A young woman with a buzzcut and black face paint looks at her robotic hand.

Film Review: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Film Reviews

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
Director: George Miller

Kennedy Miller Mitchell and Village Roadshow Pictures
In Theaters: 05.24

A lot of us fell head over heels in love with Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015 and the post apocalyptic quasi-western easily earned its reputation as one of the greatest action films ever made. Nine years later, the prequel, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga makes it a bit too clear that no one fell in love with Fury Road more than its director, George Miller

The new film begins after the fall of civilization with young Furiosa (Alyla Browne, Sting) living in the The Green Place of Many Mothers, an Eden-like  paradise with food and water to spare and an all female population. The Green Place is infiltrated by bikers, who kidnap Furiosa and head out to return to the gang, with the girl’s mother, Mary Jabassa (Charlee Fraser, Anyone But You) right on their heels. Dementus (Chris Hemsworth, Thor), the ruthless Warlord who leads the biker horde, executes Mary and claims Furiosa as a prize. When Dementus tries to find Furiousa’s land of plenty, he instead finds the Citadel, the fortress governed by the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme, The Matrix Reloaded, Killer Elite), who also sees Furiosa as a prize and takes her from the biker. As Dementus and Immortan Joe battle each other for control of the Wasteland, Furiosa learns to adapt and survive. As she grows into a young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit, Last Night in Soho), she rises through the ranks of Immortan Joe’s minions, she bides her time, learning and honing her skills, with vengeance always on her mind.

Where Max Max: Fury Road was a masterpiece that stands on its own a great film even if you’ve never seen the other Mad Max films, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is merely an extended prologue to Fury Road, and it pales in comparison. The story unfolds in five chapters, and there’s a meandering quality to it all that makes the self indulgent 148 minute runtime rather noticeable. The stunning production design, gorgeous cinematography and a strong attachment to the central character still kept me engaged, and thankfully, the action is exciting and intricately done in pure George Miller fashion. While there’s a lot of these spectacular sequences, there’s also a lot of exposition, padding and fan service crammed in between them, in marked contrast to the perfect fluidity of Fury Road. In addition, there’s an awkward element of overt religious symbolism that is rather on the nose, from Furiousa picking a luscious fruit from a tree just before being unexpectedly removed from paradise, to an actual on screen crucifixion. While none of it reaches the outrageous levels of pretentiousness of Miller’s 3000 Years of Longing, it does wear thin. It also takes one of the most iconic feminist heroes in science fiction history and reduces her origin story to just another single minded revenge tale, which only works at all because we know she has a larger destiny ahead of her.

Browne and Taylor-Joy and both do a terrific job stepping into the role made famous by Charlize Theron, and while the latter gets top billing, both get a lot of screen time. Hemsworth is clearly relishing the chance to against type and chew the scenery as a nasty villain, and he’s quite entertaining on the role, though his make-up is more than distracting. It seems as if someone in Hollywood has decided that we’re going to get one major prosthetic nose based movie per year, and Bradley Cooper has handed the Maestro baton to Hemsworth. Hulme is effective as Immortan Joe, while Josh Helman (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Nathan Jones (Mortal Kombat) are a bit hammy as his oafish sons, Don Jr. and Eric (okay, they are actually named Scabrous Scrotus and Rictus Erectus, which is somehow more dignified). Tom Burke (Strike, Mank) is a memorable as Praetorian Jack, Commander of the Citadel’s military forces, and the one true friend Furiousa finds in all of this madness. 

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a treat for hardcore fans of Fury Road who wanted to go deeper into backstory and world building. It’s an epic adventure that is stage with intricacy and flare, and has a lot of great elements. Still, where its predecessor felt like the crowning achievement of a visionary filmmaker, this feels more like the work of a filmmaker who has been told he’s a visionary and is too eager to bask in the glow of that pronouncement. –Patrick Gibbs 

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