Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review

Image from "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga". Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

In the modern movie era of movie franchises, Mad Max stands out for a variety of reasons. The Aussie backdrops, the post-apocalypse mayhem, the visceral carnage. Yet most importantly, George Miller’s opuses stand out for their ability to be so distinct from one another. Most other franchises follow their own specific beats and formulas, but each Mad Max film is different from the last. Different in plot, in tone, in character, in visuals. It’s truly something special and fits thematically with the world of the Wasteland, as these films pride themselves as legends. Stories that are seemingly true, but are likely being told by unreliable narrators.

Furiosa, the prequel to the 2015 smash success Fury Road, is no exception. This is a feature that still has high-octane excitement and gorgeous cinematography like its predecessor. Yet the film eschews away from the roller coaster sensationalism and non-stop barrage of chases in favor of a slower-paced revenge drama. However, this doesn’t stop the film from being compelling. Better yet, it creates a fascinating ying-yang with Fury Road. One side madcap and looney, the other emphasizing plot and world building.

This is seen further in the visuals. This prequel offers a more digital sheen, with the visual effects not being as refined or as grimy as before. Yet it works to tell a story that is years before the apocalypse had truly taken over, and makes the film feel more fantastical. Fitting for a story that feels almost Biblical in its depictions of a Valhalla and sanctuary. Fitting also for a franchise about legends and stories. And yes, fitting to help give the film a unique personality. One that still feels in tune with what came before, and in many regards features some of the absolute best the series has to offer.

The epic car chases people expect from this franchise are in full force, with plenty of dynamic action and finely-tuned editing that emphasize strong violence and destruction. It’s still fascinating to see George Miller, a man nearing 80, can create such inventive and exciting action set pieces. A man older than all the Marvel Cinematic Universe directors, and he gives his films more vibrancy and energy than any of them combined. The highlight is perhaps the midpoint, as Furiosa fights off parachuting daredevils and trying to keep an oil rig alive.

All of this is anchored by the reliable Anya Taylor-Joy, filling in for Fury Road’s Charlize Theron. I’d argue it’s not quite easy to justify a recasting of such an iconic performance and character, even if part of the reason comes down to Miller and Theron not getting along during filming. In some regards, the film could have had Theron play the part, even if the character is aged down.

Thankfully, Anya delivers the ferocity and determination, with a strong arc that seamlessly integrates itself into Fury Road. The growth of a woman scorned and degraded by the world, only to stand up for herself as a savior, a symbol who only wishes to return to salvation. Create a new, better world for those in her position. Which of course, knowing Fury Road exists, does not happen. Yet through it all, she finds her own salvation. Finding herself in a greater position that she had no idea would ever happen.

Alas, this doesn’t match what Fury Road achieved. An impossibility for sure, a movie so perfectly paced and shot and devised. The film is more drawn out, not as well-paced, and a few of the emotional moments don’t have the reverence they should. Yet it delivers on so many levels in visuals, direction, and storytelling that most blockbusters can only dream of. A film that is both highly exciting, highly creative, and highly intelligent. With its dismal box office results, this may be the last time we see the Wasteland. But what a lovely way to end a franchise.