Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

The Mad Max series has been around since 1979 under the masterful direction of George Miller. The original film made a superstar out of Mel Gibson. The 1981 sequel, The Road Warrior, was and still is considered superior. 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome marked the end of the apocalyptic trilogy. Or so we thought.

In 2015, writer/director Miller brought it back to exhilarating life in the form of Mad Max: Fury Road, with Tom Hardy taking over the role of the titular character and Charlize Theron in the role of Furiosa.

Now, Miller gives us a prequel to the events of Fury Road, and while the results don’t hit the near-perfect heights that film did, it’s still a supercharged joyride filled with sensational sights and performances filled with intensity and heart.

This prequel begins with Australia becoming a desolate wasteland, and young Furiosa lives somewhere called “The Land of Abundance.” Chris Hemsworth plays a warlord named Dementus, who captures Furiosa and adopts her as his daughter.

Dementus believes Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) might have information that can lead him to the land of The Green Place, where Furiosa is from. It’s one of the few environments not affected by the devastation. They both meet the character of Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), who will become the sinister villain in Fury Road.

As is common with this series, there’s a terrific chase sequence, and this prequel doesn’t disappoint. It features a chase on a highway with a vehicle called the War Rig that can withstand attacks. It proves to be pretty powerful in action and is one of the reasons why this movie needs to be seen in IMAX.

The movie’s stunts and special effects succeed unsurprisingly well. Miller crafts convincing sequences without CGI overkill. The chases and explosions are outstanding for that sole reason.

However, Furiosa attempts to bring more dramatic heft than its predecessor, and the results are a bit of a mixed bag. The movie wants us to care about Furiosa’s mother when she’s abducted by Dementus and his gang. It slides into predictable territory which gives Furiosa her motivation, but the execution isn’t quite as involving. Plus, there are some scenes where the characters engage in long-winded speeches that seem to advance the plot but the ingredients are only halfhearted due to the muffled dialogue.

Where the movie falls short emotionally, it more than makes up for due to its bonkers, visceral images, especially with the inclusions of cities named Gastown and The Bullet Farm. These cities are detailed and imagined extremely well, like the Emerald City if it were more industrial.

Taylor-Joy and Hemsworth deliver solid, effective performances that hold the material together. Miller’s vision is one that many filmmakers aspire to but seldom achieve. But does Furiosa match the elevation of Fury Road? No.

Nevertheless, it’s illuminated by many moments of visual splendor that are hard to take your eyes off. This is a worthy effort.

Grade: A-

(Rated R for sequences of strong violence and grisly images.)

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