Earlier this year, George Miller captivated audiences by revisiting his dystopian universe in which the Road Warrior, Mad Max, rampages across the wastelands of the old world in a never ending fight for survival and meaning. Tom Hardy, who had been cast as the heir to the role Mel Gibson made famous, captured the torment and grit of Miller’s character perfectly, but the movie introduced us to a new character the likes of which Miller had never tackled in any of his previous “Max” adventures. From the moment she appeared on screen, Charlize Theron stole the show as Imperator Furiosa. In a film described s everything from “visionary” to “feminist propaganda”, Furiosa was a powerhouse the likes of which I hadn’t seen in some time. Credit is due in large part to Theron for being a world-class actress, and the rest goes to George Miller and the writing staff for crafting such a special character. Perhaps the best affirmation for the character was the media and moviegoers response to Furiosa, with Theron receiving nearly unanimous praise. After seeing the movie in theaters a modest three times, I was admittedly awe struck by nearly every aspect of the film, saving my strongest reverence for Theron as Furiosa.
With the abundant adulation surrounding the Furiosa character, I began to recall another strong female character from my childhood. Furiosa was trumpeted as a “feminist icon” and a “hero for our age”; while I don’t necessarily disagree, it made me question if moviegoers had forgotten about the most bad ass female in film of all time, Ellen Ripley. That’s right! Before Furiosa, before the Mother of Dragons, Beatrix Kiddo, or even the mother of the rebellion herself Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley reigned supreme. What’s not to love about Ripley? She’s a blue collar, single mother who has serious issues with authority, and perhaps the strongest survival instincts of all time. Not to mention she single-handedly stopped a potential xenomorph outbreak on 4 separate occasions. Parasitic, acid bleeding aliens were not the only obstacles Ripley overcame. Corporate greed, military ineptitude, and even being trapped in a British prison movie set in space could not slow her down and time and time again she rose to the occasion.
Now I’m not saying Ripley’s accomplishments overshadow Furiosa’s, after all there is plenty of space on the mantle for everyone’s trophies. All I’m suggesting is that before we hastily declare Furiosa as our new champion, perhaps we should revisit the greatest science fiction trilogy of all time (not Star Wars, shut up) and reflect on everything Ripley has done for us. Had Ripley existed in Miller’s universe, would the entire planet have been plunged into nuclear war? Its hard to say. Would Ripley have let Toecutter’s gang maul her family to death? My gut tells me no, but who can really know these things? All I can say is that Ripley is equal parts Jack Burton and Samus Aran, and Furiosa has only been featured in one film (and probably won’t be in a second one).
I should relax. This is beginning to feel personal and the truth is that I love both characters, albeit not equally. Ripley has cemented her legacy in the world of film, and hopefully Furiosa gets the chance to further establish hers. Fictionality aside, the world is surely big enough for two bald-headed women that would kick my ass as easily as a they would a xenomorph or war boy. To those who love Furiosa, but don’t know Ripley’s story, I suggest you add a couple Alien films to your Netflix queue. If you haven’t seen Theron’s performance in Mad Max: Fury Road, then I suggest you leave the rock you live under and buy the blu-ray when its released later this year. That’s all I have to say because it’s 3 A.M., and the 3 hour Director’s Cut of Aliens is not going to watch itself. Signing off…