Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024, dir. George Miller)

by | May 24, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 148 mins

UK Distributor: Warner Bros

UK Release Date: 24 May 2024

WHO’S IN FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA?

Anya Taylor-Joy, Alyla Browne, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, Lachy Hulme, Nathan Jones, John Howard, Angus Sampson, Charlee Fraser, Quaden Bayles, Daniel Webber, Elsa Pataky

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

George Miller (director, writer, producer), Nick Lathouris (writer), Doug Mitchell (producer), Junkie XL (composer), Simon Duggan (cinematographer), Eliot Knapman and Margaret Sixel (editors)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A young Furiosa (Taylor-Joy) attempts to make her way home in a post-apocalyptic wasteland…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA?

“Cautious optimism” could best describe my anticipation for Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Like the rest of the world, I absolutely adored Mad Max: Fury Road – to where I even consider it the greatest action movie ever made – but the news that director George Miller was plotting a prequel that would delve into the backstory of Charlize Theron’s one-armed warrior Furiosa was slightly worrying.

There have been so many cases where the original filmmaker has gone back to their iconic hits and filled in blanks that didn’t necessarily need to be filled, and in doing so failing to recapture that initial once-in-a-lifetime spark. I was genuinely nervous that this film would meet the same fate, especially after noticing a lot more CGI in the trailers than there was in Fury Road itself, and that the mystery of Furiosa, as great a character as she is, would forever be tainted by this needless exploration.

My fears, mercifully, went unfounded. What Miller has done is create an expansion pack for the post-apocalyptic world established in Fury Road, but in ways that somehow retain the imagination and intrigue that were only ever hinted at in the previous film, while also building upon the myth of Furiosa to where one can now re-watch her film debut with a fresh pair of eyes. It is enthralling stuff, and while it’s perhaps not on the same level of adrenaline as Fury Road – though I realise that’s an unrealistic expectation to begin with – Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is an impressive, profoundly epic odyssey that exists on its own terms.

Beginning many years before the events of Fury Road, we start off in the fabled “Green Place” – a rare fertile utopia in a sandy wasteland – where a young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) is snatched by motorcyclists loyal to the maniacal warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth, sporting an outrageous prosthetic nose), who forcibly adopts Furiosa as his daughter after he kills her mother (Charlee Fraser). As Dementus lays claim to various pillars in the wasteland, Furiosa is taken in by tyrant Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) initially to become one of his “wives”, but she escapes and disguises herself as one of Joe’s War Boys. Years later, Furiosa (now played by Anya Taylor-Joy) develops the skills and ferocity she needs to finally escape the wasteland, get revenge on Dementus, and make her way home once and for all.

Those going in with the expectation that this film will be as much of a non-stop action thrill ride as Mad Max: Fury Road are already setting themselves up for failure. While Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is most certainly not short on action – an extended sequence set on a moving “War Rig” is a particularly extraordinary feat of choreography and filmmaking – it is much more sombre and studious in nature, with Miller and co-writer Nick Lathouris focusing heavily on the developing sorrow and anger of its titular character as she goes from one helpless scenario to another.

In a way, it is closer to the original Mad Max movie in overall tone, which like this film is a slower-burn as we see the protagonist witnessing atrocity after atrocity until their desire for vengeance consumes them. Here, though, the scope is much further reaching, with the filmmaker once again utilising his own David Lean-sized appetite for vast, seemingly endless landscapes with majestic imagery that could almost pass for Renaissance-era art, but this time he’s applying it to the underlying operatic nature of Furiosa’s story that amplifies the drama and the character’s ultimately tragic journey.

Undoubtedly, some will be thrown off by the wild shift in both tone and direction in comparison to Fury Road, but Miller still keeps it all just as visually spectacular, dramatically engaging and even as darkly funny as what came before. Case in point, we get to visit a lot more of this world, with places like the much-mentioned Gastown and the Bullet Farm all finally getting their screen debuts, and the filmmaker gives generous glimpses of how each of these separate societies function or even work with others, but never to a point where the film stops dead to reveal every intricate detail about how it all works.

Much of it is remarkably still left to the imagination, and all these sets, costumes, make-up effects etc provide enough of an outline for the viewer to connect the dots for themselves, without dictating too heavily about what kind of world we have found ourselves in. As he did in Fury Road, Miller does a grand job of building this desolate, lawless world while wisely pushing the mechanics and politics far into the background, simply letting the chaos speak for itself.

As for Furiosa herself, the character is naturally expanded upon a lot more, in ways that make her arc in Fury Road a lot more complex and surprising. At times, though, she is upstaged by many other eccentric figures in this universe, particularly Chris Hemsworth who is gloriously chewing scenery at every available opportunity, to where it’s easy to forget that she’s even there in the scene. Nonetheless, the character remains a fully compelling one, and both Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy as the respective younger and older incarnations of Furiosa nail the wordless intensity that Charlize Theron originally brought to the role, while still making the role their own in different but fascinating ways.

I know that there have been lots of callbacks to Mad Max: Fury Road in this review, and that’s because, at the end of the day, nothing can ever match the grandiose energy of that true action masterpiece. However, the true success of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is that it knows this, and rather than wasting time trying to replicate it, the film simply expands upon it to make its predecessor even better, while also being a worthy standalone in its own right.

For that alone, this is an epic blockbuster that’s worth witnessing.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a majestically epic prequel to director George Miller’s modern action classic Mad Max: Fury Road, and while it isn’t as fast-paced or as energetic as its predecessor, it still impresses with its more thoughtful tone, imaginative production qualities and a compelling dive into its titular character.

Four of of five stars

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