'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga' Is Satisfying Bonus Footage for 'Fury Road' Fans

Directed by George Miller

Starring Anya Taylor Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, Lachy Hulme, Alyla Browne

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

BY Tobias JegPublished May 23, 2024


To bring the everyone up to top speed: 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road rebooted the flawless Mad Max trilogy from the '80s, and the latest instalment, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, acts as a prequel to that award-winning picture. Fury Road won six Oscars and was one of the best films of the decade, so the studio wisely did not tinker with the formula: Miller's devotion to practical effects, linear storytelling, high-contrast colours, daring stunts and the signature "caw" of the Australian Raven are all back on the road. 

Furiosa also has all the same cinematic bones and was built like a Mad Max movie, with visionary filmmaker George Miller trying desperately to teach us a real-life lesson about the folly of warfare. For superfans of the Mad Max franchise, this will be 148 minutes of satisfying bonus footage — but, like many of the makeshift jalopies seen in the film, this plot seems to have been cobbled together from parts lying around.

We begin with scenes of Furiosa (Alyla Browne as the young Furiosa, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Imperator Furiosa) as a precocious preteen who tries to prevent an act of banditry, but is instead kidnapped and whisked off to a biker gang. Don't let the fake nose fool ya, that's indeed Chris Hemsworth as their leader, the towering warlord, Dementus. He cruises around the bronze sands of the Wasteland on what looks like Ben-Hur's chariot and leads a massive horde of miscreants mounted atop motorcycles. (Nuclear war may have decimated much of the world's resources, but for some reason, there is a limitless supply of dirt bikes.) 

Dementus keeps Furiosa as a pet in a literal cage until they encounter the antagonist from Fury Road, the Immortan Joe (now played by Lachy Hulme, since the passing of Mad Max veteran Hugh Keays-Byrne). We know Furiosa ends up in the hands of Immortan Joe, and there's an anticlimactic exchange where she is bartered for "Guzzoline" and ammo.

There are frequent attempts at mirth, and Hemsworth can get big laughs when Taika Waititi is feeding him lines, but these japes pair awkwardly with the rest of the very disturbing scenes in Furiosa containing torture, cannibalism, lynching and worse. This R-rated adventure is not a family film, and probably Miller's darkest story since 1979's Mad Max.

Strangely, lead actor Anya Taylor-Joy doesn't enter the screen until an hour into the movie, when Furiosa finally comes of age. Even more frustratingly, she has barely any speaking parts after that. Most of her work is done with her eyes — radiant orbs on a grimy visage. It's a tall order to replace Charlize Theron, one of the best actors of our time, but this younger Furiosa looks cool, and is as tough as the grim world that surrounds her.

There are a number of pleasing action sequences that follow, and it would seem that Miller is trying to draw a distinction between order and anarchy. Some of the warring factions descend into chaos, and that's when things unravel and the movie goes full throttle. There are relentless chase scenes and so much action that Max Max audiences will almost become numb to it, but for casual fans of action and sci-fi, this is what they came for. Hot rods and flamethrowers and lots of dudes getting run over by semi trucks — "What a lovely day!"

Invested Max Max aficionados and cinephiles will want more from the genius of George Miller. There's some juicy Mad Max lore (we get to see the Bullet Farm and Gastown) and great references to The Road Warrior (full disclosure: my favourite film of all-time). There's also the introduction of a compelling newcomer, Praetorian Jack, portrayed by Tom Burke. But this story lacks a convincing villain, and maybe that's by design.

Miller has always toyed with ambiguity, especially when it comes to good versus evil. It's the Wasteland after all, and everyone is dealing with trauma and loss, so who are we to judge? This concept comes to fruition in the final scenes of the movie, where one of the many "bad guys" is forced to explain himself to Furiosa in what seems like an open-air therapy session. Furiosa remains stoic and we know her fate, so it's not a particularly fulfilling closure, especially when it seems Miller is trying to convey an urgent parable.

Furiosa's just a big-ass tractor pull with chrome everywhere — a film fuelled by diesel and excessive testosterone.

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

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