fair, Max doesn't make a polite entrance. He comes on the scene ready to steal their truck and shows himself capable of hurting them if necessary. Furiosa clearly doesn't trust him, but resigns herself to letting him ride along because she doesn't have a choice.
She learns to work with what she's given, though. A few scenes later, Furiosa asks Max to tell her his name, so that she'll know what to yell when she needs him to drive the rig. "Does it matter?" Max asks. Right there, we get a good sense of just how hard it will be for Max to reclaim his own humanity. For so long, his name hasn't mattered at all.
So why should it now?
Still, this moment does mark a transition for our hero. Max and Furiosa are attempting to find a way to trust each other, now that their survival is mutually dependent. This newfound trust gets proven later, as they do battle with the canyon men. Sure, Max and Furiosa may not have epic conversations about the meaning of life and love and the latest Nicholas Sparks novel, but good golly do they know how to shoot guns. As they fend off the motorcycle gang of canyon men, they work seamlessly in coordinated concert, handing off guns and ammo when needed, and having each other's backs the whole time. It may not mean they trust each other. But they trust each other enough (to not get dead).
After this, Max begins to participate more directly in the decision-making. And he starts to talk more, to boot. He takes risks to ensure their mutual survival, like going after the Bullet Farmer and retrieving some guns and ammo to boost their defenses. He becomes a part of the team, such as it is. He even earns the highest compliment that Furiosa can pay when she calls him and Nux "reliable" to the Vuvalini.
Ultimately, though, his new connection to these women in general and Furiosa in particular isn't truly enough to get Max back on the road to redemption. That's gonna take something more. After they meet the Vuvalini, Max is ready to go his own way again. Furiosa pulls him aside, and the two have a telling exchange:
FURIOSA: Can I talk to you? I've talked with the others. We're never going to have a better chance to make it across the salt. If we leave the rig here, and load the motorcycles up with as much as we can, we can ride for 160 days. One of those bikes is yours. Fully loaded…You're more than welcome to come with us.
MAX: No, I'll make my own way. You know, hope is a mistake. If you can't fix what's broken, you'll go insane.
He might as well add "I should know" to the end of that sentence. Clearly, Max is still haunted by his demons—he couldn't fix what was broken, and he went insane. On some level, he thinks it's better to go it alone and to expect the worst from life.
That all changes the next morning.
As Max watches the women head out across the desolate salt flats, knowing full well that they probably won't make it, he's struck by his visions again. Only this time, instead of running from them, he allows them to guide him.
Here, an important visual occurs in the movie. As Max flashes on his visions, the small girl who's been haunting him throws up her hand at him. Instinctively, he throws up his own hand to his forehead. Whatever this gesture signifies, at this point in the movie, we don't know. But we know it's that very same gesture that saves his life later in the final chase scene—and for a brief moment in Max's hallucination, we see a flash of the war boy who will eventually fire the very arrow that Max defends himself against.
Whether or not Max is aware of the significance of this gesture at this point, this moment marks a turning point for him. One minute, he's ready to go off on his own again. And the next, he's chasing after the women, convincing them to turn around, head back to the Citadel, and finally make a stand.
Maybe he finally sees his chance to make up for failing those folks who've been haunting him. Maybe he realizes he actually cares about the fate of these women and doesn't want them to die. Maybe—just maybe—he sees a shot at redemption.
That last theory sounds pretty promising to Shmoop. After all, here's how he puts it to Furiosa:
MAX: Look. It will be a hard day. But I guarantee you 160 days riding that way, there's nothing but salt. At least that way, you know, we might be able to, together, come across some kind of redemption.
Ah, so it looks like Furiosa isn't the only one who's after the R-word. What's important to realize is that Max has absolutely nothing to gain from throwing his lot in with these women and risking his life to get them back to the Citadel, especially given the fact that by the end of the movie, it's clear to us viewers that Max has no intentions of sticking around and going all domestic. He helps them, redeems himself, and splits.
For Max, this is less about suddenly connecting with other people again (although that totally does happen), and more about redeeming himself so he can move forward, finally free of having to "run from the living and the dead."
His connection to Furiosa helps him do that, but it's not like he's ready to settle down and make mad babies or anything.
Still, without Furiosa and her fierce band of femme fatales, Max probably wouldn't have much of a redemption arc at all. To point out the obvious, he helps the women overthrow their oppressors and take back the Citadel for themselves and all its citizens. But on a smaller, perhaps more meaningful level, he also achieves redemption—and sanity—through his relationship with Furiosa.
We see this most clearly in one of the movie's final scenes. As the War Rig heads back to the Citadel, having vanquished Immortan Joe once and for all, Furiosa is in bad shape. She's got a would-be-fatal wound in her side, and she's failing fast. Good thing Max is a universal donor, right? As he takes care of Furiosa, he works gently but quickly, clearly distressed that she's at death's door. And as he donates his blood in a last ditch effort to save her, he leans over and whispers,
"Max. My name is Max."
What does that tell us? A lot, as it turns out. See, Max has finally found someone with who he shares a strong enough connection with to share his name—a name he once thought didn't matter. It's the final indication that he has come back to himself—that he can face himself after all of his past mistakes.
Fun story: when Mad Max: Fury Road burst on the scene in 2015, men's rights groups stirred up a bit of a controversy. We know, right—what's controversial about a critically acclaimed and crowd pleasing action movie?
For some Mad Max fans, all it takes is women...talking. Aaron Clarey, a writer for a prominent men's rights website called Return of Kings, sums it up like so:
Charlize Theron kept showing up a lot in the trailers, while Tom Hardy (Mad Max) seemed to have cameo appearances. Charlize Theron sure talked a lot during the trailers, while I don't think I've heard one line from Tom Hardy. And finally, Charlize Theron's character barked orders to Mad Max.
Nobody barks orders to Mad Max.
As he puts it a few lines later,
Hollywood has the audacity to remove the namesake of a movie franchise called MAD FREAKING MAX [emphasis theirs], and replace it with an impossible female character in an effort to kowtow to feminism.
For many men's rights viewers, the problem with Fury Road is that it relegates the titular character to the role of sidekick in his own movie. There's definitely an argument to be made in that direction—after all, Furiosa's redemption arc rivals Max's for both screentime and thematic significance. She makes decisions, and Max is often just along for the ride. But that's not necessarily a problem. Arguably, it's a smart way to revolutionize the action movie genre for the 21st-century world. Arguably.
And whatever you do argue, we can't deny that even if he is a sidekick, Max absolutely gets his own shots at the spotlight throughout the movie. His heroic resourcefulness achieves a whole heap of awesome:
(1) He drives like a boss through the canyon and helps Furiosa fend off the attacking motorcycles.
(2) He single-handedly takes down the Bullet Farmer.
(3) He convinces the women to fight for what's theirs, rather than risk their lives in an empty desert.
(4) He finally dispatches Rictus, the unbeatable giant baby.
(5) He saves Furiosa's life.
So even though in many ways, this movie is Furiosa's, it's not like Max is a shrinking violet.
P.S. For more on the issue of Mad Max, feminism, and all that jazz, check out Imperator Furiosa's "Character Analysis," and the "Women and Femininity" theme.
For those new to the Mad Max franchise, it might not seem like that big a deal that a Brit named Tom Hardy is the star of the movie. But trust Shmoop: it's a big deal. For many viewers, Mel Gibson—the star of the first three movies in the franchise—was Mad Max. And to have someone else in the role takes some adjusting.
In fact, Mel Gibson was originally considered for Fury Road, but George Miller decided Max should be played by a younger actor. Sorry, Mel, but to be fair, Gibson was 59 years old when the movie came out. But according an interview with Tom Hardy, Mel Gibson willingly handed over the Mad Max mantle by taking the new Max out to lunch. Cute, right?
In any case, it's quite clear that Hardy had some big shoes to fill. Which raises the question: what does Tom Hardy bring to the role?
As director Miller puts it, "Tom has this sort of wildness." Yeah, that sounds about right. He adds, "There is that similarity between Tom and Mel. Very masculine, at the same time there was a softness, capable of gentleness as well." In Miller's vision, and in Hardy's performance, Max is both crazy and kind.
We see that in Hardy's small gestures, like when he gives Angharad a knowing but subdued thumbs up after she survives a brush with death, or the look in his eyes as he tells Furiosa that "hope is a mistake." Hardy reminds us that while Max may have gone "feral," he hasn't lost his humanity. It's just hidden under layers of desert grime.
Everyone's favorite girly girl, Imperator Furiosa spends the movie lovingly nurturing those around her, and waiting to be rescued by the men in her life.
That doesn't sound right.
Ah, we meant the exact opposite.
Furiosa is, if anything, fierce. She's driven by a powerful need for redemption—she says as much to Max—and she will stop at nothing to get it.
But we have a question: what exactly is she seeking redemption for? When we meet her, we don't know much about her and her past. Eventually, we learn that she was born in "the green place," before she was taken by Immortan Joe's men and brought to the Citadel. That sure sounds like Furiosa's the victim of some pretty terrible trauma—not a perpetrator of whatever crimes she's seeking forgiveness for.
The answer, dear Shmoopers, lies in her name: Imperator Furiosa. "Imperator" is a Latin word used by the Romans to refer to victorious generals, and later, the emperor himself. The fact that Furiosa has been granted this title in the Citadel means that she's got some power and clout there. So while she may have been a victim of kidnapping early in her life, by the time the movie takes place, Imperator Furiosa is very much apart of the all-powerful Citadel system.
We see that power in action early on in the movie. As Imperator, she's trusted to drive the War Rig to trade the Citadel's produce and milk for the all-important guzzoline from Gas Town. She commands the war boys in her convoy, and they obey her without question—even when she's clearly deviating from Immortan Joe's orders. Furiosa quite obviously has a privileged position as a member of the Citadel's elite, and she has earned the trust of the men in power.
Given her power in the Citadel, it makes sense that Furiosa might be feeling a bit guilty. After all, she's lived in a position of relative privilege in a system that flourishes on the oppression of women and the poor. In a sense, she has benefited from the suffering of others. That may be an oversimplification of the situation, but it's a totally plausible explanation for Furiosa's need for redemption.
But we have one lingering question: why and how did Furiosa earn her position of privilege? In a world of war boys, how did a woman become an Imperator? The truth is, we'll never know, but could it be possible that her disability actually saved her?
Think about it. Furiosa is obviously drop-dead gorgeous. She's Charlize Theron, for pete's sake. How is it possible she didn't end up like the breeders—an unwilling wife to Immortan Joe? Well, we see early on in the movie that Furiosa has a prosthetic arm, as her left arm ends somewhere near her elbow. Immortan Joe clearly values women who fulfill the stereotypical idea of a beautiful women. Because of her disability, Furiosa doesn't fit.
But the joke's on Joe, of course. Furiosa's mechanical prosthetic arm is anything but a hindrance. She can do anything with it—drive a truck, shoot guns with alarming accuracy, and yes, beat the poop out of any war boy who so much as looks at her wrong. And in her fight with Max, Furiosa proves that she doesn't even need her prosthetic arm to kick butt. She takes him on without it, and nearly bests him. In a world where a disability could be devastating, Furiosa manages to thrive with hers.
P.S. For more on illness and disability in Fury Road, check out "Symbols and Tropes."
Speaking of Max, let's, um, speak of Max. Specifically, his relationship with Furiosa. As we mention in Max's "Character Analysis," Furiosa's strength and power nearly eclipse that of Max for much of the movie. Plenty of critics and pop culture aficionados have remarked on the fact that in Fury Road, Max is relegated to the role of sidekick, thanks to Furiosa's general awesomeness.
But perhaps more important than that dynamic, is tracing the relationship between these two, and how it develops as they travel along Fury Road. When she first encounters Max, he's a threat. He tries to steal the War Rig, threatens the women with physical violence, and is quite clearly bad news.
The two fight, and though Max manages to best Furiosa, it could have just as easily gone the other way. And just when you think Max has won the day, he messes with Furiosa's truck. No sooner does he drive away then it breaks down. Furiosa catches up, and tries to negotiate with him:
FURIOSA: Kill switches. I set the sequence myself. This rig goes nowhere without me.
MAX: You can get in.
FURIOSA: Not without them.
MAX: So we wait.
FURIOSA: You're relying on the gratitude of a very bad man. You've damaged one of his wives. How grateful do you think he's gonna be…You're sitting on 2000 horsepower of nitro-boosted war machine. I'd say you got about a five-minute head start…You want that thing off your face?
Check it out—after displaying impressive physical prowess, Furiosa shows she's no slump in the brain department either. In the span of a few moments, she tries just about every argumentative tactic with Max, until she lands on just the right one—the fact that he's wearing what must be a very uncomfortable metal muzzle. And boom—she and the women have their ride back.
And when Furiosa decides to throw in her lot with him, things start to shift. Their relationship becomes something much less antagonistic. They're not friends, exactly, but they've got a good enough thing going.
Max earns Furiosa's trust and she begins to rely on him, handing over some of her duties as the driver of War Rig. By the time they arrive at the home of the Vuvalini, it's clear that Furiosa considers him a comrade—someone to hit the road with. She cares about what happens to him, offers him a fully loaded motorcycle, and invites him to tag along on their journey across the salt.
When Max refuses, she looks disappointed but unsurprised. But that all changes just a brief scene later. When Max changes his mind, chases the women into the salt flats, and convinces them to head back to the Citadel and take it for themselves, he's demonstrating the new and profound trust that these two characters share. But perhaps more importantly, he's giving Furiosa a chance to achieve ultimate redemption—to do more than just escape.
We know that Furiosa seeks redemption for her complicity in Immortan Joe's corrupt and oppressive feudal rule. At first, her plan lies in freeing the breeders from Immortan Joe's inevitably grubby and grabby hands. Of all the things she could do to triumph over Immortan Joe, why is this the path that she chooses?
One pretty convincing theory is that she's from feminist stock. After all, she's a descendant of the Vuvalini—she's one of the many mothers. And in many ways, she acts like a mother to the breeders—albeit not in the most gentle, nurturing way—by telling them what to do, and helping them survive. She's the tough-love mom type for sure. And if that identification with the oppressed women of Immortan Joe's society has any explanation, it lies in her roots.
Her ancestry sets Furiosa up as a feminist heroine of sorts, a champion for oppressed and objectified women in the post-apocalyptic world. Of course, her feminist heroine status isn't exactly hurt by her utter kick-butt-ness. Furiosa proves time and time again that she's just as boss as the boys. She can shoot a gun, handle herself in a fistfight, and drive a big rig with the best of 'em. Furiosa is the kind of character a feminist action-movie-lover can get behind.
It's worth noting that Furiosa doesn't achieve ultimate redemption until the end, when Max convinces her to head back to the Citadel, defeat Immortan Joe, and take the future of his oppressive and unequal society into her own hands. In this sense, she's not just delivering a blow to Immortan's power—she is upending the society entirely, finding redemption and equality for all of its citizens. But does the fact that she achieves this redemptive victory only after Max plants the idea in her head lessen her agency? Does that make her any less of a feminist figure, since a man had to give her that final push? Shmoop amongst yourselves. (In any case, it's worth noting their mutually assured redemption: just as Max gives Furiosa the final push, so her brush with death finally forces Max to face himself—and share his name.)
Whatever the case may be, we can tell that when she has her final showdown with Immortan Joe, it's personal. She's the one that must kill Immortan Joe—both to redeem herself for her sins, and to ensure a more equal and free future for anyone and everyone who lives in the Citadel's realm.
Here's a question: where does Furiosa get her ferocity? If you ask Shmoop, it's got everything to do with Charlize Theron's performance. She brings a certain kick-butt stoicism that never completely masks Furiosa's compassion. Furiosa fights, but she does so as a descendant of the Vuvalini, a child of the green place. She's not all warrior—but she's a warrior who's equal to all the men around her. She's fierce and kind, and Theron's performance does a lot of work to bring that out on screen.
But it's a real life anecdote that we think says it all. It all went down at a costume fitting on location in Namibia. When Theron told Fury Road's Oscar-winning costume designer that she liked her costume, the designer demurred. So what does Theron say back?
"Take the compliment, b****."
Yeah, that sounds like Furiosa to Shmoop.
We won't mince words. Life in the Citadel pretty much sucks for the breeders. Immortan Joe's wives are wives in name only—he uses them for one purpose—to give him a proper heir. Well, that and for his sexual pleasure, we assume. Why else would he dress them in barely-there white rags? They're seen as property, and while they live in relative comfort compared to the rest of the low-down citizens of the Citadel, it's not like they have a choice in the matter.
That is, until they do.
These women's decision to fight for their freedom with Furiosa's help sets Mad Max: Fury Road in motion. When Immortan Joe discovers that his wives have fled, he finds their empty chambers covered in graffiti:
See, as their graffiti would indicate, their escape is about a wee bit more than self-preservation—it's central to the movie's feminist bent. These women leave not just to save their own lives, but to save the lives of their future children, and to fight for the principle that they are not property.
To give a dose of reality to these characters, director George Miller asked Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues and an important feminist activist, to visit the set in Namibia. She spent a week with the actresses, telling them stories of her experience working with women in conflict areas. According to Eve,
They asked me questions about their characters. What would it mean to have been a sex slave held for a long time in captivity? What would it feel like to carry a baby of someone who had raped you? What would it mean to feel attached to your perpetrator despite the abuse because it had gone on for so long? How after you are raped, your body becomes a place that you dissociate from, a landscape of terror. I wanted to give them context. We spoke about the Comfort Women, who were kept as slaves by the Japanese, and about rape and violence in places I have spent a lot of time like Bosnia to Congo to Afghanistan to Haiti. We spoke about sex trafficking in America, which is rampant.
She told us the most tragic stories I've ever heard in my life, which gave us so much background to our characters. We really wanted to kind of showcase that. It was a privilege to have her around to make these characters something more than just five beautiful girls.
With that in mind, it's important to look at each of these women individually, both to figure out their roles in the movie and how they contribute to the group.
Angharad earns the rather dubious distinction of being Immortan Joe's favorite. Yeah, that's not exactly an accolade she was looking for. But still, being his favorite also earns her a bit of status among his wives, and she becomes their de facto leader, encouraging them to push on when they need it, and reminding them of what it is they're fighting for.
She gets a few moments in particular to shine:
(1) When Nux shows up in the War Rig, and Furiosa holds a knife to his throat, Angharad reminds her of their agreement:
"No unnecessary killing!"
She's clearly a nonviolent person who stands by what she believes.
(2) When Immortan Joe is about to shoot Furiosa, she puts her pregnant body on the line, placing herself between his gun and her leader's life.
Of course it's this last move that eventually leads to Angharad's death. Now that she's outside the rig, she's vulnerable, and gets swept under the wheels of Immortan Joe's vehicle. We'd chalk this up to another sacrifice on the road to freedom, but the truth is, Angharad's death weighs heavy on the movie's plot and characters—it's more than just a bummer.
First and foremost, her death infuriates Immortan Joe. She was his favorite, after all, and she was very very pregnant with his child. When the Organic Mechanic removes the child from Angharad's dying body, he discovers that the child is dead, too, and he's therefore lost his heir. Uh oh.
Surprisingly, Angharad's death has a huge impact on Nux, too. We know what you're thinking: what did he care? But hey, it's written all over his face. Nux happens to be in the back of the War Rig and sees it all happen. With Angharad's death, Nux knows he's got no hope of returning to the good graces of Immortan Joe. He's totally failed his hero.
Why does that matter? Well, because that's the moment that Nux opts to throw in his lot with Furiosa, Max, and the other wives. And he proves to be a pretty handy guy to have around, eventually earning high praise from Furiosa.
The resident redhead is a bit of a free spirit, which means she makes her own decisions. The most notable one? Her relationship with Nux, the war boy.
It all goes down when she finds him huddled in the back of the War Rig, having just witnessed Angharad's death. He's crying, devastated that his "own blood bag drove the rig that killed [Angharad]."
Capable comforts him, and the two have a right nice chat.
It's clear Capable's not just capable—she's compassionate. Here she is, faced with an enemy. Only instead of throwing him out of the rig, she decides to befriend him, telling him that it's his "manifest destiny" not to go to Valhalla—just yet.
Toast has some serious snark to her, and we like to think that's because she's clearly the brains of this operation and is unwilling to take any crap from anyone.
Make's sense, right? Her name is "Toast the Knowing" after all.
She's tasked with important duties like inventorying the guns and ammo. But more importantly, she seems to know a great deal about the world. When the breeders spend the night out in the desert with the Vuvalini, she knows what a satellite was, and shares that info with the rest of the group. And when Max reveals his plan to take back the Citadel, she's the one who gets it immediately, pointing out that the Citadel will be undefended, and that it has everything they need to survive: water and crops.
So in the movies climactic race scene, it's more than a little upsetting when she gets captured by a polecat and held hostage in Immortan's rig. But don't worry—she survives thanks to Furiosa's fury, and spits on Joe's corpse as a final goodbye. Snark never dies.
This one's not a stretch: of all the breeders, Cheedo is clearly the most fragile.
How do we know? Well, when Angharad meets her rather grisly death, Cheedo just can't take it. She clearly thinks they've taken too great a risk, and tries to run back. The Dag and Capable chase after her and the three have a desperate exchange:
THE DAG: Cheedo!
CAPABLE: Cheedo, don't be stupid.
THE DAG: Stop!
CHEEDO: He'll forgive us. I know he will.
CAPABLE: There is no going back!
CHEEDO: We were his treasures! […] We were protected! He gave us the high life! What's wrong with that?
CAPABLE: We are not things.
THE DAG: Cheedo, we are not things!
CAPABLE: We are not things.
CHEEDO: I don't want to hear that again!
CAPABLE: They were her words!
CHEEDO: And now she's dead!
THE DAG: Wring your hands and tear your hair, but you're not going back. You're not going back to him.
Poor Cheedo. She's grieving for Angharad, who was clearly very important to all the wives. And we totally get why she wouldn't want to go on: things out in the wasteland aren't exactly great. But hey, at least she's free.
But don't you worry—Cheedo gets her moment to shine. In the movie's final chase scene, she tricks Rictus into believing that she wants to rejoin Immortan Joe's ranks. When he places her on Immortan Joe's rig, the Gigahorse, she's then in a position to help Furiosa on board, which assures Immortan Joe's ultimate defeat. Nice work, Cheedo. Not so fragile after all.
Oh, if the Dag ain't a feisty one. She's quick to toss an insult—especially at the men in her life. She's not afraid to call Max some rather scandalous names, and she clearly harbors no friendly feelings towards her former captors, either. Pregnant with Immortan Joe's offspring, she calls her unborn child "Warlord Junior."
She's snarking, sure, but the line also points out the trauma at the heart of these women's experiences. Raped, and then forced to bear children that are not their own, these women must face, every day, the terrible consequences of their captivity.
The Dag also seems the most intuitive out of the bunch. She often senses when they're being pursued and gives Furiosa the scoop. Perhaps that connection to the world makes her the worthy one to take up the mantle of the Keeper of the Seeds. During her chat with one of the Vuvalini, she learns that one of them has managed to keep a bag of seeds from the Green Place. And when the Keeper of the Seeds dies in the final battle, the Dag frantically grabs the bag, clearly intending to carry on the woman's duties.
P.S. In Australia, "dag" is slang for a person who is awkward and socially unpopular—someone who doesn't care much about their appearance or fitting in in social situations. What do you think: does the Dag fit the bill?
Let's get one thing straight: he may be a war boy, but Nux has it far from easy. He's sick as a dog, thanks to the radiation poisoning that now seems to plague the world. And he keeps mucking things up, which doesn't exactly earn him Immortan Joe's favor.
Nux begins Fury Road in a rather vulnerable place: ill and hooked up to a blood bag (um, that would be Max) for a transfusion. He's got tumors, and probably a number of other things wrong with him, but hoo boy is he raring for a fight. When he hears that Furiosa has made off with the wives and the War Rig, he wants to be a part of the war party that heads out to bring them back, so he decides to take his blood bag (once again—a human being) along for the ride.
You're probably wondering: why, if he's so stinkin' sick, does he want to join a war party?
Well, it all comes back to his (not so) immortal love for Immortan Joe. In that sense, Nux is a pretty good lens into the society that Immortan Joe reigns over. He's not just a feudal warlord, controlling resources and doling out basic needs like, say, water, as if it's gold. Immortan Joe has created an entire culture—almost a religion, even—around himself. It's a classic cult of personality.
Nux is a perfect demonstration of the ways in which Immortan Joe controls the War Boys—and all the other denizens of the Citadel, for that matter. Nux believes that if he sacrifices himself for Joe's aims—if he loses his life in pursuit of Furiosa, for example—it will be okay, because he will go to Valhalla, and "die historic on the Fury Road." We see this devotion and belief in all the other war boys, too, but Nux is our way in.
Need proof? Just check out how excited he gets when he thinks that Joe merely looks at him. That's some hero worship right there.
But Nux, in the end, proves himself to be quite different from all the other war boys. Sure, he doggedly pursues Furiosa and the females, risking life and limb to return them to Immortan Joe's clutches—at first. But that all changes when Angharad dies.
Yeah, it probably seems weird that the death of someone he probably barely knew (if at all) would affect him so much. But here's the thing: Nux believes it's his fault that Angharad died (because his blood bag—Max—was driving the War Rig at the time she fell off), and that means he's failed his hero. At this point, he knows he can never go back to Immortan Joe. He's reached the point of no return, and that leads us to this exchange, between Nux and Capable:
CAPABLE: What are you doing here?
NUX: He saw it. He saw it all. My own Blood Bag driving the Rig that killed her. [Nux hits his head repeatedly on the floor.]
CAPABLE: Stop doing that. Shh… Stop.
NUX: Three times the gates were open to me.
CAPABLE: What gates?
NUX: I was awaited in Valhalla. They were calling my name. I should be walking with the Immorta, McFeasting with the heroes of all time.
CAPABLE: I'd say it was your manifest destiny not to.
NUX: I thought I was being spared for something great.
Wise words, no? Of course, there's a bit of irony in what she says, too. After all, Nux does die historic on the Fury Road, by sacrificing himself to overturn the War Rig and shut down the pass behind him. It's just that he does it for totally different reasons than he originally intended. Instead of fighting to preserve Immortan Joe's corrupt power, he fights to free the women and take back the Citadel from its oppressive ruler. He gets fame and glory, sure, but more importantly, it's for a righteous cause. And he's proof that Immortan Joe's reign of terror isn't total—a man can change his mind.
Where to start with this piece of work?
How about with his crimes against humanity? By Shmoop's tally, here are all the terrible things Immortan Joe has done:
Okay, so we know he's bad news, but the question is why?
We like to think of Immortan Joe as an old-school feudal warlord gone totally evil. Sure, his kingdom may be small, but he rules over it with an iron fist, because the alternative is probably ending up like one of the masses in the wasteland—starving, desperate, and alone. As a warlord, he knows that whoever controls the world's few remaining resources has all the power. And Shmoopers, Immortan Joe digs his power.
Just take his first scene, for example. From the moment we meet Joe, we see that he controls everything around him. We don't see his face at first, just his poisoned body, being tended to by a war pup. Then, we see him being dressed, and striding out confidently to a high-up precipice on the Citadel. As he looks down at the masses, he gives the following speech:
"Once again, we send off my War Rig to bring back guzzoline from Gas Town and bullets from the Bullet Farm! Once again, I salute my Imperator Furiosa! And I salute my half-life War Boys who will ride with me eternal on the highways of Valhalla. I am your redeemer. It is by my hand you will rise from the ashes of this world! It's coming. Get ready. [Immortan Joe turns on the water, which flows out of the aquifer onto the crowds below, and then quickly shuts it off.] Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you and you will resent its absence."
A short speech, but it packs a punch, right? Let's break it down.
Check out the first part: Joe tells the masses below that he is sending his "War Rig" to bring back resources that we assume are pretty important in this wasteland: gas and bullets. The language here is all about violence and war.
Then he starts getting religious—and megalomaniacal, if we may say so. He suggests that the War Boys who do his bidding will get a one-way ticket to heaven—or Valhalla, as the case may be. And he calls himself a "redeemer" for the people of the Citadel. Um, he does not look like a redeemer to Shmoop. He looks much more like an oppressor if we may say so.
Then comes the kicker: he promises that it is only through him that the people will be saved, and he gives them what they so desperately need: water. But he gives them just enough to whet their taste buds and absolutely no more. And then he has the gall to say they shouldn't get addicted to water because then it will be that much worse when they don't have any. Except, um, the whole reason they don't have any is that you hoard it all for yourself, thankyouverymuch, Immortan Joe. Harrumph.
If we may play Freud for a moment, allow Shmoop to say that this is textbook megalomania. Immortan Joe hangs onto his power with the iron grip of a toddler clutching a teddy bear, and any threat to that power must be dealt with swiftly.
Which is what makes Furiosa and the breeders' defiance such sweet, sweet revenge.
But Immortan Joe's villainy isn't just limited to his total control of resources. He's also out to control the ladies, in some of the worst ways possible.
First, there are his so-called wives, a.k.a. the breeders. He keeps these beautiful women locked up as his slaves and repeatedly has sex with them without their consent in the hopes of producing a viable male heir. It's clear he doesn't see these women as individuals—or even human beings. They are his property, which is why he sends an entire war party after them, to retrieve his "goods."
Then there are the women whom he keeps around to produce "mothers' milk." They're strapped to chairs, clearly held captive, and their bodies are used to provide nutrition for him, his sons, and other lucky folks in the Citadel.
As both these examples show, and as feminist interpretations of the movie like to point out, Immortan Joe's villainy stems from his view that women's bodies are commodities for consumption, not vessels for human souls. And if we really want to call him out, we'd point out that he treats pretty much everyone in the Citadel this way—from the war boys who put their bodies on the line to defend him, to the workers who run the machinery of the Citadel, right down to the crowds below, who survive (barely) at his mercy.
In a movie that relies so much on visual storytelling, it's worth spending some time on the looks of our characters—especially Immortan Joe. When we're first introduced to him, we see his body before we see his face. And he's not exactly in good shape. His skin is thin and wrinkled, covered in pock marks and growths. Then, when we finally see his face, we discover that he must wear a breathing mask, which makes him look like a skull.
If looks could kill, Joe's definitely would. His grotesque appearance is an outward expression of his inward grossness. He's a terrible person, and he looks like one, too.
But that's not to say he's just a walking physical deformity. Despite his ill appearance, he cuts a pretty intimidating figure, what with his apocalyptic armor, skull mask, and deathly makeup. Immortan Joe seems to have done a good job of using his deformities to his advantage, making him appear that much more intimidating to the people he oppresses.
All hail the Vuvalini.
Think of these kickbutt ladies as old school ecofeminists, as lovers of Mother Earth and all the green goodness she produces. That said, they're not afraid to put a bullet in your brain.
Yep, these women are the perfect mix of brains, brawn, beauty, and…old school farming methods. As all that's left of the Many Mothers, who once populated and cultivated the Green Place, these women are tasked with protecting the seeds they took with them when the earth went sour. They live a hardscrabble life out in the wasteland, but they've managed to survive, carrying with them some knowledge of the old world (like satellites, TV shows, and, you know, human kindness).
The arrival of Furiosa, Max, and company changes everything for these women. They welcome Furiosa back like the long lost family she is, and then they decide to throw in their lot with Max and Furiosa and fight for the Citadel because it's their best chance for a future that they control, a future where they're not at the mercy of the wasteland, and a future that doesn't require them to shoot everyone they meet.
These women don't get much of a chance to distinguish themselves as individuals with one great exception: the Keeper of the Seeds (Melissa Jaffer). She's the one that has the brief conversation with the Dag:
THE DAG: You kill people with that, do you?
THE KEEPER OF THE SEEDS: Killed everyone I ever met out here. Headshots. All of them. Snap. Right in the medulla.
THE DAG: Thought somehow you girls were above that.
THE KEEPER OF THE SEEDS: Come here. Take a peek.
THE DAG: Seeds.
THE KEEPER OF THE SEEDS: These are from home. Heirlooms. The real thing. I plant one every chance I get.
THE DAG: Where?
THE KEEPER OF THE SEEDS: So far, nothing's took. Earth's too sour.
THE DAG: Ah, so many different kinds.
THE KEEPER OF THE SEEDS: Trees, flowers, fruit. Back then, everyone had their fill. Back then, there was no need to snap anybody.
Their chat is telling. The Vuvalini seem to be all about preserving an older, more appealing way of life. The Keeper of the Seeds tries to bring that back by planting her seeds everywhere she goes, but with no promising results. Still, she has to keep trying, right? After all, she's fighting for a world where "there was no need to snap anybody."
All that makes her sacrifice—and the sacrifice of many of the Vuvalini—during the movie's climactic chase scene all the more powerful. These women are willing to lay down their lives to both protect Furiosa and the breeders, and to fight for their right to rule over the Citadel and usher in a fairer, more equal world.
The whole reason Immortan Joe spends the movie chasing after Furiosa and the others is that he needs his breeders to produce him a viable male heir. Which raises the question: what's wrong with the male heirs he's got? After all, he has at least two sons that we know of…who must not be viable.
Well, he may have a point. Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones), who is extremely physically imposing, is not exactly a brainiac. When he drinks a sip of mothers' milk at the beginning of the movie, the most conversation he can muster is a rather pathetic "moo."
Joe's other son (Quentin Kenihan) doesn't seem to be much of a slouch in the brain department—at least he's tasked with something other than being glorified mob muscle. He helms the telescope, and appears to be left in charge of the Citadel in Joe's absence. His challenge, unfortunately, is that he suffers from an unnamed physical disability, which we can assume makes him not viable in Immortan Joe's book. And makes his name—Corpus Colossus (Latin for "Big Body") absolutely ironic. (It's also worth noting that the corpus callosum refers to the nerve fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres of the brain.)
Meet the other men of power in the Wasteland.
Let's start with the People Eater (John Howard). Think of him as the money man. As the mayor of Gas Town, he's clearly got a business relationship with Immortan Joe, and when Capable sees him on the chase, she remarks that he must be "coming to count the cost."
His role as a money man is mirrored visually in his attire and car. He dresses rich, in a nice suit, with fancy adornments including some rather alarming nipple rings. He drives a limo—a souped-up limo of course, and spends all his time talking about how everyone owes him money. He's pretty much a robber baron of the apocalypse, so we can't feel too sad for him when he meets a rather grisly end: Max uses him as a human shield, and then blows up his rig with him in it.
As for the Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter), well, he's just stone cold crazy. The dude literally has bullets for teeth. Because he's in control of weapons and ammo in the wasteland, he has a great deal of power in a world where weapons are your sole means of survival. He's also got a pretty kick-butt rig—what can only be described as a muscle tank. The Bullet Farmer doggedly pursues Furiosa and co. into the quagmire—mainly because the tank treads on his car mean he can—and shoots wildly into the darkness when Furiosa blinds him with a single shot from her sniper rifle. Like the People Eater, the Bullet Farmer meets what we can only assume is a grisly end when Max, well, blows him up.
Props for cleverness on the name here. The Organic Mechanic (Angus Sampson) is so named because he's the mechanic of all things organic (a.k.a. people) in the wasteland. Yeah, that basically means he's a doctor. But he's no doctor we'd visit. We see him early in the movie, tattooing Max's back with the words "O negative" and "universal donor." He's also the one who delivers Angharad's still-born child on her death bead, telling Immortan Joe that he had a baby boy—but doesn't anymore.
We're not sure who exactly she was or how exactly she got there, but Miss Giddy (Jennifer Hagen) is clearly a very important person for the wives. We get the sense that she was a teacher and a mentor to the women, and she willingly defies Joe by aiming a gun at him and telling him that his wives have fled with Furiosa. "You cannot own a human being," she says. We concur, Miss Giddy. We concur.
Aside from Nux, the only War Boy we meet with a name we remember is his buddy Slit (Josh Helman). We're guessing that name comes from his face, which is slit from the sides of the mouth, kind of like the Joker in Batman. Slit is as devoted to Immortan Joe as Nux is in the beginning, and he never wavers in that loyalty. Like all the other War Boys, he's sick in some way, and has a rather strange appearance.
All the War Boys are bald, have super pale, white skin, and blackened eyes. We're guessing it's some combination of radiation sickness and war paint. This appearance even extends down to the War Pups, who don't head out into battle, but are clearly training to. They're all sick, but thanks to Immortan Joe, they receive care from the Organic Mechanic, so that might explain where some of that devotion comes to him. They're all so devoted, in fact, that they're willing to die for him, shouting "Witness!" or "Witness me!" as they sacrifice themselves for Immortan Joe's continued reign of terror.
Everyone's favorite denizen of the apocalypse best exemplifies the gonzo craziness that is this world. He's basically the drum-and-fife for Immortan Joe's war parties, providing a heavy metal soundtrack for their violent pursuits. See, in the apocalypse, a drum and fife just won't do: the apocalypse calls for a flaming electric guitar.
The wretched are those poor folks stuck down on the floor of the wasteland, looking up at Immortan Joe's green oasis and hoping he'll send some water down their way. In a deeply stratified society like the Citadel, it makes sense that the wretched would be stuck at the bottom, and as you work your way up the towers, the privilege increases. Just above the wretched are those who work the gears of the tower—they've got a job, at least, but they don't look like they're reaping the benefits.