|Scene from Mad Max: Fury Road|
Welcome to a weekly column called Theory Thursdays, which will be released every Thursday and discuss my "controversial opinion" related to something relative to the week of release. Sometimes it will be birthdays while others is current events or a new film release. Whatever the case may be, this is a personal defense for why I disagree with the general opinion and hope to convince you of the same. While I don't expect you to be on my side, I do hope for a rational argument. After all, film is a subjective medium and this is merely just a theory that can be proven either way.
Subject: Awards season is giving Mad Max: Fury Road a new life.
Theory: Coma the Doof Warrior is the film's worst character.
If there's one film likely to receive incessant love from this year, it's director George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road. For many, it is a towering achievement in the action genre - choosing to focus on the action instead of meaningless drama. It's a film so rich and aggressive that you'll be surprised to know that Miller was 70-years old; which makes almost every other action film by a director half of his age seem a little embarrassing. Of course, Miller has always had that wild spirit, going back to the original Mad Max films with Mel Gibson in the lead. They have all existed in a universe full of insanity and energy that is unlike anything its American counterparts have offered. Before this, Mad Max: The Road Warrior was considered the franchise's best film. However, there's many arguing that Fury Road is the new high point. It may be.
There's a lot to admire about Fury Road. It's a wild production with a lot of nonsense used in clever ways. There's whole tribes of strange-looking characters running around the desert in a homicidal version of Wacky Races. At the center is Max, this time played by Tom Hardy, as he escapes imprisonment to meet up with what has become a feminist prototype named Furiosa (Charlize Theron). The film is intense and beautiful, with many considering it a work of art. Even as it receives Golden Globe nominations, it's astounding to think that a film like this stands any chance of being recognized. Thankfully, it has. It's pure adrenaline where the action is the story telling and the stunts are thrown in for fun. There's a lot that I personally admire about the film, but there's one thing that's always bothered me about it. I personally don't like Coma the Doof Warrior one bit.
This seems like a controversial statement considering how much acclaim this character has gotten. Even Conan O'Brien rode to Comic Con while dressed as the guitar-playing man who leads the charge for Imortan Joe across the desert. In theory, he offers very little to the plot beyond his guitar playing. Yet somehow the idea of a man dangling from the back of a truck as he plays in front of loud speakers has clouded people to the idea that he's a cool character. Yes, there's immediate iconography to him. He's nonsensical in the way that the whole film is. However, there's something at his core that bothers me beyond his novelty purpose. It isn't that he's inessential to a lot of the action. His guitar playing ushers the siren call for Imortan Joe's crew. It's not even that his guitar shoots fire. It's that it bothers me on a laziness factor.
The fact of the matter is that I like Mad Max: Fury Road's score by Junkie XL. I think that it does an excellent job of setting up the energy necessary to believe the scenes. The opening scene in which Max is escaping the prison is insane brilliance. I like how it impacts the atmosphere as they drives across the desert. Everything about the score is fine. It's more that I find issue with Coma the Doof Warrior because comparatively, he is not a proficient player. He is just some lousy guitar player strapped to the side of a vehicle and blaring sporadic notes that may be in 4/4 beat time, but definitely don't serve as any major rallying cry. It's just generic and bland metal music that lacks any purpose to the scenes. Of course, the only real catch is that it's a man strapped to the side of a vehicle with a flame thrower guitar. That's cool, right? Maybe.
I find his playing too distracting because it feels like an afterthought. Maybe that is the point of Coma. Maybe the bad guy isn't supposed to have a great soundtrack. But don't take it out on the audience. If you're going to play repetitive melodies, at least make them sound good. I am not even going to argue the physics of this scene, as it would be too much of a nitpick. My whole problem is found in Coma's playing, which has little melody and quickly grows repetitive and dull. There's a reason that it cuts back to Junkie XL's score more often than not. It's far more interesting. Even the drummers on the back of the truck, who arguably have less of a melodic range to deal with, are doing something more interesting than Coma. Coma is just a neurotic person created because the idea sounded cool.
I am not expecting him to play Bach or Mozart, but I would want to imagine that the bad guys would've hired someone with far more proficiency to make rallying cries. The idea is cool, but I cannot get over how dull, occasionally lacking synchronicity, and uninspired those melodies are. It may be easy to get lost in other aspects of the film, but the love that Coma has gotten has been a little baffling to me. Maybe we don't love him as much as Furiosa, The War Boys, Imortan Joe, or (at some point) Max, but the fact that people have good things to say about him is baffling. He's not a good guitar player. Considering how much effort was put into stunts and atmospheric score, I am not excusing a mediocre guitar player from being a weak link in an otherwise highly enjoyable film.
I know that this is a controversial view, and one that you may not share. As a musician, small things like these do bother me more than the average viewer. I am more attune to bad playing and dull melodies. They bother me more than they should. It's been something that's essentially bothered me each time I've sat down and watched this movie because it doesn't feel as realized as much as even Imortan Joe spraying people "shiny and chrome." I feel like if someone took an extra step to make Coma the Doof Warrior's playing as proficient as everything else with the rigs, then maybe he would be cool. Instead, he strikes me as a flailing, neurotic idea that was too cool to scrap but too problematic to fix. I get if you buy into his novelty, but he's definitely not my favorite from Mad Max: Fury Road. That's likely, as everyone else seems to be, Furiosa.