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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review

Furiosa is a more than worthy addition to the Mad Max franchise, which charts its own path separate from Fury Road.

PLOT: Stolen from her people as a child and forced to witness her mother’s execution, young Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) sets out on an epic quest for vengeance against the warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth).

REVIEW: George Miller’s Mad Max series contains not one but two of the most incredible action movies ever made. Sure, there’s Fury Road, but there’s also The Road Warrior. Both are masterpieces of their genre, so the bar has been set pretty high for Miller’s return to the Wasteland. The early reviews seem overly concerned that Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga isn’t a replay of Mad Mad: Fury Road, with it telling an epic, fifteen-year tale, the likes of which has never been attempted in the series before. From the 1979 original onward, all the movies told relatively compact stories, so Miller and co-writer Nico Lathouris deserve praise for doing something different. The inevitable tragedy of the early reactions to Furiosa is that they will be devoted to singling out what it isn’t while losing sight of what it is – a pretty incredible action odyssey told on a mammoth scale.

Furiosa is a terrific addition to the franchise in that it’s the perfect midway point between The Road Warrior and Fury Road (Beyond Thunderdome takes place later), in that society is still trying to rebuild itself somewhat, albeit in these desperate, warlord-ruled factions. Anya Taylor-Joy’s Furiosa comes from one of the few holdouts of a legit civilization not ruled by barbarity, and the world-building is superb. You feel like there’s more to this wasteland than just Max, even if you know he’s still out there lurking someplace. 

The film is more of an ensemble than the trailers suggest, with Anya Taylor-Joy only making her first appearance an hour into the movie. The first half is devoted to young Furiosa, played by Alyla Browne and how a child navigates this brutal world, with Chris Hemsworth as a surprisingly three-dimensional antagonist. He’s like the opposite side of the coin to Max in that, like him, he lost his family but allowed it to turn him into a psychopathic barbarian, while Max (mostly) held on to his humanity. This might be Hemsworth’s best performance, with him making Dementus charismatic enough that you know why desperate scavengers would rally behind him and maybe even see some nobility in his quest, in that he’s out for himself and what he can get in a world gone insane. 

Browne is striking as the quiet Furiosa, who keeps to herself and learns how to make herself somewhat invisible as she grows older. Anya Taylor-Joy, as the older version of the character, is excellent. She sounds almost exactly like Theron and shows us the rougher, more inexperienced, and unpolished youth she became before being moulded into the stoic heroine she became. 

One guy no one is really talking about in the reviews is Tom Burke, who’s probably best known for playing Orson Welles in David Fincher’s Mank. He plays a vital role as Jack, a driver for Immortan Joe (Lacey Hulme), who dreams of leading a virtuous life, even if he knows it’s impossible in the heartless Wasteland. He becomes Furiosa’s mentor and love interest, playing an essential role in her evolution in several ways. He teaches her to kill, but his heroic qualities rub off on her, too, setting the stage for the events of Fury Road. This is a great part for Burke, who’s never really gotten the chance to shine as an action star before. 

Everyone in Miller’s nightmarish odyssey is terrific, including Charlee Fraser, who plays a small but potent role as Furiosa’s warrior mother. Technically, the movie is impeccable with DP Simon Duggan shooting the film so that it looks as much like John Seale’s Fury Road work as possible, while Junkie XL contributes another hard driving score.

The action and pace of Furiosa are different than Fury Road, as this isn’t a chase film, but there’s one major action sequence involving Jack and Furiosa on the War Rig that goes toe-to-toe with anything in the other movies. Miller also shoots the film in a way that emphasizes visual storytelling, helped by how expressive Taylor-Joy is, with a lot going on behind those eyes at all times, making her an ideal lead for this kind of movie-making. The dialogue is so sparse at times that I’d be curious to see a silent cut (similar to the Black and Chrome cut of Fury Road) that tells the film entirely with visuals; I imagine it would work well, with Miller perhaps our last true master of purely visual storytelling. 

Hopefully, Miller isn’t done with The Wasteland because he leaves enough threads dangling that there’s likely more story to be told. Some will be disappointed that Furiosa depends more on CGI than the other Mad Max movies did, but sadly, I think Fury Road might have been the last of its kind for many reasons. Even still, Miller’s made this a tactile, visceral experience that drives home the point that at seventy-nine, he’s still a master of his craft and making movies directors forty years his junior wouldn’t have the energy or skill to tackle. It’s not Fury Road, but Furiosa is still pretty damn amazing. 

Furiosa, action, Anya Taylor-Joy

9

9

Viewer Ratings (1 review)

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/furiosa-a-mad-max-saga-review/

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