Film Review: ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Sees George Miller Painting on a Bigger, Yet Equally Ambitious, Action Canvas

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When Mad Max: Fury Road came out, it was very much an event. The combination of action spectacle and prestige gave it a unique feel, unlike almost anything else we’d seen. For many, it was an instant classic, becoming one of the most stunning films they’d ever seen. While I very much respect that take, I’ve always had Fury Road a bit more at arm’s length. Now, I like the movie a lot, but it never quite blew me away. Part of it is that I don’t go gaga over a car chase, and the flick is one epic car chase, to be fair. So, in a way, I approached Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga at a bit more of a remove than most. While it means I was probably never going to fall in love with the film, it did mean I was less likely to be let down. Lo and behold, this is an epic work that does a ton right, even if it does somewhat overstay its welcome.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is another blistering action epic from George Miller, who continues to do this in a manner that no one else would even attempt, let alone pull off. Painting on a bigger canvas allows for more story, which in turn adds some bloat, but the highs here are very high. The sense of seeing something done for the first time isn’t there, but there’s a joy in seeing it pulled off again with aplomb. Did I love it? No. Did I like it a lot? You bet.

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Taking place a decade or two before the events of Mad Max: Fury Road, with the world having fallen apart a bit more recently, we’re introduced to young Furiosa (Alyla Browne). A child from the Green Place of Many Mothers, she’s captured one day and winds up in the clutches of the vicious Biker Horde, led by the Warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Her mother Mary Jabasa (Charlee Fraser) attempts to rescue her, but is murdered by the quirky yet brutal Dementus, which hardens Furiosa in the moment, as well as when she gets a bit older (played then by Anya Taylor-Joy). When Dementus sets his sights on the Citadel and the rule of Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), that’s when Furiosa has an opportunity for escape, after being a part of a potential treaty.

While the two Tyrants duke it out for control over the Citadel, Furiosa just survives, trekking through the Wasteland in order not just to make it home, but also for vengeance. Alongside Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), Furiosa finds some level of hope, though never forgetting about the pain for too long. It’s no secret where this story is going to end up, but once you watch this, Furiosa’s subsequent story (when Charlize Theron takes over) is given much more in the way of layering.

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Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth are the highlights here, with the former displaying major intensity, while the latter goes gonzo. Taylor-Joy has a toughness to her here that evokes Theron, while giving the character her own spin. There’s a lot asked of her, but she’s more than up to the task. As for Hemsworth, he gets to be big and wild, going all-in on the strangeness of his villainous warlord. He’s having the most fun here, that’s for sure. Tom Burke is mostly given very little to do as a Mad Max-type stand in, while Lachy Hulme is effective enough in taking over for the late Hugh Keays-Byrne. In addition to Charlee Fraser, the supporting cast includes Spencer Connelly, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Goran D. Kleut, Angus Sampson, and more.

Filmmaker George Miller shows no signs of slowing down here. Once again co-writing with Nick Lathouris, the world is built out in a very interesting manner, though Miller’s direction is truly the biggest star. A standout sequence has Browne transitioning mid-action into Taylor-Joy really will blow you away, while all of the action scenes have bravura. Lathouris and Miller’s script pads out the world nicely, though it also pads out the running time in a way I didn’t need. Miller would have made a phenomenal two hour movie, though he opts for something nearly a half hour longer. The cinematography from Simon Duggan, as well as the score from Tom Holkenborg, don’t quite match up to the prior installment, but are still great on their own. There’s a hump in the middle portion, though early on and late in the game, Miller is attempting to top himself in a way that’s very pleasing. There’s a bit of repetition here that bounces off of me, but by and large, this is bombastic filmmaking that blockbuster entertainment is made to showcase.

Warner Bros.

On a technical level, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is just as accomplished as Mad Max: Fury Road, just without some of the initial originality. As such, I’m not fully certain how the Academy will take to it. I think there will be some Oscar attention if things break right, but it’s not the sure thing that the last flick had in its pocket coming out of the Cannes Film Festival. This movie is also going to be leaving Cannes with a head of steam, but the awards path going forward is more of a question mark.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga manages to both stand on its own as well as expand upon the classic that’s preceded it. That’s incredibly hard to pull off, so George Miller deserves a ton of credit for that. Anyone who was blown away by Fury Road is likely to be similarly enamored with Furiosa. It’s different enough to not disappoint, while very much delivering what fans expect. Don’t miss this when it hits theaters next weekend. Witness!

SCORE: ★★★

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