What a good fight scene. This encounter could have been played a lot of ways, some of them unsavory given we start with one armed man and six unarmed women,.but the most terrified character here is easily Max. The Five Wives are frightened, but more angry and fed up, and Furiosa is just, well, furious. Meanwhile, Max spends the first half of the film acting like a nervous stray on the verge of fear-biting.
This is it exactly. Max keeps flicking the guns around and snatching things because he’s honestly on the very edge of panic. He’s just been chased down, tattooed, used as an unwilling blood donor, made a hood ornament, nearly died in a car chase and dust storm like 5 million times, and is plagued by hallucinations on a GOOD day. Everything he does up until he starts realizing Furiosa needs his help and she TRUSTS him is someone fueled completely by terror. It says something about Furiosa that she figures out very quickly that Max isn’t so much a threat as he’s also a victim, useful, and SCARED.
Something my boyfriend pointed out is that Max is remembering how to talk through the first chunk of the movie.
I thought he was just grunting and stuff because “rawr I am a badass male action hero man” and didn’t wanna use words. But no, no he’s remembering how to talk. He’s been wandering the desert for who knows how long, not speaking to another soul, hallucinating, and when he’s confronted by the Wives and Furiosa he can barely communicate beyond the violence he’s been subjected to at the hands of the War Boys and in his interactions previous to that. He remembers how to speak as the movie progresses.
Also, Max clearly isn’t interested in killing anyone in that first fight. Furiosa puts a gun to Max’s head and pulls the trigger – twice – but Max walks up with a busted shotgun, wastes six bullets on warning shots, and disables Nux with a punch in the solar plexus even though he’s holding a loaded pistol.
Even at his most feral, just out of an experience that would curl most people into a ball of helpless panic, Max just wants to get away, not kill anybody. It breaks my heart.
This movie is honestly a master class in show not tell. This is the reason why the script is probably like six pages – we really don’t need dialogue. The fact that Max doesn’t straight up kill Furiosa – when it’s made perfectly clear that she would kill him in a heart beat if their roles were reversed – is such a heavy and telling moment, character wise. Max doesn’t kill anyone until he has to. Not when he’s escaping in the very beginning (when he has that war boy up against the wall of the cave he could easily snap his neck but he doesn’t), and not when he could very easily kill Nux for what he’s put him through.
Because he’s not out for vengeance. Not like Furiosa. Furiosa is angry, she wants revenge, she wants to tear people apart with her bare hands. Max is a kicked dog. Feral and crazy, yes, but ultimately his overarching driving force is fear. And Furiosa sees that immediately. Plays off that fear, of being trapped and locked up (”you want that thing off your face?”). Gives him things to do because she knows he’s terrified but obviously can also handle himself. Immediately sees his value as an ally. Gives him time to pull himself together.
And she’s rewarded, in the end, for trusting her gut. I’m so sad.
It never occurred to me that Max is remembering how to talk. Nice.