Movie Review: “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga”

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Movie Review: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

“Furiosa” is not “Fury Road.” That may seem obvious, but it bears repeating that the latest film from director George Miller in the “Mad Max” franchise is quite a different beast than his previous entry. The 2015 movie was a prolonged chase sequence that used mythic archetypes and innovative action sequences to tell a deceptively simple story. “Furiosa” also delves into those archetypes, but it’s more of a slow burn as it’s an origin story of the titular character and her road to revenge against those who wronged her. There are certainly propulsive action sequences similar to parts of “Fury Road,” but this is more of a measured (and epic) tale, taking place over large spans of time and (waste)land. Those expecting the non-stop adrenaline of Miller’s previous effort may be disappointed by this more methodical and melancholic approach. But those not beholden to such expectations will find a gorgeously made film with its own myth heights of vengeance and storytelling that’s populated by ingenious worldbuilding, impressive stunt work, and engaging performances—all carefully controlled by a master filmmaker.

The movie concerns young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) being abducted from her idyllic home by scavengers and then imprisoned, first by the unscrupulous leader of a biker horde, Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), and then later by the controlling lord of the citadel, Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme). She eventually ages (and is then played by Anya Taylor-Joy), continuing to survive in these horrible conditions—all while scheming to somehow make it back to the land from whence she was taken.
“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” is an incredible embellishment and expansion on the story that Miller (and co-writer Nick Lathouris) began in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” It may not ever feel necessary—much of the hardship and anger the character exhibits in “Fury Road” didn’t necessarily require further explanation than what the audience can glean from her circumstances—but it is still a thoroughly entertaining tale of the wasteland that paints a horribly dystopic picture that is genuinely absorbing and brilliant. Lesser origin films (or really any other story that expands on the central myth) would be bogged down by how certain elements of this world came together; or even pick apart the minutiae like characters’ names (looking at you, “Solo: A Star Wars Story”) when that’s the least interesting reason to return to this world. There are a couple of those humble beginnings (particularly how the War Rig came to be and how Furiosa came to have one arm) in this retelling, but for the most part “Furiosa” is interested in investigating the bloodthirsty society that has been erected in the post-apocalypse and what such existence would do to people.

Furiosa and Dementus eventually have the “we’re not too different, you and I” hero/villain discussion late in the film. But it is an interesting coupling of characters who have had everything taken from them and what it turns that person into. Dementus is a hilarious blowhard (with Hemsworth clearly loving delivering some of these amazing lines of dialogue), but also a clear psychopath with no regard for human life who is simply voracious for more power in the crumbling wasteland. Furiosa is self-determined to survive through all the hardships because she still (somehow) has hope—and it’s when that hope is overtaken by a thirst for vengeance that things get pretty stark for the character. Taylor-Joy seems at first miscast (having to pretend to be a boy to stay under the radar despite her overly feminine features), but once Furiosa is called into battle—and the character gives up the false gender charade—the actor truly finds lots to work with as her determinism and rage become palpable. She’s not doing an impression of Charlize Theron from “Fury Road” but instead instills her own unique type of fire into Furiosa which makes for a fascinating watch. You already know how her story ends, but you’re fascinated to watch the character navigate through these previously unknown chapters.

One aspect that doesn’t quite work as well, and perhaps this is still due to being in the shadow of “Fury Road,” is the control of pacing. With its many, many fades to black and its various chapters, you feel a lot of the 2.5-hour runtime of “Furiosa.” That doesn’t mean it’s tedious, or that there aren’t sequences that wholly absorb the attention so the time flies by, but that this story can feel its epic size with all these aspects. Again, it’s not enough to derail enjoyment, but it is enough to slightly detract from its immediacy.

“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” is a triumphant return to this shattered world that Miller and company have created. Working with DP Simon Duggan and the brilliant production design time, there are some exceptional images that linger in the mind well past the end credits. It’s impressive how beautiful Miller is able to make this truly ugly realm look and how thought out his seemingly ramshackle dystopia actually is. Powered by excellent performances and impressive action sequences, it’s not quite right to say it “feels good” to return to this twisted land of “Mad Max,” but it is a welcomed journey once more into the darkness of man with just enough hope left to power one through the apocalypse.

80%
80%
Awesome

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, Alyla Browne
Director: George Miller

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