Review: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024) Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

A wild ride, at its best when it’s least concerned with being a prequel.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is at its best when it connects least to the events of its predecessor and sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). The opening section alone – where young Furiosa (an astounding bit of casting in Alyla Browne) is kidnapped from The Green Place, and relentlessly pursued into The Wasteland by her fierce, capable mother (a white-knuckle action hero performance from Charlee Fraser) – is riveting, non-stop action and stunningly visual storytelling, en par with, yet not in any way recycling, anything in Fury Road. It’s also amazing on its own terms, and in no small part due to its narrative independence of anything before (in Fury Road) or after (in Furiosa).

As an action movie, Furiosa is fantastic, full of spectacular stunts, cinematography, editing, and of course wild production design and post-apocalyptic world-building. As a Mad Max movie, it’s only slightly less amazing than Fury Road, which is still bloody amazing.

On the other hand, Furiosa falls into the prequel trap (though perhaps not as badly as most prequel films) of answering questions nobody asked, and raising further questions its sequel doesn’t answer. Fury Road centred on Furiosa’s (Charlize Theron) attempt to liberate the ‘wives’ (sex slaves and captive breeders) of Immortan Joe (played in that instalment by Hugh Keays-Byrne): the implication was that she had at some point also been a ‘wife’, and the subtext was that she too had been sexually abused by Immortan Joe. Furiosa chooses (wisely, I feel) to introduce a new villain (and boy, are Chris Hemsworth‘s scenery-chewing Dementus and his messianic, white-turned-red tarpaulin a lot of fun), but this relegates Immortan Joe (played in this instalment by Lachy Hulme) to a side character, the mystery of his power and cult leader status diminished purely to concede storytelling real estate. Furiosa paints itself into a corner: Immortan Joe’s relationship with Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) in this film is necessarily not about power or abuse, otherwise the revenge arc of Furiosa (both the character and the film) would rightly focus on Immortan Joe – which would steal the thunder of Fury Road.

Add to that: missed opportunities like any thematic or dramatic cost of Furiosa losing her arm (after the setup that it bore the tattoo of the map back home to The Green Place, which literally drives the action in Fury Road); and that this, the first Mad Max-less Mad Max film, has a Mad Max character in it anyway (Tom Burke‘s Praetorian Jack). While I appreciate that death and sacrifice are treated as non-events in this hellish world (her arm is simply off; his life is simply lost), we’re nonetheless back to stealing at least some of the thunder of Fury Road.

Then there’s the inclusion of clips from Fury Road in Furiosa‘s end credits – an odd choice, for a couple of reasons. For someone watching these movies in story order, who enjoys Furiosa and is looking forward to the next instalment, Fury Road is basically spoiled for them. And for those of us who had already seen and enjoyed Fury Road, this direct comparison only highlights just how much better-looking that film was than this one is.

Most of the action sequences in Furiosa are as thrilling as anything in Fury Road, and clearly writer-director George Miller still has plenty to say in and add to this universe. Between returning to (or previewing?) concepts, characters, and locations from Fury Road, there’s a lot of unforced thunder-stealing in Furiosa, which feels particularly unnecessary when the Mad Max series has never been so concerned with being particularly inter-connected in its specific events or its larger lore; and this first ‘saga’ to announce itself as part of a larger anthology only makes the Mad Max universe feel a little smaller.

Further Viewing

“Everything that we see in the film… had to be made of found objects, repurposed. And we had to understand where those found objects came from” – George Miller on what goes into the world-building in his Mad Max films, and the cultural and cinematic traditions they reference (via Vanity Fair):

How George Miller Shoots Action for the Mad Max Saga (via Letterboxd):

What’s better than listening to George Miller talk about his movies? Why, Edgar Wright asking George Miller to talk about his movies (via The Imperial Communique):

To ensure that the audience can always follow its often frenetic and chaotic action, Furiosa continues the cinematic technique established in its predecessor, Mad Max: Fury Roadcentre-framing:

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