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Review: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Directed by: George Miller

Premise: A prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road. As a child, Furiosa (Alyla Browne) is kidnapped and held by Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), an ambitious gang leader. When she’s traded to Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), adult Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) finds herself in the middle of a war.

What Works: The job of a prequel is to deepen our understanding of the existing movie. Mad Max: Fury Road was primarily a chase movie; the characters drove from point A to point B to point A again and although it had tremendous detail and world building Fury Road did not have much in the way of story or character depth. Furiosa takes a different approach. The story spans several years, tracking Furiosa’s evolution from a girl to the woman we know from Fury Road. Her story is circuitous and takes the viewer through the various postapocalyptic colonies seen in the previous film. The Citadel, the Bullet Farm, and Gastown are dependent upon one another and bound by commerce. It’s an effective microcosm of global economics; the political order of the Wasteland mirrors that of the preapocalyptic world and the forces that caused its downfall. This backstory enhances the meaning of Fury Road, especially its ending. The characters of Furiosa are complicated. The title character is not just a badass and the filmmakers do a great job giving Furiosa depth and vulnerability without compromising the character. Alyla Browne plays the young Furiosa while Anya Taylor-Joy plays her as an adult; both actors get a considerable amount of screentime and they are convincing as younger and older versions of the same character. Furiosa has a relationship with another driver, played by Tom Burke, and this is handled exceptionally well, giving the viewer a place to invest emotion in a way that is tonally appropriate. Chris Hemsworth stars as the gang leader Dementus. Hemsworth is terrific, bringing unpredictable energy to the film.

What Doesn’t: Furiosa struggles to maintain its narrative momentum. The story is segregated into chapters; intertitles appear throughout the movie. The narrative comes across episodic. The picture feels very long in part because a lot of the first half is set up. For much of that time the story and the characters lack a coherent goal. The pacing improves significantly in the second half as the adult Furiosa ingratiates herself into Immortan Joe’s service and plots revenge on Dementus. The action scenes of Furiosa are terrific, especially the chases of the second half, but the set pieces never quite match those seen in Fury Road. That movie had a distinctly organic visual style but Furiosa frequently looks digital. Some shots look like they were composited; the actors and the setting don’t appear like they are in the same space.

Bottom Line: Furiosa is not the masterpiece of action filmmaking that Fury Road was but it does add value to the Mad Max story world and to Fury Road in particular. It’s an ambitious and at times unwieldy story but it has great characters and Furiosa is a worthy companion piece to the rest of the Mad Max series.

Episode: #998 (June 2, 2024)