Mad Max: Fury Road Is Better Than Age of Ultron. Here’s Why.

Well guys…it’s been a while. Don’t worry, I have a good excuse. I wrapped up a pretty grueling move, caught up on a lot of work, and went on a vacation.

There was also my anniversary. That’s right. My wife has made it two years without totally murdering my face (though I do notice that her butcher knife creeps ever closer night after night, but I’m sure it’s nothing).

For our anniversary, my wife and I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. I think all of the loud noises and scary crazy people made her nauseous, and it no doubt jostled up the growing semi-person inside of her.

I, on the other hand, was totally blown away by the movie.

It should without a doubt be the biggest hit of the summer. But, it won’t be because of this pesky Avengers movie lurking about.

(Age Of who? Is that that dog brand you can buy at the K-Mart? Why would they make a movie about that?)

Oh, grandpa.

Anyway, if you are on the fence about which movie to see this summer (you know, because movie tickets cost $18, requires a two-year subscription to Mindless Movie Goer magazine, and it gives the devil permission to crash on your couch a few days out of the year), let me decide for you. Go see Mad Max.

You know, because I’m on the internet.

And that makes me smarter than you.

Then you?

Than you.

(I knew the whole time. I just wanted to give you hope that you’re smarter than me, which you’re not. Loser)

(JK)

(God, I get distracted).

ANYWAY, here is literally (by which I mean metaphorically) every reason Mad Max: Fury Road is better than Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Let’s begin.

Oh, and spoilers (kind of).

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD VS AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

or

BATTLE OF THE SUBTITLES!!!

1. Mad Max’s Villain is Actually Villainous, and We Know Why

Ultron might seem terrifying, but his motivations are shaky at best, incoherent at worst.
Ultron might seem terrifying, but his motivations are shaky at best, incoherent at worst.

In my last blog post, I talked about how Ultron was kind of wishy-washy, and he seemed to flip back and forth on what he was doing or what he wanted. Did he want to become human? Or was he better than humans? I don’t know. Both, I guess.

But, in Fury Road, we are faced with a villain that has very clear motivations from the very beginning: Immortan Joe. We know what Joe is all about from the get-go. He is a ruthless, power-hungry warlord who keeps his followers under control by depriving them of water (and no doubt other vital things). The movie does this without any expositional dialogue. It is all from the context of the world (and a particular scene that drives this idea home and moves the story forward).

It is also clear rather early on what Immortan Joe wants during this movie. After Furiosa takes off with his slave-wives, he makes it immensely obvious that the most important thing to him is getting them back. It is also made clear that Immortan Joe wants these wives to produce healthy children to take his place. Granted, this is often displayed through somewhat clunky, in your face dialogue, but at least it is clear and understandable. Immortan Joe also never wavers from this position. He doesn’t have other things on his mind. He doesn’t dick around trying to accomplish other tasks. He wants what he wants, and he pursues it.

It's more than the mask that may makes Immortan Joe a terrifying villain.
It’s more than the mask that may makes Immortan Joe a terrifying villain.

Immortan Joe is also fucking terrifying. Not so much in frame or stature like Ultron, but just in the things he does. It’s clear that Joe is a fucking lunatic, and he leads a whole lot of other lunatics on a high speed chase through the desert. This is a man who will kill you because…well, he doesn’t need a reason. He’s just like that. He doesn’t try to be witty or charming. He just fucks people up.

(Wow, really busting the f-bombs in this section. Momma would be so proud.)

2. The Action Was Meaningful and Awesome

Referring back to my last post, I also criticized the action in Age of Ultron. Well, that still stands. Especially when you compare it to the INTENSE PULSE-POUNDING SPHINCTER-CLENCHING MOTHERFUCKERY THAT IS MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. Seriously, the action in Fury Road is just beyond awesome. But why? It has just as much, if not more than, Age of Ultron. Why is it better?

Well, let’s take a look.

First, let’s look at the opening scenes. Both start with an action sequence (Avengers invading the Hydra base, and Max in a short-lived car chase). What are the biggest differences between them?

Well, context for starters. See, Age of Ultron starts with action. Like, one of the first things you see is Thor slamming into someone. Fuck if I know who the guy is, but Thor is tearing his shit up so he must be the bad guy, right? It’s probably a solid three minutes before someone (I think it might have been Cap, but I don’t remember) says something about the place they’re raiding being a Hydra base. At that point, you’re like “Oh, it’s Hydra. Now this fight scene makes sense. Maybe Thor wasn’t just being a dick.”

Now let’s examine the opening sequence to Mad Max. We see Max staring at a barren landscape, talking all doom and gloom. Then he eats a lizard. Then some people chase him and throw exploding spears at his car. Then there is some crazy exposition, and then Max gets chased by ICP fans more crazy people. Then the rest of the movie happens.

So what’s the difference?

Well Fury Road gives us a little more context throughout the opening sequence. He says something in his opening monologue about not knowing who is crazier, him or everyone else. Then some crazy people chase him. We know they’re crazy because Max alluded to it in his earlier statements. So we at the very least know what kind of people they are and why they are dangerous. Sure, we still suffer from “Who the fuck is that?” syndrome for a few minutes, but that is part of the mystery of the story.

The action in Fury Road is also significantly stronger than Age of Ultron because we learn about the world and the story through it. In Age of Ultron, all of the action sequences are simple breaks in the story. They look nice, sure. But they don’t necessarily drive character motivations until the end of the movie. For instance, when Ultron crashes the Avengers’ party, the scene would have had just as much resonance if he had flown away or self-destructed. The whole 2-3 minute action sequence literally adds nothing to the story. Same with the Hulk vs. Iron Man sequence. The only thing that scene did was potentially set up plot elements for a totally different movie.

This shot sums up pretty much the whole movie, and for some reason that is super awesome.
This shot sums up pretty much the whole movie, and for some reason that is super awesome.

Now look at Fury Road. 90% of the movie is driving cars and said cars exploding. Yet, it is during these sequences that we learn the most about the world and its inhabitants. We learn the crazy religion Immortan Joe and his followers abide by, we learn about the roles of women in this society, and we see Max change from an instinctive survivor to a post-apocalyptic human rights activist (well, if we stretch our imaginations a bit that’s what he becomes).

3. Fury Road Understands Story Structure

This also technically applies to the action sequences. In fact, it applies to that more than anything. Because Age of Ultron does understand story structure. It has an exposition, rise and falls in action, a climax, and it ties it all up at the end. So, if it follows the right structure, why don’t I give a shit by the end of the movie?

Well, most of it lies in the action.

Since Age of Ultron starts with lots of action, the audience has nowhere to go. The movie literally starts with a raid on a Hydra base, and there is even some super vs. super action. Compared to this, most of the fight scenes in the movie seem to be relatively small in scale. That’s because an effective action movie builds the intensity of the action in parallel with the intensity of the story.

Fury Road does this almost perfectly. The movie starts with a short chase that is just long enough to tease the audience with what is to come. Then there is a super long car chase, which climaxes with a huge sandstorm. A short break in action, then there is a longer car chase with more guns and more cars getting torn to shit. Then a break for story stuff. Then the final car chase, which is literally crazy. Like seriously. This is the moment when George Miller pulls out all the stops. This is when the movie gives us everything we have been promised. There is also some blood (which the movie is surprisingly sparing on). It also has one of the best villain kill-offs I think I have ever seen.

The reason I (and no doubt you) care more about what is happening in Fury Road as opposed to Age of Ultron is because the action builds with the movie.


Well that’s my two cents for the day. So yeah, Mad Max: Fury Road is better than Age of Ultron in pretty much every way, at least from an action/story standpoint. What did you guys think of the movie? Which did you like more? Dish it out in the comments.

New post on Wednesday. I’m not sure what I’ll talk about yet. Probably Kung Fury. Have you watched that shit? Well, you should.

kung fury

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I Saw Avengers: Age of Ultron. It Was Okay. (SPOILER ALERT)

If you can’t tell by the title, I wasn’t overly impressed by Avengers: Age of Ultron. I’m not saying I didn’t like it. I did. I just thought it could have been…better. A lot better.

A lot, a lot better.

So, bear with me because I’m going to lay it all out for you here. We’ll talk about what worked, and what didn’t. What was awesome, and what was lame. Then you can all comment and call me a nerd or whatever.

Alright. *knuckles crack* Let’s do this.

Oh, by the way, spoiler alert. In case you didn’t read the title.

EVERYTHING (WELL, NOT REALLY) WRONG WITH THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

1. Ultron Kind Of Sucked As A Villainultron

Let’s be honest here for a second. Ultron really was a blow-hard of a villain. I’m sure I could think of a ton of other A.I. in film who are way more terrifying antagonists than Ultron. Have you even seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? Wait, you haven’t? Really? REALLY?? Get out of here.

Ahem.

Anyway, he wasn’t that great, and I think I know why. To me, Ultron was kind of all over the place as a character. When we first see him, he doesn’t understand what he sees or what he is, but he quickly understand what his resolve is (i.e. destroy the Avengers).

Remember that scene when he crashes the Avengers’ little get together? That was one of the most resonating scenes of the whole movie. That is the moment where Ultron truly felt like a villain, and he was terrifying.

Fast forward four or five minutes, and now he is ten feet tall and absolutely intimidating. Yet…he’s intimidating, and it’s because Ultron’s whole dynamic has changed. Now he’s whimsical and he cracks jokes. His entire being (literally!) has changed from that first scene.

But, BUT!” I hear you cry, “The reason Ultron is like that is to reflect his relationship to Tony Stark. You see, Ultron is merely a reflection of Stark’s recklessness, and that is personified through his humorous, albeit morbid persona!”

First off, you are a very elegant speaker.

Secondly, I could see that reasoning IF IT WAS EVER BROUGHT UP IN A MEANINGFUL WAY!

Sure there’s the scene where Ultron freaks out for being compared to Tony Stark (which was actually a good scene), and Scarlet Witch makes an off-handed comment about Ultron being like Tony Stark…but, that’s it.

THAT’S IT.

The parallelism is a moot point if it doesn’t ever have any substantial impact on the story.

Which it doesn’t.

Not even a little.

If the movie had developed on these ideas, it would have made Ultron a stronger character. Reversely, if they had kept him cold and ruthless, that also would have made him a stronger character. The Ultron we got is kind of wishy-washy and his motivations are just a bit too vague.

I will say, though, when we says the little “no strings on me” poem, that’s creepy. And awesome.

2. The Character Development Kind Of Sucked, Too

Black Widow and Hulk's relationship is interesting and believable, though it does kind of tarnish our image of Black Widow.
Black Widow and Hulk’s relationship is interesting and believable, though it does kind of tarnish our image of Black Widow.

I understand that in a canon universe like this your characters can’t radically change. More or less the characters have to be the same personality wise.

But, that doesn’t mean they can’t learn something.

Like…say for example, maybe you shouldn’t rush into building hyper-advanced A.I. that may or may not try to destroy the world. But, I mean, that’s just one example.

That’s also not saying there wasn’t any character development at all. I really liked the dynamic forming between Bruce Banner and Black Widow. It was a romance that I actually found rather believable. But…that was it, really. No one else changed.

Captain America didn’t learn anything.

Tony Stark didn’t learn anything.

The Hulk realizes things he already knows (i.e. he’s a monster that is very difficult to contain).

No one changes in this movie whatsoever (unless you count dying as a character change).

The only person who seems to be a little different is Black Widow, and it’s not even a good change. It just seems like in this movie, as a clear symbol of feminism and the power of women, Black Widow was significantly weaker in this movie. It’s not necessarily because she falls for Bruce Banner, but rather some of the implications that come with it.

Remember the scene during the climax where Black Widow is freed by Bruce Banner? What does she say? She doesn’t say “Let’s kick some robot ass.”

She says “Go be a hero.”

As if she isn’t one.

As if only men can be heroes.

(A side note, kudos to my best friend Mac for pointing this out to me.)

As a character who has regularly taken an active role in these movies, especially during fights, this is totally against her character and what she stands for.

And don’t even get me started on the part where they start talking about having a family.

You know, because that’s all women want when they fall in love: a farmhouse and three kids. Nothing else. Not ever.

*vomit*

3. Now That I Think About It, The Action Kind Of Sucked Too

The highlight of an un-inspired, borderline pointless action sequence.
The highlight of an un-inspired, borderline pointless action sequence.

Well, it didn’t suck necessarily. It just…wasn’t amazing. It looked very nice and cool things happened, but it wasn’t something new. We’ve seen fight scenes like that before in these movies. Oh, there was a giant army of robots at the end of the movie? Too bad no one has experience fighting robots.

Oh, wait.

*Re-watches Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3.*

THEY’VE TOTALLY DONE THAT BEFORE!

But they’ve never had to save the whole world before. Wait.

*Watches Avengers for the ten millionth time.*

THEY DID THAT TOO!!

This movie literally brings nothing new to the table. Well, it introduced The Vision, and that was basically the only perfect thing about the movie. They nailed that character. Bravo.

But, yeah. Nothing else. Remember when Marvel Studios and Disney took a risk and made Guardians of the Galaxy? Remember how crazy awesome that movie was?

Yeah, Age of Ultron isn’t anything like that.

It just wasn’t creative enough, which is sad because I know how creative Joss Whedon can be.

ANYWAY…

I was just disappointed. That’s all. I can honestly say I have Prometheus syndrome (that nasty disease where the trailer for the movie is actually better than the movie) from Age of Ultron. Maybe it’s my fault though. I was honestly expected more of a character movie. I thought, as the in-between movie, it would take some time to develop some issues among the cast. I thought it would touch on more personal issues that they may not have time for in the real end of the world showdown that will be Avengers 3. So maybe it’s my fault I didn’t enjoy the movie as much.

I also thought they would touch on the ideas that will show up in Captain America: Civil War. They didn’t do that either, but I can see how the events of this movie will lead into that conflict. Anyway, it’s not my favorite Marvel movie, but it’s still not bad.

Until next time!

Writing Effective Horror (i.e. Scaring The Crap Out of People)

As my last post (from oh…two or three months ago) suggested, I have been working on a novella. I won’t divulge the plot or the title yet because it isn’t quite finished. However I would like to talk about it for a little bit. Without giving too much away, it is a horror story. It’s an old-fashioned monster romp, but I am also trying to put a huge emphasis on the emotional factor (which is obviously the key to writing a legitimately good story). All of this being said, I’m afraid that the story thus far isn’t doing what I want it to do most.

I’m afraid it isn’t scary.

Despite my emphasis on character development and motivation, as well as my natural desire to make some sections artsy and hopelessly pretentious, what I want most from the story is for the story to frighten. I want people to lie awake at night, too afraid to close their eyes because my monsters have invaded their imagination.

(After typing that, I realize that’s kind of fucked up.  “Yes,” I say to myself, “Let me into your mind.  Your thoughts are so succulent, and I am so very, very hungry for them.”

I might have problems.)

Anyway, after thinking on this for weeks, I have developed a short list of things that I think are absolute musts in creating an effective horror story. So buckle up, kids. And bring a fresh pair of underpants cause we are talking about the most effective ways to scare the shit out of people.

THE THREE SIMPLE RULES OF WRITING HORROR

1. Write About People, Not Sacks Of Meat Waiting To Be Murdered

If you want to write good horror than you need to write about people and their predicaments (No not real people you, nit. But if there is someone you have a particular distaste for, don’t be afraid to model a character after them). Characters drive story, and they are the conduit readers use to engage themselves in the story. Horror is not an exception this formula. Many writers, at least the knows I know, sacrifice characterization for shock value, and it doesn’t work. Characters aren’t walking sacks of meat waiting to be torn to shreds. They are people with real world problems and real world motivations. If you want to scare readers, you need them to care about the characters and what is happening to them.

I recently read Revival by Stephen King, and I feel it is a good example of this idea. While it wasn’t my favorite King story, I felt the characters he created in the book were real and authentic. By having those real characters, the actual events of the story had weight: value. When you create authentic and believable characters like the ones in Revival, you are setting the stage to deliver some hardcore scares, and that’s what you want more than anything.

2. Don’t Always Scare

There is more to horror than the jump scares and big events, and horror writers would be wise not to overlook them. By focusing on scenes with little to no horror in them, you can focus primarily on character development. It will also give you a chance to set up more insights into the world of the story, and (if needed) provide some exposition.

More importantly, though, it will give you the chance not to scare your reader. Remember when you started watching Dexter and you were horrified by the amount of blood and dead bodies? But, as the show went, you got used to it and the show suddenly became less interesting?

(Is that why the show sucks? Because I became desensitized to the violence? Or was it the bad writing? Or the dumb character arcs? Or the uninteresting story? Eh, this is all stuff for a later day. Just roll with it for now.)

It’s because you got used to it. The violence didn’t bother you anymore because you saw it so much, so its inherent value became lost. The same is true for horror. If you want your horror to be effective, you need to know when to scare, and when not to.

This is another thing Revival did right. When I really think about it, there were only a handful of moments that were genuinely frightening in the book. These moments, for the most part, were effective because there were so few of them. King spent so much time talking about the characters and their lives that when something actually happened it had that much more punch to it. Which leads us to the final point…

3. When It Comes To Scares, Don’t Hold Back

Don’t pull any punches when the big moments finally arrive. When shit hits the fan, make sure you use every violent, gruesome, gut-wrenching, gag-inducing sentence you can. Leave no word unsaid, because this is the moment. This is everything the reader has been anticipating since the story began. And if you don’t deliver on this one thing, your whole story will suffer and you will lose the reader. Push the absolute limits of what can be said, at least in your first draft. It will be much easier to tone it down than ramp it up.

This is something Revival failed on, in my opinion. The book had these incredible characterizations, beautiful storytelling, and well-paced scares. But, when it came to the big moment it fell flat on its face. I mean, sure, the last moment was frightening, but not enough. It didn’t justify the wait the reader went through to get to it. If King had gone just a bit further, described a bit more, it could have been a truly awesome moment. It could have been one of the most horrific pieces I have ever read. But, because it didn’t go far enough, I can only call it pretty scary rather than immensely terrifying.

Learn from this. It’s better to make it too big, and have to bring it back. It’s much harder to add more to what is already there. So let the little psychopath in you flourish, and make your work as bloody and frightening as possible when the time comes for it.

That’s it for this week. Perhaps next week I’ll discuss more on what I liked/disliked about Revival. Or maybe I will complain more about Dexter (trust me, there is plenty to talk about). Either way, it’s sure to be a grand old time. Make sure you come back.

What are your thoughts on horror? Do you write it? Do you even like it? What do you think makes an effective horror story? Let’s chat about it in the comments.

Fresh Starts All Around

You may recognize me (and my strange writings) from the other Caleb Clark blog, well it’s because we’re the same person (PLOT TWIST!!).  In short, because I don’t feel like explaining, I needed to create a new blog.  It’s a fresh start, and you’ll notice a few new things.  Namely, there is a page fully dedicated to TechVise, the tech blog I write for on a weekly basis.  There is also a fiction page to help promote my ebooks and other fiction avenues.  There is also a services page, where potential clients are more than welcome to check out my portfolio and samples.  All of this is under construction as of now, and will be for the next few days.  Also, expect weekly posts every Monday at 12 PM Eastern time.  Yeah, I’m getting consistent with this shit.  Other than that…myah.  It’s gonna be a good time.  Next week I will talk about my shiny new novella I’m working on.  I might also bitch about politics, or books, or whatever I feel like at the time.  It’s gonna be the same weird-ass stuff as before, except this time I’m sporting my author name (I find the abbreviated middle name very striking.  It makes me sound important).  Until next week!