Debate rages over Mad Max 4
The worldwide B.O. total of Mad Max: Fury Road has surpassed $US210 million after modest second weekend drops, particularly in the US and Australia.
Yet there is a palpable disconnect between the critical adulation (a 98% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and negative responses by some filmgoers.
And it is arguable whether the debate over whether or not the film is pro-feminist has helped or hindered attendances.
George Miller’s action adventure scored an estimated $US24.8 million over the Memorial Day weekend in the US, falling by just 45%, propelling the total to $88.3 million.
Internationally the Tom Hardy/Charlize Theron starrer hauled in approximately $38.2 million on more than 14,000 screens in 70 markets, down 37%, so it’s amassed $124.2 million outside the US.
In Australia the Village Roadshow Pictures/Warner Bros co-production fetched $4.17 million, slipping by 33%, as it advanced to $12.6 million.
As Variety noted, “With a budget of $150 million, plus promotion and marketing costs, the apocalyptic adventure has a lot of ground left to cover before it pushes into the black.”
Aussie exhibitors report positive feedback and were delighted with the second weekend business. “We are experiencing mainly excellent comments," Wallis Cinemas program manager Bob Parr tells IF.
“What surprised us is the number of older people coming, but when we thought about it, they were young when Mad Max 1 was made. Consequently because older audiences aren’t as spontaneous, the small decline isn’t surprising."
Judging by social media, others were underwhelmed, particularly by Hardy’s performance and some women in the supporting cast.
Screen industry consultant Julie Marlow posted on Facebook, “I am not the target audience for Fury Road but went anyway because, well because. At the risk of being burnt to a crisp by a flame thrower, really, what the … I lost the will to live about half an hour in, had a little zen zone-out doze, came to, same same, then for the rest of the film wondered why why why? ‘
“Tom Hardy completely charisma-less but quite amusing watching him channelling Mad Mel, Charlize as stoic as she could be given the material, the massed ranks of Australia's Next Top Model – pfft. Fave characters, Quentin and the guitarist. Stellar editing, effects, all of that, but it still comes back to why why why?”
Chris O’Mara, co-founder of production company Freehand and a former Seven Network program director and head of production said, “ I found Fury Road to be a great disappointment. Tom Hardy was a lump of wood. He spoke about 12 words during the whole film and his expression didn't change at all. No charisma at all. Charlize Theron was good and saved this from being a total disaster.
"The movie was really about her character, Max was secondary. It was great to see some familiar Aussie actors in the cast (Joy Smithers, Angus Sampson, Richard Carter, John Howard + more). If you want to watch a film with non-stop action, weirdness from beginning to end then this is the film. I thought it was B grade, certainly no masterpiece. 4/10.”
Miller hired Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, as a consultant. She said, “I think George Miller is a feminist, and he made a feminist action film.”
That sparked a scathing assessment from Eileen Jones, a film critic at Jacobin and author of the book Filmsuck, USA, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.
Jones wrote, "In Fury Road, the lead feisty old woman clutches a bag of symbolic seeds for future tending when they resurrect the Green World matriarchy somewhere else. What’s so annoying about these motifs is that they bring us to yet another cliché: 'primitive' women as akin to Mother Earth, vessels for seedlings, awesome in their mysterious fertility. The film clearly considers the return to primitive patriarchy to be bad; I’m not sure why the regression to primitive matriarchy is supposed to be so terrific.
“While I was watching the film, I thought with some bitterness, 'It figures that they’d set out to make a ‘feminist action film’ and this would be the result.' I really regretted sitting where there was no nearby wall to beat my head against.”