"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Mad Max: Reality Road: an Even Darker Ride

It was so close.


First, the less important comparison:  It wasn't as gripping and shocking as the original Road Warrior, and my son called it before we went in: more explosions and less rapey.  People don't accept casual rape scenes in movies like they did in the 80s.  This is a good thing, but it does take away from developing a sense of horror and brutality in this lawless world.  There were many of the same bits of humour in it, and really cool cars, but no sharpened boomerangs. But what it really lacked was character development.  Furiosa's backstory was delivered in an awkward scene of overt explanation rather than a more subtle development throughout.  We don't get to know the other characters enough to care about them.  There was no scrappy little kid surviving by his wits.  And when one of the wives died, I wasn't remotely upset. I don't remember any of their names.  It lacked the unique depictions of the colourful secondary characters that added to the flavour of the original, and that in turn affected the film's ability to reach the same kind of tension. This Max reminded me more of Indiana Jones than the original Road Warrior, but my kids thought I was nuts on that one. But there was one excellent scene that made me glad to have caught it in 3D. Things blowed up real good!


But that's not the important comparison.  With a quick read of a few scientific journals, it could have been an authentic depiction of what we will likely face far too soon if we don't change the path we're on, and the movie could have been just that much more brutal because of it.  That they're fighting over water and searching for arable land instead of for oil (sort of), gets us part way there.

***spoiler alert***

A question occurred to me as I watched them suffering in the heat, using slaves to run pulley systems, and using fire for heat and light all within a contained city that turned out to be the best possible place to live:  What did they need oil for?  They didn't use it to generate electricity in any way that I could see.  And they made it clear there was no place to go to, so all that gasoline and ripping up the desert was for nought.  Oil seems to be a dead commodity in a post-apocalyptic world.  Just as well.

But one bit of reality was that whomever controls the water, controls the world.  That will be very true very soon.  Canada has lots of fresh water, but could we win against an American invasion?  Or will Harper erode our rights so much (which has already started) that the U.S. will feel the need to stage a coup and install a better leader for us under the guise of helping us reform a democratic system, and then take control of all our water while they're at it?

In the film, once the good guys win and kill the bad guy who was rationing water too stringently (and keeping slaves and many wives), they seem to decide to open the water for all without any rationing as if that's the nice thing to do.  But it's not.  It's as equally bad leadership as rationing too tightly.  Rationing will have to be a reality in their world where, like in Snowpiercer and The 100, there are too many people for too few resources.  Population control must be a top priority or they'll have to start culling people in ritual sacrifices. Or we will.

Just imagine, when the good guys made it out east and talked about going back and taking over the place, imagine that they had had one brief conversation about how they would run the place differently. And imagine if their ideas actually made sense! They could have excitedly talked about a fair means of delivering food and water, a choice of jobs on a rotation, a means to slow population growth...  and then we'd see the realization on their faces that no matter what they did, they would have to control childbearing. Men and women just couldn't be allowed to have every child they wanted. Saving women from the clutches of an evil-doer who controls their reproduction would have to be replaced by a different system of control rather than done away with completely. Figuring out how to do that without being hated by the masses is the really exciting bit.

The gang tries to find some green space that used to be Furiosa's home, but it's all dead now.  The soil is full of salt so nothing can grow.  One effect of climate change will likely be "the extension of salt-affected territories."  But something else that could have been included, that was slipped into Interstellar and discussed in The Sixth Extinction (which has already started), is that many of us will likely suffocate before we starve.  Here's part of my summary on the 3rd major extinction from Kolbert's book:
Ending the Permian period - 252 million years ago. This was the most devastating - called "the great dying." It was caused by an increase in carbon which acidified the oceans and, with the oxygen level dropping, most organisms probably suffocated. Reefs collapsed. It lasted maybe 100,000 years from start to finish, and eliminated 90% of all species on earth (104). The best explanation for this increased carbon is a massive burst of vulcanism in Siberia. "But this spectacular event probably released, on an annual basis, less carbon than our cars and factories and power plants" (123). This one is most similar to what we're currently experiencing, but these days we like to do things much, much faster.

It's not just water that would be a scarce resource, but oxygen would be too.  The main bad guy had the right idea with an oxygen mask, and they hunted people for oxygen rich blood bags, making oxygen their drug of choice, but they could also have made oxygen masks a necessity for survival outside the city. As the ocean acidifies (which is already happening), hydrogen sulfide is released into the atmosphere. It tends to sit low on the ground, so they might be fine in higher altitudes but need oxygen masks on in the lowlands. Just think of all the creative ways they could each design their masks!

And check out the effects of exposure to low levels of hydrogen sulfide: eye damage and degenerative nerve damage.  They could have had people riding through lower areas, and unmask a bad guy who suddenly has his eyes eaten away and falls into a fit of spasms!  It would also make the air more flammable, and there's so much special effects guys could do with that!  It was such a missed opportunity at edutainment.

The horrors of real life scientific predictions are rife with great ideas for apocalyptic films just waiting to be taken, and maybe a disclaimer at the end with sources would wake up a few more people to the reality we could be facing.  Except that it might ruin their happy ending.


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