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Film Review: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

By Dolores Quintana

FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA: beautiful madness and pure cinematic bliss—epic storytelling packed with fiery mayhem and so much more. It is FURIOSA; everything that makes her the titan she is in FURY ROAD explodes out of the screen— temptation and vengeance at dizzying speed.

I love that the film is something different than FURY ROAD. It seamlessly integrates the story of FURIOSA with the legend of the MAD MAX series. It’s a prequel that can either stand alone or flow directly into the storytelling canon of FURY ROAD. It contemplates how much our fates depend on the tiniest choices we make each day when the lure of ripe fruit, much like the classic story of Adam and Eve, rips Furiosa away from everything she loves and her home.

George Miller wisely chooses to change things up after the slam-bang chase that is FURY ROAD. No one would be happy with a mere attempt to retread the beloved FURY ROAD, but Miller gives us a prequel and an origin story that feels like neither one of those usually dull staples and film conventions do. It has wings and becomes even more gritty and grim, and has resonances with the original films in the series, but with even more daring and uglier turns of events. But those wings have the lightest of touches, and even topics like cannibalism don’t flip over into exploitation. 

It’s like he took the chassis of the original MAD MAX films and installed a 21st-century motor capable of things that his films in the 1980s could never have dreamed of, yet retained his sense of wonder and moral code. While FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA takes more time with story and character development, it still has the adrenaline-surging and reckless abandon of FURY ROAD. 

Anya Taylor-Joy is a brilliant addition to the series as the younger version of FURIOSA. She is steely with a similar, yet slightly more open vulnerability as Charlize Theron in FURY ROAD. The work of both actresses fuses as the timeline of both films rushes toward each other. Taylor-Joy is the Furiosa full of a righteous desire for revenge on the man who took away her life, but able to trust a little more than Theron’s more guarded and weary Furiosa. She has an intellectual curiosity and belief in herself that shows how her “magnificent” mother taught her skills but also taught her to have strong self-worth. 

Chris Hemsworth plays Dementus as a charismatic if not very smart madman. Dementus is cruel, impatient, and cunning in comparison to Immortan Joe’s silent king. It’s like the difference between an arrogant and erratic teenager and a lion stalking the plain. Neither man is good, but Dementus is slightly more likable, because of Hemsworth’s charisma, despite his horrific deeds. Lachy Hulme, who takes over the role of Immortan Joe, is an intense presence even though he is not the main foe. He does a lot without too much screen time. He fills the room. 

Tom Burke, as Praetorian Jack, makes a wonderful impression and nails an Australian accent as an English actor. Praetorian Jack is the one man who may be worthy of trust and Burke’s performance is beautifully cadenced as he starts to understand Furiosa. He actually would make a good Max, which gives the film further resonance with the series. It has echoes of the upcoming events in FURY ROAD. 

Charlee Fraser as Mary Jo Bassa glows with power and purpose as Furiosa’s beloved mother. In her performance, you can see why Furiosa is so wondrous and strong. The fearlessness and curiosity lead Furiosa to her fate, with the metaphor of ripe fruit as temptation, but it also tells you that she is who she is. No one could ever stop her and that’s exactly why she survives what few others probably could. Charlee Fraser shows the “magnificence” of her character that is always in Furiosa’s heart and drives her to best every monster in front of her, no matter what the price. 

Thematically, the die is cast in the script by George Miller and Nico Lathouris, who are two of the co-writers of FURY ROAD. They wrote the characters of Furiosa and her mother Mary Jo Bassa, as women who are mighty and smart. They never accept that they are lesser than the men whom they frequently outthink and outfight. 

They know that fights are not won by brawn but with the brain and thus are never cowed by male violence. It’s not a story of typical female empowerment as created by Hollywood, it simply shows you the power that women have without question. When men look at Furiosa as an object, she refuses the idea entirely and proves her worth again and again. She wins her position as a Praetorian by will alone and is accepted as an equal by men who frequently forget how they treated her earlier in the story. FURIOSA says to girls and women, you aren’t weaker. You are more powerful than you or any man has ever imagined. Take what is your birthright, the title of human being. 

The cinematography by Simon Duggan (The Great Gatsby) is full of the blast furnace of the desert landscape after an opening respite of lush greenery. In Duggan’s work, you see the grandeur of both landscapes. The soundtrack features the return of Tom Holkenborg and seamless editing by Margaret Sixel and Eliot Knapman. George Miller made many wise choices with FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA, as one of our greatest living filmmakers who has a grotesquely whimsical and fertile imagination among the members of the pantheon.

FURY ROAD was a phenomenon, but FURIOSA bravely takes its own path. It gives more time to story and character and fashions a new skull-bedecked, shiny chrome chariot of breathtaking stunts, raging combat, and rip-roaring open-road pursuit sequences that will fill your wasteland-loving heart with incandescent bliss. It returns to the original trilogy’s well and does it one better. FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA fires the mind and the senses with the poetic vengeance of Imperator Furiosa.

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