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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review – Visceral Storytelling

Anya Taylor Joy sits in a car and only her eyes are illuminated in FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is the kind of film that reminds us why we love movies, delivering a satisfying, epic journey that needs to be experienced rather than analyzed.

Director: George Miller
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Run Time: 148′
Cannes Premiere: May 15, 2024
Release Date: May 24, 2024
Where to watch: in theaters

What makes a good prequel? Usually, it’s the combination of a screenplay that brings new depth to characters we know and love, filling in the gaps in the narrative, and a story that doesn’t just rely on nostalgia but is also compelling on its own. But with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, it’s not so simple, as it had the impossible task of living up not only to an iconic saga, but also to one of the best action movies ever made.

Nearly ten years after Mad Max: Fury Road, writer-director George Miller and co-writer Nick Lathouris bring us the origin story of Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron in Fury Road. There, we saw her flee the Citadel with the Five Wives of its Leader, Immortan Joe, hoping to reach the idyllic Green Place of Many Mothers. There, trees still grow and there’s no shortage of water, unlike the post-apocalyptic world she inhabits. It’s at the Green Place that our origin story begins, with a young Furiosa (Alyla Browne, of Three Thousand Years of Longing) and her mother Mary (Charlee Fraser, of Anyone But You) running from some bikers who have stumbled upon this “place of abundance” and mean to use it for its resources.

“No one must know of this place,” Mary tells her daughter before they are separated, handing her a peach kernel for safekeeping. Despite her resourcefulness, Furiosa is soon captured by the Biker Horde, and taken to their leader, Dr. Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Dementus, whose appearance evolves throughout the film, is quite the contradiction, coming across as a wacky, bearded messiah/pirate/emperor who won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in his path but whose terrible decisions, hilariously polished vocabulary, and odd fashion choices – a white toga with a Teddy Bear attached to it with a chain – makes us anticipate every single scene he’s in.

Dementus is both clever and impractical, which is why his plans don’t always work, but even if they fail, it’s in a spectacular way. This, combined with the fact that he travels on a Roman chariot trained not by horses but by motorbikes, makes him quite the lovable antagonist. A part of us is relieved when we see Dementus decide to take Furiosa with him, having taken a liking for her. As he spares her life, he places her in a cage with a History Man (George Shevtsov) – an old man who is kept alive for his knowledge and who urges her to “make yourself invaluable, and Dementus will look after you.” Needless to say, our determined protagonist has other plans.

Chris Hemsworth in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA”
Chris Hemsworth in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2024 Warner Bros. Feature Productions Pty Limited and Domain Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved. / Cannes Film Festival)

Of course, the real antagonist of the film is someone we know from the previous films: Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) himself. Soon, Dementus and his Biker Horde cross paths with him, and eventually come to an agreement where each of them is in charge of a valuable area in the Wasteland. It’s a precarious balance, as each of them needs the other’s resources to survive, and War Rig drivers help preserve it by facilitating the transport of water and fuel between the two. When we meet Furiosa again, many years later (now played by Anya Taylor-Joy), she’s plotting her revenge; her plan soon takes her to a very special War Rig, and that’s where our story really begins.

As many have already pointed out, what happens next in Furiosa isn’t revolutionary, and the world building in particular is not as complex and multilayered as that in Fury Road. The narrative itself follows predictable beats, and most of the time you’ll be able to predict what’s going to happen. But that’s not the point of the movie. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a film that needs to be experienced without analyzing it too much, as it’s quite simply a feast for the eyes. When it comes to immersive, entertaining filmmaking, you can’t get any better than this; this prequel demands your attention from its first shot to the last, delivering riotously fun chase scenes, many unexpected moments of humor, plenty of nostalgia, and emotional beats that come when you least expect it.

Technically speaking, the film is flawless. The camerawork (Simon Duggan) fully immerses us in every scene, with stunning settings and perfectly paced action scenes: there’s so much to take in in every single scene. The soundtrack is more subdued than Fury Road‘s and that choice works, as the strategically placed score (Tom Holkenborg) and sound design (James Ashton) make this adventure more epic, leading up to iconic moments that really give the characters justice.

Acting-wise, the standout is Alyla Browne, but most of the actors are given room to shine by a screenplay that allows for both moments of hilarity and emotion. Chris Hemsworth was born to play Dr. Dementus, who will absolutely become a fan favorite; Anya Taylor-Joy‘s portrayal of Furiosa is a little different than Charlize Theron’s but she still stays true to the character; as the charismatic Praetorian Jack, Tom Burke also excels, and his and Taylor-Joy’s chemistry make their scenes a delight to watch. Many beloved characters return, such as Rictus Erectus and Scabrus Scrotus, whose introduction is bound to make you laugh, and many more.

So what if Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a little light on plot? It’s the experience that counts in Miller’s Mad Max prequel, which absolutely nails the balance between action, humor, and emotion, and is simply so much fun, in every possible way. It’s over two hours long, and yet when you reach that perfect ending, you’ll still find yourself wanting more. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is the kind of film that reminds us why we love movies, and an absolute must-watch for Mad Max fans.

Furiosa premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and will be released globally in theaters on May 24, 2024. Read our review of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (Warner Bros. Pictures)
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