Reviews

‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ is a Wild Ride Through the Wasteland

furiosa movie review

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a visually stunning yet narratively turbulent prequel, a vivid exploration of a world where mythic chaos reigns supreme.

It’s been 45 years since George Miller first brought us onto the high-octane roads of Mad Max, and the Australian post-apocalypse, where marauders and madness reign supreme. It’s a film that in some ways he’s been remaking again and again, generally to our delight. And again we find ourselves strapped in for a wild ride through the wasteland in the deepest exploration of Miller’s creative sandpit yet.

The Mad Max franchise is a unique specimen in the Hollywood landscape; a franchise not born out of adaptation but experimentation, all helmed by the same director who has always viewed these films as exercises in mythic and visual storytelling. In 2015, we got Fury Road, the thirty-year, much delayed, reintroduction into that madcap world to astonishing success, including best picture and best director nods and winning best editing for Margaret Sixel. Fury Road became instantly iconic; the War Boys, the War Rig, the Doof Warrior, Immortan Joe and his wives, the firestorm desert and, of course, our titular hero, the one-armed heroine, Furiosa.

furiosa movie review

We begin as a young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) is stolen away from The Green Place. Her mother, Mary (Charlee Fraser), grabs a motorcycle and fervently gives chase, both to save her daughter and silence those that stumbled upon their hidden paradise. Although they manage to keep the secret of their home safe, Mary is killed and Furiosa is taken into slavery by Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), a grinning Genghis Khan-like warlord. Dementus and his disciples roam the desert, gobbling up smaller gangs into his tremendous bikie horde.

Searching for this place of prosperity where the young mute girl is from, the Warlord thinks he’s found it when they stumble upon a dying War Boy who speaks of his glorious home, the Citadel. With that bit of hometown pride, Dementus believes he’s found his crowning jewel. It’s here that we dive into the feudal fighting of warlords as Dementus clashes with Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) and The People Eater (John Howard) and Furiosa escapes out of slavery into the oil-stained shadows of The Citadel. Years pass and Furiosa (Now played by Anya Taylor-Joy) has been working as a mechanic. It is here and during a failed escape attempt that she falls in love with the man in the driver seat she will one day inherit. She then inches towards a place where she can finally break free of this hellscape, claim her revenge on the man who killed her mother, and find her way back home.

furiosa movie review

Although Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga may at first feel a bit like an afterthought or a cash grab, it was announced in 2010, with the intention being that it would have been filmed alongside Fury Road and released shortly after. It is now nine years after Fury Road, and we have received a very different film, for better and for worse. The scope of Furiosa is mythic, painted in broad strokes that gives us some incredibly memorable images (almost all of which are in the trailers) but unfortunately the film moves through so much time (decades) that we never really get let into our main character. She remains stoic and largely nonspeaking for the vast majority of the film, and only opens up when talking about home or seeking her revenge.

George Miller has always been heavily inspired by silent films when it comes to Mad Max. Fury Road itself was story boarded long before it was scripted (much to the chagrin of Tom Hardy), the visuals and the action set-pieces and the propulsion of it all came first, which leaves that film buzzing with life. Furiosa, on the other hand, takes place over decades of time with bickering politics that brings it a little too close to the Phantom Menace than you would hope. The dialogue, although not as bad as sand being rough, does wander into the strange, heightened sphere, more noticeable than its predecessors. The dialogue has never been a strong point in these movies, it’s served as world-building and Aussie flavour (“Fang it!”) but here there is a desperate lack of electricity in its pacing, and so it feels like the film is filled to the brim with unnecessary chatter.

furiosa movie review

A missed opportunity is Immortan Joe’s wives, who are the living, breathing Macguffins of the first film. It’s strange that they are given even less dimension here and are presented as a tableau that we never get close to, and neither does Furiosa. So strange is it that when we come to the end of the film, she’s ready to risk so much by getting these women out, you’re left wondering why.

I was surprised just how long it takes us before Anya Taylor-Joy appears on-screen. It is not time wasted; Alyla Browne plays young Furioisa, and she is a joy to watch. There is some AI face mixing used throughout to bring Browne closer to Taylor-Joy’s face, it’s a little unnerving but effectively done. Browne has already appeared in a handful of projects (Mr Inbetween, Perfect Strangers), and hopefully more action to come because she has some Tom Cruise-level cinematic running in the first twenty minutes of the film.

furiosa movie review

Hemsworth is having a lot of fun in the film, grinning like a big sinister kid, but even his prosthetic nose can’t disguise the clean sheen he carries over from the Marvel movies. There just is never enough menace for him to be a better villain, and never enough chaos to make him feel dangerously unpredictable. Hemsworth is affable though, and you never mind watching him in the wasteland, it’s just hard not to imagine another, more unknown performer, bringing more danger to the villain.

When Anya Taylor-Joy takes over she lets those big eyes of hers do the leading, as she blasts through the rest of the movie in full action star mode, climbing, running, shooting, diving, screaming. Whenever she does speak, there is some dissonance between her voice and the voice of Charlize Theron that plays in your head, but strange amalgam accents are not new in this world (Tom Hardy stands tall here).

furiosa movie review

Fury Road’s director of photography John Seale (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Three Thousand Years of Longing) didn’t desire to come back to the wasteland and has been replaced with Simon Duggan, who brings a starkly different lens to the prequel. Coming from a long line of fun but goofier Hollywood fodder (Underworld Evolution, I, Robot, Warcraft), the vastness of the desert feels reduced and much more claustrophobic. It all feels cleaner than it should, almost like this is a video game prequel or a Marvel movie.

Thankfully, unlike a Marvel movie, it’s the third act where the film hits the gas and doesn’t let up until the final frame. It’s here that the action is at its best, the performances their strongest, and the energy at the highest octane. The ending leaves you on a high that few Hollywood films can manage these days, giving us weirdness, violence, and true madness that has come from one of the most unique mainstream directors of the last 50 years.

There is undoubtedly a disappointment in Furiosa when compared to its predecessor. It’s an impossibly high bar that no film should go against, and I wish I could take the film on its own merits, but as a prequel, it’s difficult to begin with. As the credits roll and a montage clip show of Fury Road plays, it’s all but an impossible task.

Fun Fact:

Filmed in New South Wales, Australia. All Mad Max movies have been filmed in Australia, with the exception of Fury Road, when record rain falls transformed the normally arid desert areas into lush green growth areas.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga spins the wheels back into George Miller’s dystopian world with high visual flair and a mythic scope.
Story
60
Characters
60
Performances
70
Direction
70
Entertainment Value
65
65
4 posts

About author
Oscar Jack has been living and writing in Naarm since 2018. When he’s not watching trash horror on cheap Tuesday at the cinema, he’s attending Cinémathèque at ACMI; a lover of the high and deliciously low brow. Desert Island movie collection: The films of John Carpenter.
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