Review – Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

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Overview

Synopsis A young girl is stolen from her idyllic paradise in the wasteland and begins a journey of revenge that will allow her the opportunity to return to her people.

Length 2 hours, 28 minutes

Release Date May 24, 2024

 

Rating R

Distribution Warner Bros.

Directing George Miller

Writing George Miller, Nico Lathouris

Composition Tom Holkenborg

Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, Alyla Browne

It is hard to imagine that it’s been nearly a decade since Mad Max: Fury Road hit cinemas. The cinematic surprise of the decade was released as a late-career passion project from the legendary director of Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City and somehow became the most critically acclaimed action movie since The Matrix.

It had its critics and naysayers, but the movie has survived the claims that say it’s overrated and continues to be a wonderful gem of perfectly executed action. It’s pure cinema, perfectly motivated, beautifully captured, and conjured from one of film history’s most intense and adversely troubled productions. And yet, it became a perfect version of what it wanted to be. It was one of the purest works of cinema since the decline of the silent film era when clowns like Buster Keaton mastered the art of movement and physicality in celluloid.

The road to its sequel has proven far more fraught. After the first movie, director George Miller entered litigation with Warner Brothers over unpaid residuals, resulting in a six-year legal battle that indefinitely delayed its planned sequel. In the interim, Miller also directed the middling fantasy drama Three Thousand Years of Longing, delaying the film further.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: R-rated violence, gore, murder, and blood.
Language/Crude Humor: Some heavy language.
Drug/Alcohol References: None.
Sexual Content: One implied scene of pedophilia, but no nudity or sexuality is depicted.
Spiritual Content: Some of the characters subscribe to Norse religion and are willing to die for their ruler.
Other Negative Content: Frequent nihilistic philosophizing and brutal depictions of human violence.
Positive Content: Themes of mercy, hope, love, and strength.

Review

After nine years, the long-awaited sequel to Mad Max: Fury Road has hit theaters. Unfortunately, its lengthy development cycle hasn’t served to make the film the masterpiece its predecessor was. It’s still very good, maybe even excellent, but the lengthy anticipation and high expectations leave the film feeling slower, lazier, and less focused than Mad Max: Fury Road.

Thankfully, the movie we do get is still remarkable. It is a brilliantly creative and energetic work of epic filmmaking that takes the time to dig into the setting of the first movie more comprehensively, crafting stories and set pieces for the world we saw in passing a decade ago. And thanks to some excellent execution, it doesn’t feel like a retread.

One of the original common criticisms of Mad Max: Fury Road was that it focused more on its side characters than its titular character. This was par for the course for the original Mad Max movies, but they had long since declined in the public memory enough to be forgotten. Seemingly taking the criticism to heart, Miller’s return to the wasteland has solved this problem by flipping the script.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a prequel and origin story that explores the life of a young Furiosa before becoming Immortan Joe’s most trusted warrior. While it is filled with references and Easter eggs for its predecessor, it’s still a film focused on telling its own original story and filling it with as much ambition as possible.

The film is set across fifteen years, with a young Furiosa being abducted from her home in “the Green Place” by raiders. Wanting vengeance against the men who killed her mother and an opportunity to flee back to her abundant homeland, she works to ingratiate herself into the factions of the wasteland, getting caught in a lengthy war between the three great fortresses and a wannabe populist revolutionary who wants to seize power.

Furiosa is a wildly ambitious film, being told over such a massive timeline and introducing multiple original characters while finding ways to reintroduce many of the original film’s villains as younger men. Frustratingly, it loses the core drive and energy of its predecessor by breaking up its story. The original film was just a two-hour unbroken chase scene that needed to maintain its energy consistently. This film is Ben Hur set against the post-apocalypse, and it’s constantly slowing down to let its characters breathe and soak in the brutality and insanity of its world—even if doing so makes the clunky dialogue and heavy-handed themes more noticeable.

Among the film’s best original ideas is the character of Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack. Being Furiosa’s predecessor as the driver of the war rig, he forms an emotional bond with the young woman when he recognizes her skill and drive. He even offers to train her and give her the resources to escape her situation. The film’s most unanimously lauded feature though is Chris Hemsworth as Dementus, a cruel warlord with delusions of grandeur who rides across the wasteland on a chariot and proclaims himself a liberator, while simultaneously killing his men and committing cannibalism.

He makes for an interesting thematic counterpoint to the ideas explored in Mad Max: Fury Road—where the citadel symbolized the brutal realities of patriarchy, religion, and capitalism, and how self-sacrifice and egalitarianism allowed for society to be restored to a just state. Dementus might think he’s a revolutionary, marching under red banners, but he’s more of a Stalin-esque thug than a true believer.

Furiosa is a big and fascinating film, and it is filled with bold ideas and nostalgia. Anya Taylor-Joy does a remarkable job playing the younger version of Furiosa. Even if she doesn’t look like Charlize Theron, she remarkably plays the role of a bloodthirsty warrior seeking vengeance and holds the film together. This film is unlikely to be an instant classic, but it well deserves praise for its creativity, its excellent action set pieces, its performances, and its boldness.

Positives

+ Great performances
+ Exciting action set pieces
+ Creative worldbuilding

Negatives

- Slower pace
- Less interesting soundtrack
- Inferior to predecessor

The Bottom Line

Furiosa is a nominal disappointment in the sense that it can't live up to perfect expectations, but still manages to be remarkable, fun, and exciting!

 

8.5

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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