Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review

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When people are asked to name a perfect action movie, Mad Max: Fury Road has been the go-to answer for the past nine years. The Oscar-winning extravaganza felt like the culmination of everything George Miller was building toward with nothing left to say. While a Furiosa origin story showed promise, the idea wasn’t without risk, especially with a new actress in the role. Anya Taylor-Joy has star power in spades, but Charlize Theron isn’t as easily replaceable as Mel Gibson. Taylor-Joy isn’t a replacement for Theron, however. Neither is Alyla Browne as the character’s younger counterpart. All three actresses are the embodiment of Furiosa, telling an epic story through their eyes alone.

Hidden away in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, there was once a green place known as… The Green Place. Furiosa lived there with her equally fierce mother (Charlee Fraser) until she was kidnapped. While this was mentioned in Fury Road, it’s explored in great depth here. So are many ambiguous aspects of Furiosa’s character, such as her shaven head and how she got her mechanical arm. Much like Batman, you could argue that mystery is part of what made Furiosa such a fascinating character. As Batman Begins showed us, though, there might be a compelling story behind that mystery. Furiosa delivers in similar satisfying ways.

For all the layers this prequel peels back, it leaves much of this world clouded in legend. Knowing how Furiosa became Imperator Furiosa doesn’t make her any less legendary. There are plenty of references to Fury Road, although unlike some other prequels, Furiosa doesn’t dwell on them. The film swiftly moves from one set piece to another, but it provides ample room for the characters to breathe. That said, Furiosa isn’t a carbon copy of Fury Road with another feature-length car chase. It’s more quiet and meditative, yet still intense, enthralling, and visually unmatched. At 148 minutes, the film takes its time without ever coming off as slow.

Taylor-Joy and Browne deliver extraordinary lead performances in a cast including newcomers like Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack and familiar faces like Lachy Hulme as Immortan Joe. The scene-stealer is Chris Hemsworth’s Dementus, the warlord who robs Furiosa of her childhood. Dementus nonetheless comes to view himself as Furiosa’s father figure, although he’d trade her in a heartbeat for a little more power. As commanding as Dementus is, he refreshingly isn’t always the smartest villain. He’s overly ambitious, thinking he can contend with the likes of Joe. Dementus is still an imposing force whom we hate to love and love to hate, making his climatic clash with Furiosa all the more satisfying.

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There were times in the film when I found myself questioning Furiosa’s motivation. At one point, returning home gets sidelined as Furiosa becomes preoccupied with other quests. Looking beneath the surface, though, everything Furiosa does is rooted in the Green Place. It’s not always spelled out, but that’s part of what places this franchise above others. It only relies on dialogue when it needs to, letting everything else sink in through visuals, sounds, and subtle gestures. “Subtle” might not be the word most people associate with Mad Max, but Miller is a true master of simplicity.

Is Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga better than Fury Road? No, but if you go into any modern action movie with that mentality, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Furiosa is not only a worthy companion to Fury Road. In an age where people have forgotten that The Phantom Menace is a bad movie and are probably only a few years away from being nostalgic for The Hobbit trilogy, this is the gold standard for prequels by a long mile. It expands upon the characters and world without revealing too much. The spectacle is in the Mad Max spirit while moving at its own pace. It’s a reminder that moviegoers deserve better than what Hollywood regularly dishes out, and we shouldn’t have to wait every nine years for something of this caliber.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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