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  • Writer's pictureBen Pivoz

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga


Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) is out for revenge in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (Distributed by Warner Bros.)

The original Mad Max trilogy (Mad Max, The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) are pretty good 80s action movies. Violent, exciting, kind of cheesy in a comic book sort of way, I recall enjoying them, though it’s been decades since I’ve seen them. They were popular enough to lead to the 2015 reboot Mad Max: Fury Road, which took the character to much more interesting heights. That was an epic two-hour car chase with awe-inspiring stunts.


Light on story, it was a crazy, chaotic spectacle, that did an excellent job introducing viewers to a new big-screen hero. The real protagonist of Fury Road was not Max, who stumbled into the action while trying to survive. It was actually Furiosa, a bald badass driven by anger. Played by a very convincing Charlize Theron, she set the plot in motion and became the heart of the story by attempting to save a group of women being kept as slaves to be used as breeders for a warlord, and taking them back to the home she was stolen from as a child. Fury Road is definitely best known for its action, but the characterization of Furiosa absolutely helps it stand out.


There were rumors of Theron getting a spin-off almost immediately. It has taken nine years and a switch from a follow-up to a prequel, necessitating Theron being replaced as the lead by the younger Anya Taylor-Joy, yet we finally have Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Holy crap was it worth the wait!


Furiosa is kidnapped as a child and ends up in the middle of a power struggle between the man who took her and a younger version of the intimidating Immortan Joe. As an adult, the only thing she desires is revenge.

The demented Dementus (Chris Hemsworth)

Fury Road is a fantastic, creative, thrill ride in a fully-realized post-apocalyptic world strewn with explosive carnage. Furiosa may be even better. It has a deeper story, fueled by vengeance, more colorful characters and a truly epic arc. Though we know a lot of Furiosa’s tale coming in, seeing it unfold is still completely captivating. She is an awesome presence, with relatable, if brutal, motivation. What is fascinating is how little dialogue she gets in relation to how much screen time she has. Anya Taylor-Joy does not talk much and Alyla Browne, who plays young Furiosa, talks even less. It is not hard to see what makes Furiosa tick. Both actresses benefit from this, as well as from director/cowriter George Miller’s ability to make her fury feel biblical. All we need is to see Furiosa’s eyes to know exactly what she is thinking. Taylor-Joy and Browne are good at relating this.


Furiosa (138 minutes, without the end credits) makes up for the protagonist’s silence by surrounding her with some big personalities. Biggest of all is Dementus, played in a delightful performance by Chris Hemsworth. Dementus is an insane, sadistic, narcissistic warlord who abducts Furiosa from her family. Hemsworth struts around the screen as a man who thinks he’s smarter and more interesting than anyone else. He is at turns terrifying and hilarious. Terrifying because of how calmly he commits atrocities. Hilarious because of how committed Hemsworth is in portraying this bizarre maniac. He is very entertaining, creating a unique villain for our heroine to try to vanquish.


If there is a negative to Furiosa, it is that Miller uses fewer practical effects and far more visual effects. The crashes, explosions and car chases are given a lot of digital assistance. While it is noticeable, it didn’t bother me. I was so caught up in the visceral thrill of the storytelling and direction that I didn’t care. The action is still exciting and impressive.


George Miller has taken the spectacle of Fury Road and built on it by adding in a stronger emotional through-line (Furiosa’s arc here reminded me of Kill Bill). Maybe, on subsequent viewings, I will find that a few lulls in the action (there are some calms before the storm, unlike the all-storm approach of its predecessor) or the prevalence of CGI brings it down a peg. It’s possible. But on first viewing, I was blown-away. This is quite the cinematic experience.

 

4¾ out of 5

 

Cast:

Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa

Alyla Browne as Young Furiosa

Chris Hemsworth as Dementus

Lachy Hulme as Immortan Joe

Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack

 

Directed by George Miller

Written by George Miller and Nick Lathouris

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