When one thinks of post-apocalyptic car chases, sex slaves, and heavy metal one hardly ever thinks about feminism unless one is planning a feminist rant against one or several of those things. However, the new Mad Max film, the fourth installment in the Australian movie series, somehow includes all three of those things while passing the Bechdel test with flying colors. Mad Max: Fury Road weaves strong female characters effortlessly betwixt shots of a man playing a flamethrower guitar.

Let me repeat that: a flamethrower guitar.

Fury Road is a success in many ways: The main character (who, spoiler alert, isn’t Max) is a strong woman, who also happens to be disabled. Most of the special effects, including the guitar that doubles as a flamethrower and the various vehicles, are practical. And, most interesting to me, the writing is supreme.

Like the previous Mad Max films, Fury Road doesn’t hold itself to the three-act structure. The action starts before we are even properly introduced to any of the characters and just keeps on from there. This allows for only the slightest amount of exposition—the only explanation we get of the world is in the news clips in the very beginning with Max narrating a story of nuclear apocalypse over the grainy images. This leaves room for a subtler type of world building, of which good use is made. As an audience, we are expected to live within Max’s world from the opening title to the closing credits. That’s truly what Max’s function is: he is there to open his world to the audience and give them front row seats to the action, not necessarily star in that action.

Max’s function as both facilitator and spectator comes through in many ways. He does not ride in on his V8 Interceptor to save the day like a dirty, sweaty, leather-clad White Knight. Instead, he helps people help themselves and reluctantly, at that. That’s why Max doesn’t have much in the way of character development and hasn’t since his first film. His story has been told, and now he’s riding through the desert trying to merely survive. Unfortunately, he keeps running into people who are in the kind of trouble that his former police training could get them out of. He resists the urge to save people for as long as he can, but Max is a softie at heart. He just hides it under many layers of panicked, stressed grump. And a bit of desert dust. The characters Max helps are the ones who develop.

Fury Road has character development in spades, and not just for the main character, Furiosa. Secondary and even tertiary characters grow as individuals throughout the events of the movie. This, more than the attention to detail when building a truck made of stereos, makes the world of Mad Max seem real. And this is the kind of storytelling that many writers, like myself, can learn from.