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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review

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Photo of Anya Taylor-Joy

Anya Taylor-Joy

Warner Brothers Pictures

Rated: R

148 Minutes

Directed by: George Miller

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth


Furiosa Movie Poster

Great movie prequels don’t just give audiences more of their favorite characters, often played by younger actors. Instead, they explain how the characters and setting of the original movie came to be. The best movie prequel of all time is The Godfather: Part II. That film shows how Vito Corleone grew from a penniless but honest young man to a full-fledged gangster overseeing his own organization. Few people outside the studio probably thought The Godfather needed a prequel. Still, once Francis Ford Coppola made the movie, audiences realized how well it fit into the original’s underlying themes.

Similarly, no one seeing George Miller’s dazzling 2015 spectacular Mad Max: Fury Road lost sleep pondering the origins of Max’s sidekick Furiosa. However, we’re now in 2024, and Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga explains how Furiosa lost her arm and became the top driver for warlord  

Immortan Joe. It also helps viewers bridge the gap between our modern society and the World of Mad Max and delivers several of Miller's trademark pulse-pounding action set pieces. Unfortunately, like an Olympic gymnast who ends a spectacular routine by falling on her face, Furiosa fails to stick the ending in a listless final 20 minutes.

Furiosa begins about 15 years before the events in Mad Max: Fury Road. A young Furiosa (Ayla Browne) is kidnapped by a group of bandits from her home in a lush forested region of the otherwise arid wasteland. By the time they reach their home base, the bikers are all dead at the hands of Furiosa and her mother, who try to rescue her. The band’s leader, appropriately named Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), tortures the mother in a futile effort to learn the location of the family’s oasis home. When that fails, he keeps Furiosa captive for years, hoping she will talk one day.

Over the years, Dementus cements his power over the various biker gangs and turns them into an army. Dementus and his army take on the cliff-top Citadel fortress, the headquarters of the powerful warlord Immortan Joe (Lachly Hume). When Dementus realizes his forces can’t capture the Citadel, he retreats and, through a Trojan Horse-like ruse, captures the less heavily guarded fortress of Gastown. From there, he brokers a deal with Immortan Joe to exchange Gastown oil for Citadel food. He also throws Furiosa into the bargain. Eventually, the adult Furiosa (now played by Anya Taylor-Joy) helps save Joe’s best rig driver, Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), from an ambush while on a supply run to Gastown. She and Jack plan to return to her home someday, but all the while, Dementus is consolidating his power to allow him to conquer the entire wasteland.

Mad Max: Fury Road was essentially a two-house chase movie with occasional breaks for expository “refueling.” Some side exposition was intriguing, like Joe’s “wives,” who form the basis for the film’s storyline. Others pass by with almost no notice, like mentions of Gastown and the Bullet Farm. In Furiosa, George Miller and co-writer Nick Lathouris expand on these mentions and turn them into pieces of a coherent post-apocalyptic society. Miller began this world making with Mad Max in 1979, but Furiosa represents his most comprehensive effort in that regard. This is the first Mad Max movie I’ve seen in which I became invested in the societal backdrop. Furiosa has more exposition than action, but that’s a benefit, not a flaw.

Action fans don’t need to fret, however. Furiosa has its share of entertaining action and enormous body counts. The action starts with the opening chase sequence in which a sniper rifle dispatched Furiosa’s biker kidnappers from an extreme distance. The centerpiece is the lengthy chase in which Jack and Furiosa take on a horde of would-be hijackers in all sorts of motor vehicles and aircraft. This brilliantly choreographed sequence rivals the climactic showdown in the second Mad Max movie, “The Road Warrior.” George Miller has the added benefit today of CGI that wasn’t around in 1981. The stunts in “Furiosa” make judicious use of the technique to appear even more death-defying.

Mad Max movies have never had a great villain, but Chris Hemsworth as Dementus changes that. He’s not just evil but showy, charismatic, and clever. It’s easy for the audience to accept his rise to power. The screenplay also gives him occasional touches of humanity that explain his complex relationship with Furiosa. Hemsworth goes all-out here, even improving on his similar villainous turn in Bad Times at the El Royale. He’s the best reason to watch those portions of Furiosa without major action scenes.

Furiosa was an excellent movie for the first two hours. Unfortunately, the film went on for another half hour. The problem began when the script used a voiceover narrative by a secondary character to summarize years of story time in a confusing two-minute montage. When the narrative resumed, the landscape had changed so much that audiences would have difficulty getting back in the mood. (I’ve seen this technique used in low-budget movies that couldn’t afford to stage the set pieces they describe, but that shouldn’t have been a problem here.) Later, there was a final showdown between Furiosa and Dementus, but Miller handled it in the worst way possible.

If the projector in my theater broke at the two-hour mark, forcing me to leave, I would have given Furiosa the highest rating of any action film this year. The final product doesn’t rate quite that highly. It’s still a fascinating science fiction story with great action set pieces. I also appreciate the way the film ends literally moments before “Mad Max: Fury Road” begins (the best use of this narrative technique since Rogue One). The best way to watch Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is as the first part of a five-hour binge, following it with Fury Road. The strengths of the two movies complement each other, and the result is George Miller’s wildest ride yet.

This clip showcases some of the action with Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga:

Watch Mad Max on Amazon Prime Video:

Mad Max Streaming
Mad Max 2 The Road Warrior Streaming
Mad Max Fury Road Streaming

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