Nux: The Engine of Change

Nux

If you haven’t seen Mad Max, this post is about specific plot points. Read at your own risk.

A lot has been made about Mad Max: Fury Road in the past couple of weeks. There has been a considerable amount of discussion concerning the film as it relates to feminist discourse. Many people are lauding or deriding George Miller for the story he has put on the screen. Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is an amazing character and has garnered a fair amount of attention from the viewing public. The thing that is most interesting, however, is that while the world focuses on the relationship between Furiosa and Max, it has failed to pay attention to the character who is the true heart of the film, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

It is imperative that in all fiction characters must change from the beginning to the end of the story. Without any changes, the character becomes flat and the whole tale becomes about as dull as watching paint dry. Mad Max: Fury Road is an excellent example of a film full of sound and fury, signifying almost nothing. If we pay close attention to the plot, Max and Furiosa race against Immortan Joe to get to The Green Place. Once they get to the desired location and find it to be a barren wasteland, they race back to their starting point. In the long run, neither of these characters change much. Both Max and Furiosa are protectors of the innocent and by the end of the film, they are still fulfilling their roles. Nux, on the other hand, is so much more.

When we first meet Nux, he is a member of the War Boys, a group of juvenile delinquents Immortan Joe has duped into fighting for him. Nux is incredibly ill from radiation poisoning and knows full well that he is going to die. His only desire is to, “die historic on a fury road!” Nux does not wish to die a wasting death while his friends are going out in a blaze of glory. Miller presents Nux as no more than a child when he fights with his best friend and lancer, Slit, over the wheel to his car. Nux doesn’t even have any really idea why he is going out to battle Furiosa, only knowing that she has stolen Immortan Joe’s property.

Now, let us consider that the only reason Max is in the film at all is because he is attached to Nux by a length of chain and tubing as an infusion bag. Nux actually brings Max along for the ride, and therefore is the impetus for the title character’s story.

Throughout the whole first half of the film, we see Nux doing everything in his power to please Immortan Joe, a man he seems to worship to the level of a god. Yet, he cannot seem to do anything other than fail. Time and time again, Nux is given the opportunity to win glory in the eyes of his would be god, but he can never seem to make the leap from War Boy to legend. It is only when he fails at his task in front of Immortan Joe that Nux begins to truly become a man.

The next time we see Nux, he is busy pounding his head on the floor of Furiosas truck, lamenting how he has failed the great Immortan Joe. He has lost all value in his mind, as he knows he has been abandoned by his god. He is found by Capable (Riley Keough) who manages to talk him off of his ledge. It is in that moment where Nux realizes both the value of life and the level of evil Immortan Joe is capable of. This change of heart is what makes Nux the true center of the film.

As the story continues, the audience is given glimpses of Nux doing anything within his power to preserve the lives of his traveling companions. More than once, he risks life and limb to make sure that everyone else makes it to their final destination. He has abandoned his worship of Immortan Joe and become a man who thinks for himself. From this point forward, Nux spends most of the film making sure that the truck, which is so integral to survival, keeps running at peak levels. He is the one who gets it out of the mud, he is the one who properly stokes the fire, he is the one who fixes the engine when Max blows it out.

As if all of this were not enough, Nux is the member of the traveling group to make the ultimate sacrifice, overturning the truck and saving the rest of the characters. We know from the outset of the film that Nux is going to die in a spectacular blaze of glory on The Fury Road, but what we do not know is how. At the beginning of the film, it is easy to root his death. He is a fool, incapable of independent thought. He functions only as comic relief, an idiot who sees no value in human life. By the time of his death however, he has become so much more. Miller has designed Nux’s story line perfectly so that the audience feels sadness at the loss of a young man who is finally coming into his own.

The brilliance of all of this is that George Miller even telegraphs the change in the character design. The War Boy’s as a whole are a relatively indistinguishable mass of bald, pale skinned cannon fodder. Not Nux though. Nux has one very defining feature, his scarification. Raised on his chest, as though carved with a jagged knife, is an engine block. As we all know, the engine is the heart and soul of a car. It burns the gasoline, and keeps the parts moving. Without the engine, a car is nothing more than a shell of itself, a few thousand pounds of worthless metal.

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In Defense: Halloween (Rob Zombie)

I was not planing on writing this piece so soon but it would appear that Michael Bay has forced my hand. It was announced today that Bay and his production company Platinum Dunes will be taking over the Halloween reboot franchise. So for those of you out there who did not care for Rob Zombie’s remake of the John Carpenter classic, I hope you can prepare yourselves for what is about to come. Gigantic sweeping shots of Michael Myers walking through the forest, dressed in an Adidas track suit, while brandishing only Henckels kitchen knives and Craftsman tools. Why must Michael Bay take things I love and destroy them? Now that I have that out of my system, I think I am capable of continuing on and discussing why I liked Zombie’s Halloween.

It seems to me that a lot of people got hung up on a few things with the remake. First and foremost, there really wasn’t a need to remake Halloween, it is a classic for a reason. As we all know though, Hollywood as a whole has run out of original ideas for the most part. It has become increasingly common to just recycle what worked before. I have, for a long time thought that this is a foolish idea. If you are going to try to improve upon something, it should be something that requires improvement in the first place. Why spend money remaking Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left? The short answer is, because some executive is attempting to line his pockets. So, in 2007 the world saw the release of Halloween and the reviews were not good. Currently, the film holds a rating of 24% on Rotten Tomatoes, leaving it far from fresh.

A considerable amount of the problem stems from people comparing this film to the orignal. I know that it is hard not to but shouldn’t every film be judged on its own merits, rather than being held up in comparison to something else. Sure, the film holds its foundation in Carpenters work but Zombie wasn’t trying to make a shot for shot identical remake of the old Halloween. There would simply be no point to doing that. Zombie had a unique vision of what this tale should be and he was not afraid to make the film the way he wanted.

When the movie opens, the viewer is treated to life in the Myers house. Poor Michael has been growing up in a world where his father figure is an abusive drunk, his older sister is the high school slut and the only love he gets is from his stripper mom and his baby sister Boo. Clearly there are problems with this child. He is often closed of and prefers to spend his life hiding behind a mask instead of confronting the world head on. The opening that Zombie created helps to give the viewer some sort of emotional connection to Myers. It is impossible to ever fully side with this character, but the idea that we can feel something, even if it is the smallest amount of pity is worth hanging on to.

Tyler Mane should be commended for his work as the grown Myers. There are moments in this film where the imposing 6’9″ Mane somehow manages to show emotion, even though he never utters a word. As an adult, Myers seems to have almost completely shut off from the world. It seems the only thing that he understands is killing. Zombie did manage to fit in small moments where Myers pauses to think about what he is doing. Mane’s entire body language changes at these moments. It is made clear that he is incapable of coming to the necessary human conclusion that murder is wrong but this movie should be commended for making it clear that Myers is not a machine or a monster. Somewhere, buried deep down inside is a human being, one struggling to surface.

All of the actors do a good job in this film. Filled with a cast of Zombie’s regulars, there isn’t a poor performance in the whole thing. The best work belongs to Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis. This incarnation of Loomis is a deeply twisted man. He is driven by a desire for fame, more than a desire to help. From the moment Myers is dropped off at the asylum, it is made clear that Loomis is less interested in curing the boy than he is in having an interesting case study published in a medical journal. The most impressive part of this performance is that McDowell makes it clear that Loomis has convinced even himself he is trying to help.

Zombie’s films have a style that is all their own. They have a grainy look to them that adds to the dark atmosphere of the subject matter. He is very careful about what he does and does not show. I would actually go so far as to say that of all of the horror directors working today, Zombie is easily at the top of the heap. He puts together a compelling story that has some interesting twists and turns. If a viewer were to look at this film as its own entity instead of as a remake, it would be much better. The problem comes when comparisons are made to one of the most beloved horror films of all time.

This version of Halloween fits in perfectly with the film world Zombie has created for himself in movies like The House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. All of his work is hard and brutal but at the same time there is a very dark humor to it. There is also a level of humanity which is often overlooked by reviewers. All three of these films are about the strength of family. Admittadly. they are really messed up families but there is a level of love between the characters in his films.

So before we are treated to a world by Michael Bay, where all characters wear only Nike shoes and drink only Coca Cola; I urge you all to take a look at Zombie’s Halloween. Try not to compare to the old film. Just sit back and enjoy. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. Why this was not released in October, I will never understand.