Review: Furiosa – A Mad Max Saga

A set up for the finale that is Fury Road.

After the world collapses into an apocalyptic wasteland, Furiosa is lucky to have grown up in The Green Place, an idyllic oasis. But after she is kidnapped by marauders on motorbikes, she is instead raised under the cruel regimes of the desert. Can she ever get home?

2016’s Mad Max: Fury Road was an incredible experience. A kinetic movie with in-camera action releasing at a time when Marvel Studios were at their peak. It was a jolt of adrenaline at a time when everything else was cut from the same uncanny digital cloth. Aussie director George Miller began the Mad Max franchise back in 1979, with Mel Gibson in the title role. 2016’s entry was a reboot with Tom Hardy which introduced us to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa.

Now we have a prequel to that movie, with a younger Furiosa (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) experiencing her rise from childhood to “Imperator Furiosa”.

I’ve heard of Chariots of Fire, but this…

It could be said that Mad Max: Fury Road is a peak of action movie-making that probably cannot be replicated, and it would be foolish to attempt to do so. Miller appears to be aware of this: Furiosa is not Fury Road again. Overall, it is better to consider Furiosa as the first part of the story, with Fury Road acting as the exciting conclusion. This is particularly odd for a franchise that has never had direct instalments.

The world of Mad Max is not a friendly one. On surface level, the 2016 movie can be accepted as simple sci-fi action, with hints of the awful reality bleeding through. But with Furiosa, the focus is very much on the world-building. The story involves four principle locations established in Fury Road: The Green Place, The Citadel, The Bullet Farm, and Gas Town. Our rising action here is caused by newcomer Dr. Dementus (played by Chris Hemsworth) and his roving horde of bikers.
Dr. Dementus, as his name suggests, is not a sane man. He dangerously has the ego of a leader, knowledge, but the naivety of a child. He is hard to quantify; appearing at first like a cross between a cult leader and a philosopher, only to evolve into a irresponsible lunatic. He is perhaps the most Mad Max character we’ve seen since the 1980s. A stand-out scene is Dementus bringing his warband to The Citadel and brazenly demanding their surrender. Not realizing (as we do) how incredibly out-matched he actually is.

Furiosa looks displeased about Garfield

It is a decent movie. It has visual and narrative consistency with Fury Road. This easily fits as an origin story for Furiosa which, considering the past examples of prequels, is high praise. Anya Taylor-Joy fits the role well, although it is hard to fill Charlize Theron’s formidable boots.

It is, ultimately, a prequel. With that comes certain narrative restrictions and expectations that narrow the wonder and surprise. How does Furiosa lose her arm? How does Furiosa become Imperator? This character wasn’t in Fury Road, so they probably die. Plus, some of Fury Road’s wonder was its ambiguity; its wild and untethered nature. While expanding the lore, the opposite can also be said: that things feel grounded and too familiar.

It won’t persuade detractors of Fury Road, it is too similar to achieve that. It is less instantly gratifying and memorable. There’s definitely more CGI work going on here, which is disappointing.

The desire to see more of this world is appealing, and the grungy, grim visuals, kinetic action, are immensely interesting. But with this film underperforming, we might not see a return to the desert any time soon.

3 out of 5 stars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *