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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Movie Review

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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga | Review

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga | Review

Woman Thou Art Loosed: Miller Wades into the Wasteland

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Movie ReviewIn all likelihood, George Miller presumably will be closing out his filmography the same way it began, fleshing out the iconic dystopian desert world he created back in 1979 with Mad Max and its original successive sequels. As fate would have it, a powerful figure rising out of his celebrated 2015 reboot, Mad Max: Fury Road, would get her own origin story in this universe, which arrives with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Strangely, much like Charlize Theron pulled focus over the titular Tom Hardy in the earlier film, Anya Taylor-Joy is the muted center of her own universe in this installment, thanks in part to a more vivacious, arguably more dynamic role for a new character portrayed by Chris Hemsworth. Ultimately, it’s another opportunity for Miller to play around in the toxic sandbox which has largely defined his cinematic career, and to be fair, there are few who come close to equalling his talents at such splendorous, violent, visual spectacles. There’s much to marvel at in Miller’s reunion with scribe Nick Lathouris (who portrayed a supporting role in the 1979 original) but there’s a requisite sense of dread absent from the doomed trajectory of its central force, a wounded woman warrior fueled more by hate than hope.

We meet Furiosa as a young girl (Alyla Browne), picking a peach from a tree alongside her younger sister. She is abducted by a group of grizzled bikers slaughtering an animal, her mother giving chase to them across the desert, not only to rescue her child but also stop them from revealing they’ve discovered her clan, located in a lush realm known as a ‘place of abundance.’ While their location is successfully kept secret, her mother is murdered by a warlord, head of a biker horde, Doctor Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Having lost his own children in this desolate hellscape, he decides to rear Furiosa as his own child. But his greed to control the Wasteland leads him to confront the region’s other notorious tyrant, Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), ruler of the Citadel, the only water and food source in the region. Dementus, however, isn’t powerful enough to defeat Immortan Joe, but when he seizes power of Gas Town, the two powerful figures enter a tenuous agreement for the exchange of needed goods. As part of this exchange, Furiosa is handed over to Immortan Joe to be groomed as one of his wives who will eventually be turned into a breeding receptacle.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Movie Review

Circumstances allow Furiosa to evade this predicament, and she spends the rest of her childhood concealing her gender. Now played by Anya Taylor-Joy, her battle skills during an attempted takeover of Immortan Joe’s war rig, manned by Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), lands her an integral position in his decimated convoy, and a romance, born almost out of necessity, blossoms. As they plot to run away to her homeland, Dementus dashes their opportunity in a battle which will also claim her arm, the one which has a tattoo of her childhood home on it.

Miller brings Furiosa right into the events which transpire in Fury Road, a film that is really a propulsive, elegant and violent chase scene almost from start to finish. The connective tissues in this prequel don’t feel quite as coherently streamlined, like a footnote to a more the more satisfying venture that is the earlier film. The plot unfolds across five somewhat arbitrary chapter headings as a way to organize itself. Although Taylor-Joy excels in the action sequences, she’s still as inscrutable as all Miller’s Wasteland characters have always been, and thus there’s a significant sense of emotional detachment, particularly as Furiosa is given more dialogue in the film’s final act.

Hemsworth grabs the film’s more energetic moments as a magnetic cult figure with the gift of gab, more or less a personification of the phrase ‘hurt people hurt people,’ unaware of how he’s responsible for ruining Furiosa yet expecting a trauma bond out of necessity. It’s a hammy performance, to be certain, but Hemsworth seems to be having a good time. Less successful is Tom Burke as Jack, given little to do beyond serving as the visual template Furiosa will later adopt for herself.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Movie Review

DP Simon Duggan takes the visual reins for this fifth stint in the Wasteland, and much like previous installments, it’s the inspired visuals and extravagant action scenes which make this captivating (not to mention Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, returning to score the film). However, Furiosa feels like the exposition exercise which formulated its existence, and it’s hard not to instead desire seeing the continuation of Furiosa through the magic of Charlize Theron. Much like the theatrical release of James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) excised specific details of Ellen Ripley’s backstory, perhaps we really only need minimal hints and cues to bolster a more interesting extension of this character. Furiosa literally can’t go home again, and arguably there’s little to salvage by Miller forcibly going backward in her timeline rather than utilizing the resource which made her so profound in the first place and moving forward instead.

Reviewed on May 15th at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival – Out of Competition. 148 Mins.

★★★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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