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Why Mad Max: Fury Road Isn’t Just an Action Movie

  • Ryan Duncan blogspot for and Ryan Duncan, Entertainment and Culture editor
  • 2015 May 21

Not many people realize it, but movies are in a constant state of evolution. Oh sure, we noticed when silent films changed to “talkies” and when 3D animation started to take off, but the most significant changes are often subtle. Take Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron for example. The movie was billed as a mindless, campy action spree, and for the most part that’s exactly what it was. But viewers who looked between the lines (or explosions) found the movie peppered with deeper meaning.

There were themes about God, the fallen nature of man, how there can be grace in failing, the list goes on. It used to be an action movie was just an action movie, now even films about adults in spandex can carry a little wisdom. Wade Bearden of Christ & Pop Culture makes a similar argument about the apocalyptic thriller, Mad Max: Fury Road. In a recent post he writes,

What might have easily turned into a bleak tale ending with the loss of personal and collective identity is instead a meditation on the struggle for meaning in a world that doesn’t seem to hold any. A group of women escaping Joe’s rule remind themselves (and their overlord) that ‘We are not things.’ Max struggles with feelings of guilt after losing his wife and child. Joe’s warriors valiantly vie for their ruler’s attention, embarking on suicide missions in order to have their place among the ‘heroes.’ In a society where the wall between individual and beast is blurred, each person, as Furiosa says, is ‘looking for hope.’ They want to know they matter...

For all its depictions of depravity, Fury Road offers us a world worth fighting for. When society descends into hell, the natural inclination is to escape, but what if we circle back to reclaim the damaged for good? Miller’s work, while grim, hints at the hope of redemption and significance.

Bearden isn’t alone in his opinions either. His feelings were echoed by Crosswalk’s own Jeffery Huston who praised the film for going deeper than your typical summer blockbuster.

Making the spectacle resonate beyond the eye-popping surface is a level of character and thematic depth rare to action movies. Big budget tentpoles generally keep their ideas and backstories about as formulaic as their plots, and while Fury Road doesn't necessarily boast unique versions of those elements they are portrayed with much more thought, even contemplation, and felt much more deeply.

So what does this mean for the average Christian moviegoer? Well, that’s a question with a number of possible answers. For starters, it could teach us not to judge a book by its cover. Even brainless summer movies can contribute something to the ongoing narrative between faith and pop-culture. Secondly, it should inspire Christian filmmakers to take more risks. Faith-based films have a reputation for being “safe”, but the Gospel message isn’t diminished by a little danger.

Finally, Christian filmmakers should embrace their sense of wonder. God is everywhere, not just our churches. He present in dystopian cities, fighting besides superheroes, even with the monsters under your bed. Are you ready to share his stories?

What about you? What are your thoughts on changing face of movies?

*Published 5/20/2015