Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga – Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on May 22, 2024 in / No Comments

 

Rated R by the MPA for sequences of strong violence and grisly images. Montage continues through first portion of closing credits; a visual stinger plays at credits’ end. Running time: 148 minutes. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, Furiosa, Mad MaxLet me tell you where I’m coming from with this review.
My first experiences with Mad Max were in the 1980s, seeing the original Mad Max trilogy on network television. (We didn’t have cable.) I became familiar with George Miller’s undercranking technique to amp his action scenes up to hyperspeed, which injected a certain kind of surreality to everything. So when I saw Mad Max: Fury Road after hearing such hyperbole as “There are now two eras of cinema: pre-Fury Road and post-Fury Road” on Twitter (don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore), I was let down a bit. To me, it was the same thing that Miller had been doing for his Mel Gibson-starring Mad Max films.

While a perfectly fine piece of action cinema, Fury Road was, really, the logical progression of where modern storytelling processes could take the Mad Max series. Advances in digital filmmaking, computer imagery, and stunt work made Fury Road a blowout, go-for-broke spectacle. But underneath it all, Fury Road was just another Mad Max film, where the apocalypse has divided the populace of Australia into the worst case of the haves and have-nots. Men are elevated into revered gods (whose subjects are willing and ready to commit suicide at their command), and legend and wives’ tales have taken root, replacing science and knowledge.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, Furiosa, Mad MaxFuriosa: A Mad Max Saga marks another adrenaline-fueled chapter in Miller’s Wasteland pantheon that seeks to make eternal mythology out of mere mortals. Previously played by Charlize Theron, Furiosa is now inhabited by Anya Taylor-Joy, who brings her own stark spin in giving Theron’s character a fully fleshed-out history and life prior to the events of Fury Road. As the script asks her to maintain a veil of pre-supposed silence, Taylor-Joy is perfect for the role, using her body language and expressive countenance to propel her performance to memorable heights.

Furiosa asks us to witness the title character’s beginnings as a kidnapped child, taken from “a place of abundance” (the “Green Place” alluded to in the previous film, momentarily shown here in its full glory) to the Wastelands (i.e., central Australia), where nothing grows and people live in squalor. She adopts a veneer of silence to keep her people’s location a secret, but she also learns how to adapt quickly to this new, harsh life, where gory atrocities, torture, and murder are the only methods used to keep order. Roving gangs seek power and glory, fighting to the death for a gallon of “guzzoline” or clean drinking water.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, Furiosa, Mad MaxThe world-building in Furiosa is exceptional. While it rides off of established lore, we finally get to see places only hinted at in Fury Road, making Immortan Joe’s (Lachy Hulme, taking over for the late Hugh Keays-Byrne) reign more of a kingdom than just the Citadel and the outlying lands visible by telescope. We’re given a more tactile definition of how far Immortan Joe’s reach stretches, the outer limits of which are run by Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), leader of a biker gang with no discernable base. In true mythological fashion, Dementus is an upstart looking to advance his station, and what better way to do it than toppling the big guy, Immortan Joe, whose land and resources are everything Dementus could seem to want?

We see this and every power play Dementus attempts through Furiosa’s eyes, as she’s eventually traded to Immortan Joe in a life-saving barter for control of Gastown. Strong-willed and adaptive, Furiosa seems to preternaturally know when to play her cards for maximum gain; we can see the wheels turning as she makes careful decisions to keep her one step ahead of both Dementus and Immortan Joe. But her cunning never betrays her to either of them, as they both think she’s still under their feet. Curiously, she carves out a freedom for herself to make her moves, each one an important step to regaining her own sense of self and possibly reuniting with her people.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, Furiosa, Mad MaxRunning Furiosa and Fury Road one after the other shows no step missed in its larger-than-life, exaggerated spirit. They belong together, as Furiosa perfectly complements Fury Road’s story and ethos while adding vital scope and narrative to fill in the gaps. Again, George Miller uses a dazzling combination of explosive practical effects and computer imagery to deliver this new look at the Wasteland’s history and development, filling every moment with savage ferocity while maintaining our emotional attachment to Furiosa and her progress as both Dementus’ plaything and one of Immortan Joe’s underlings.

Great care is taken to establish a look and feel for each sector of the Wasteland. Even though dominated by desert browns, there’s a certain pall cast over Gastown that doesn’t reach over to the Bullet Farm; where Gastown is an industrial complex, the Bullet Farm is replete with the kinds of roads and limited structures prevalent in modern-day stone quarries, which adds a nice touch of traditional accessibility to Miller’s high-powered mythmaking. Hues are played with via color correction and saturation, fully engulfing us in the insanity of this post-apocalyptic hellhole.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Warner Bros. Pictures, Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, Furiosa, Mad MaxIt took Furiosa for me to appreciate what Mad Max: Fury Road was. Now, I see them as indispensable companion pieces, both of them being large-scale, more-outsized-than-outsized films which carry both maximum bombast and actual humanity. Admittedly, after Fury Road, I was dismissive of the childish nature of the language used, the War Boys, their fervent and preening devotion to Immortan Joe, and everyone’s abject detachment from reality involved with making themselves into something larger than life. Honestly, when I saw Fury Road, I shrugged it off as being a product of too much hype and not enough substance.

But Furiosa made me look at this duology in a different light, and it all makes perfect sense, in that nothing makes sense in this chaotic, frightening, and exhausting world. The inhabitants have reverted to the basest of behaviors, where the weak die and the strong survive; if you survive long enough and take people with you on the way up, your legend is born and worshiped. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga advances this myth to grander proportions, battering us with visuals and sound that take us into nightmares and dreamscapes that speak of both the simplicity and complexity of navigating humanity under extraordinary circumstances. It’s a hell of a ride, and it’s one that I’m glad to have taken.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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