The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

By George & Josh Bate

furiosa review

It is a testament to the sheer talent of George Miller that a director so lauded with acclaim is still somehow underrated. In 1979, director the Australian filmmaker began his long-running, apocalyptic franchise Mad Max with the story of a father seeking revenge after the murder of his family. The world is dystopian, and society has collapsed completely, with Miller not afraid to show the dark side of what’s left of humanity. Despite the tense subject, audiences were immediately entranced with the series and its world, especially after the release of Mad Max 2

36 years after the original film was released, Miller returned to his twisted and beloved post-apocalyptic world with Mad Max: Fury Road, a project that he wanted to actualize for years. Despite coming up with the general concept for the film in the 80s, script issues and the media storm surrounding star Mel Gibson prevented the director from pushing ahead with the project. Then, with the decision to recast Gibson with Tom Hardy, who stepped into the role of Max Rockatansky, the franchise was born once again. Hardy wasn’t the only notable edition to the cast, however. A key player in the film was Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, a strong-willed and powerful warrior who attempts to lead a group of enslaved wives to a promise land. After some initial tension, Max and Furiosa team up on this quest, leading to a non-stop, high speed battle across the wasteland.

furiosa review

Despite the fact that Fury Road marked the return of the iconic Max, audiences became equally, if not more, interested in his mysterious ally Furiosa. George Miller appeared to feel the same as he opted against making a sequel to Fury Road to instead tell the story of Furiosa’s origins. That leads us to Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, the fifth film in the franchise and the first to focus primarily on another character other than Max. Furiosa follows Theron’s character from when she was a young girl (now played by Anya Taylor-Joy) kidnapped by marauders and plummeted into a life of darkness and survival amidst the chaos that is the wasteland. There, she becomes entangled with Chris Hemsworth’s simultaneously silly yet scary villain named Dementus.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is broken into five acts, with the first two not featuring the film’s lead actor Anya Taylor-Joy. This substantial portion of the film focuses on when Furiosa is young, chronicling her peaceful life in the Green Place of Many Mothers before she falls into the hands of Dementus’ biker horde and her life is changed forever. In a sprawling film set over decades, these first two acts are ultimatley the most enjoyable of the movie, even without the presence of Taylor-Joy. The exhilitrating first act throws the audience directly into the chaos of the wasteland with an excellently crafted, prolonged chase sequence. The resultant second act similarly enthralls in focusing on Furiosa’s burgeoning relationship with Dementus and diving more deeply into world-building of Miller’s wasteland as Dementus and Fury Road’s villain Immortan Joe go head-to-head.

A significant reason why these first two acts compell so strongly has to do with Chris Hemsworth featuring most prominently. Hemsworth has a scene stealing role in the film, evoking a lunatic Captain Jack Sparrow-like performance that adds energy and personality to the proceedings. With his turn as Dementus, Hemsworth seems to sum up the entire Mad Max franchise, playing a frightening antagonist that has a goofy and silly side to his character. Those two traits don’t sound like they would gel well together, but they do as Hemsworth ends up being the highlight of the film. Although the prosthetic nose to bring Dementus to life is a tad distracting at first, the character is gripping nonetheless, especially when he sets his sights on another powerful villain of the wasteland – Immortan Joe. Hemsworth previously impressed in a villainous role in the underappreciated Bad Times at the El Royale and, again, delivers a disturbing performance that suggests the Australian actor should be handed antagonist roles most often.

Hemsworth is not the only actor that shines in the film, however. Anya Taylor-Joy and Alyla Browne both excel as Furiosa, playing the titular character at different points in her life. Browne’s Furiosa appears in the film’s first two acts, which evidence the incredible potential the young Australian-Estonian actress has. Taylor-Joy, meanwhile, akes over the role in the later three acts of the filmTaylor-Joy’s stardom has skyrocketed in recent years, with performances in the likes of Split, The Witch, and The Menu making her one of the industry’s most sought-after actors. Taylor-Joy takes on a different kind of role in Furiosa, one with very little dialogue that relies heavily on the actor’s body language. Taylor-Joy nails the mannerisms, stoicism, and sheer badass-ness of Charlize Theron’s performance as the character in Fury Road. The dual performances of Browne and Taylor-Joy, encased within this origin film for Furiosa, elevate the character immensely and, in turn, make Mad Max: Fury Road an even more enjoyable film upon rewatch.

furiosa review

Performances aside, the real marvel of Furiosa is the singular direction of George Miller. The technical side of the film is unmatched, from the cinematography to the sound design to the visual effects, making this story a visually stunning watch (especially if appreciated in a premium format like IMAX). Mad Max: Fury Road’s innovative visuals meant that the bar was high in this regard, but Miller manages to match his prior work with another film full of masterfully crafted action sequences. A particularly memorable scene features Furiosa, now a grown woman working on a war rig carrying crucial supplies across the wasteland. As enemies try to steal the contents that they are transporting, Furiosa steps up to help save the mission. in an action sequence that unfolds much like the best from Fury Road. Although the film lacks emotional substance (more on that later), the sheer immersion Miller is able to achieve with his action sequences make the audience feel like they are right alongside Furiosa throughout all of her trials and tribulations, making the film an unreservedly immersive experience.

In the second half of the film, Furiosa becomes allies with Praetorian Jack, a commander of Immortan Joe’s military forces played by Tom Burke. The two develop an alliance and a romance, even with limited dialogue from both parties. While it helps to have Furiosa paired with another person on her journey, just as she was with Max in Fury Road, Burke’s character is largely a misfire. The actor himself delivers a fine performance, and he’s believable as a cunning warrior that evokes Mel Gibson’s performance as Max in the original films. Unfortunately, there is not enough there to justify his inclusion, and Burke’s character lacks the depth or further exploration that could make audiences care about him more. In that regard, there’s a disconnect between the viewer and Furiosa, as the latter clearly feels much more care and affection for Burke’s Jack, while the former remains uninvested in his role.

furiosa review

Beyond missteps with Burke’s character, Furiosa triumphs with some excellent world-building. Miller deftly and intricately expands the post-apocalyptic world he created almost 40 years ago, with all sorts of visual cues and remarks subtly building up the reality of the wasteland. Dementus is a big part of the world building success in Furiosa, as his villain not only holds a commanding screen presence but also complicates the politics and inner workings of the wasteland with his conniving approach to obtain power. That personally makes him clash with Immortal Joe, the frightening villain that appeared in Fury Road, who is now played by Lachy Hulme in Furiosa after the unfortunate passing of Hugh Keays-Byrne. Although the two don’t share a great deal of screen time together, their dynamic is one of the most interesting aspects of the film, and adds layers to the already gripping world.

But, while the film’s world-building is excellent, its lack of emotional substance is not. Furiosa is a filmmaking marvel without a doubt, and yet, despite impressing in every technical regard, there is a stark absence of emotional investment in the film. So little time is spent developing the characters that even a decent set-up for a revenge story in the first act fails to elevate Furiosa‘s emotionality in any way.

VERDICT: 7/10

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga proves yet again that the wildly talented George Miller still remains underappreciated so how. A masterfully crafted technical marvel, Miller’s latest film is a revenge epic that expands the horizons of what is possible to capture in a film. Excellent world-building and a scene-stealing performance from Chris Hemsworth captivate, although the lack of substance or emotional complexity leaves the film feeling hollow. Without such substance, Furiosa may be a movie with select scenes that are revisited time and time again for their sheer mastery for years to come, but, otherwise, may not be the kind of film one wants to revisit in its entirety. Regardless, Miller’s latest dive into the wasteland is a stunning filmmaking achievement and hopefully not the last we see of this wonderful world the legendary filmmaker has created.

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