Movie Reviews

Furiosa Review: Mad Max Prequel Is A Visual Feast That Adds Exciting Depth To Title Character

Summary

  • Furiosa
    offers valuable insight into Wasteland’s circumstances through the life and motivations of the title character.
  • Both Anya Taylor-Joy and Alyla Browne deliver powerful performances, capturing Furiosa’s essence.
  • George Miller’s
    Furiosa
    is a visually stunning standalone film with powerful storytelling beyond franchise continuity.



George Miller expands the world of Mad Max even further with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, which details the time in Imperator Furiosa’s life before the events of Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller’s post-apocalyptic story began in 1979 with the Mel Gibson-led action adventure Mad Max, which introduced the now iconic world of The Wasteland and the biker gangs that run it ragged. Nearly a decade after reviving the universe with Fury Road, which starred Charlize Theron as Furiosa and Tom Hardy as Max, Miller has finally given us another taste of dystopian Australia.

A prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, Furiosa is an action-adventure film that tells the origin story of the headstrong and fearless Furiosa. Set shortly after the beginning of the “end of the world,” Furiosa is kidnapped and brought before a powerful warlord, now forced to work for him. To find her way back home, Furiosa will adapt to the new harsh and arid world as she grows into the Furiosa she becomes known to be. 

Pros

  • Furiosa offers a starker look at the circumstances of The Wasteland, providing valuable insight into the title character’s life and motivations.
  • Both Anya Taylor-Joy and the younger Furiosa, Alyla Browne, make the most of their few lines of dialogue with silent yet steely performances.
Cons

  • It’s a hard film to connect to for those who value direct storytelling over style.


Furiosa stays true to its title by focusing on the villains and vendettas of Furiosa herself, rather than having her share the screen with Max, and more than one actor is called on to bring her story to life. Theron was not brought back to reprise the role, as the movie opens with young Furiosa (played with precocious passion by Alyla Browne) being snatched from her home in the Green Place of Many Mothers by the wild-eyed Warlord Dementus (a nearly unrecognizable Chris Hemsworth). Interestingly enough, Anya Taylor-Joy doesn’t come in until about halfway through the film.


Furiosa Is A Fascinating Character At Any Age

Both Taylor-Joy and Browne deserve their flowers


It’s unclear to me whether the actors studied Theron’s performance while preparing to film, or if Miller’s attention to detail on set was responsible, but both versions of Furiosa were a genuine reflection of the character who was so perfectly crafted in Fury Road. The movie is in a difficult position, given that it feels like a different beast from its predecessors despite the fact that knowledge of the Mad Max franchise is a requirement to fully understand it, but eagle-eyed viewers will be well-rewarded for doing their research.

Browne’s depiction of Furiosa blends seamlessly into Taylor-Joy’s, which just as effortlessly recalls the combination of empathy and self-preservation that made Theron’s character in
Fury Road
so beloved.


Much has been made of Taylor-Joy only having 30 lines of dialogue in Furiosa, but she is not an actor who needs words to get her point across — nor do stories in the Mad Max universe generally require them. What’s even more impressive is how the young Browne (previously seen in Nine Perfect Strangers) adapts so perfectly to such a complex character. Fans of straightforward storytelling may need to arm themselves with ending explainers and companion comics to enjoy the movie, but for the rest of us, Miller’s luscious cinematography perfectly complements Furiosa’s deadly, albeit silent, glares.

Furiosa Is Closely Tied To Mad Max: Fury Road

Which may put off some but endear others

A separate issue from Miller’s signature sparse narrative is the fact that the specific story told in Furiosa is inextricably linked to Fury Road, despite releasing much later. This is typical of a prequel, of course, but a prequel is atypical for the Mad Max universe — as it is a movie that includes barely a glimpse of the franchise’s protagonist. Though Furiosa more than holds her own, especially as Miller’s script fleshes out her unsettling backstory with Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme replaces Hugh Keays-Byrne here), the vibe is surprisingly different from the last movie.


Edgar Wright correctly pointed out in his social media review that Furiosa was more of a revenge epic, whereas Fury Road resembled a chase movie. But what’s interesting is that the primary subject of Furiosa’s vengeance is not Immortan Joe or anyone present in the previous film, but rather the not-entirely-new character of Warrior Dementus. Though briefly mentioned in the 2015 video game as part of Immortan Joe’s origin story, Dementus has never appeared in a Mad Max story before Furiosa. This gives the prequel a unique arc, but it may alienate those who wish for a more cohesive throughline.


Chris Hemsworth Gives The Performance Of His Lifetime

It’s a surprising turn after years of playing Thor

Dr. Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) holds the face of Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) who seems to be holding back anger, Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke) observes them in Furiosa
Image via Warner Bros.

Every villain is the hero of their own story, and no one believes that more wholeheartedly than Dementus. As a rival of Immortan Joe’s, Dementus claims to offer his people a way out of the thirst and poverty that The Citadel’s rule has forced them into. While many of his followers may trust that he plans to lead them to a world of plenty, his cruel and callous treatment of Furiosa and her mother make it clear that he’s not that different from his mortal enemy.

Hemsworth’s portrayal pairs nicely with Taylor-Joy’s fierce stoicism, and the tension between their characters comes to a satisfying boil by their final confrontation.


Despite Dementus’ violent and often hypocritical nature, Hemsworth imbues his character with a humorous levity that can often seem like an oasis in the desert. Instead of clashing with the self-serious tone of the movie, Dementus’ larger-than-life and boisterous persona highlights why he would be a source of hope to so many, mimicking the magnetic charm of many real-world cult leaders. Hemsworth’s portrayal pairs nicely with Taylor-Joy’s fierce stoicism, and the tension between their characters comes to a satisfying boil by their final confrontation.

Furiosa manages to carve its own valuable place in the world of Mad Max, more than justifying its existence as a standalone movie while still throwing a few surprising bones to fans of franchise continuity. Though some may long for a meatier, more dialogue-heavy script, most viewers will appreciate the sumptuous meal offered by Miller’s impressive visual storytelling and Taylor-Joy’s powerful screen presence.


Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga



releases in theaters on May 24. The film has a runtime of 148 minutes and is rated R for sequences of strong violence and grisly images.

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