Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review – Decades of Perfectly Honed Hatred

For many, the name George Miller is synonymous with the Mad Max franchise, but more than that, he’s one of the most creative directors working in Hollywood right now, with an eclectic filmography that almost feels like a joke at first glance. Yes, the filmmaker behind the Mad Max franchise also came up with Happy Feet (2006) and Babe: Pig in the City (1998). Even if you stick with only the Mad Max movies, you will find a surprisingly varied series of movies.

The original Mad Max (1979) is an Ozsploitation classic with a dystopian setting closer to our current world than the wasteland the franchise would later be known for and serves as an origin story to a hero we weren’t prepared for. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) is where we get introduced to the world of Mad Max as we know and love it today. Where a dude in BDSM wear called Lord Humungus is considered a serious threat, gasoline is one of the most valuable resources, and wars are fought on the road. It’s also where the myth-like quality of Max and his adventures first comes into play, with a parable of good and evil in a wasteland that has abandoned all laws, and when the franchise starts to embrace its take on western iconography. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) is the one we don’t really talk about, but if we did, it would be a story about what an attempt at a new proper civilization in the wasteland might look like with some WWE shenanigans in there as well. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) takes the franchise into a world of modern blockbuster filmmaking with a huge budget and practical stunts elevated through masterful use of digital effects. It’s a chase movie unlike any other, with one action set piece after the other unrivaled in its creative force. And somewhere beneath all the breathtaking action hides a story about broken people who believe they can at the very least help a handful of innocent souls to a greater life, even if it might be too late for themselves. And now with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, we have a biblical revenge epic spanning over a decade of time. It’s about a war between two Tyrants over the control of the remaining resources in the barren wasteland, at the heart of which a personal vendetta between Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) grows in hatred with every passing second of its 16-year timeframe. It’s a story about hate and hope and how those shape humanity more than anything else.

One thing consistent across all of Miller’s work, whether it’s the antarctica inhabited by singing and tapdancing penguins in Happy Feet (2006), all three thousand years of a djinn’s fairy tale life across the orient in Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022), or the Orwellian fever dream of a metropolis in Babe: Pig in the City (1998), his worldbuilding is second to none. This is most evident in the Mad Max franchise, and Furiosa in particular really leans into it. Any concept introduced in Fury Road (2015) is expanded upon further here. The triangle of The Citadel, Gas Town, and Bullet Farm. War Boys and the hierarchy that exists under Immortan Joe. Dementus and his biker gang. We get a much clearer understanding than ever before how the wasteland works, while also constantly throwing new and interesting concepts and visuals at us.

After all, so much of the worldbuilding is communicated through the visual design of the movie. Even small side characters will have little quirks that make them standout, and some even have entire arcs of their own on the very edges of the story, like the fantastically designed Octoboss. Most of the crew from Fury Road (2015) returns in Furiosa, at least in the major roles, and so accordingly it looks and sounds as good as that movie did. The one difference is the DoP. Instead of the incredible John Seale, who has since gone into retirement, Simon Duggan is here to shoot the film, and with him comes a very different style. Where Fury Road (2015) enraptured audiences with how grounded it all seemed to be in reality, despite how ridiculous the world of Mad Max is, Furisoa embraces a much more digital look.

I don’t think that has to be a bad thing. Furiosa is the most heightened these movies have ever gotten, and it embraces the kind of storytelling found in fairy tales, myths, or even a storybook. A kind of story that far exceeds reality. And the cinematography reflects that. The camera does some incredible things here with images that could only be captured in all their digital glory. It’s easy to forget that despite Fury Road’s (2015) consistent praise for practical stunts, George Miller has always been a filmmaker obsessed with the newest technology and how it can be used to tell stories.

While Furiosa isn’t nearly as action-focused as Fury Road (2015), a feat nearly impossible to achieve even if you tried, that doesn’t mean the action that is there isn’t absolutely outstanding once again. One set piece in particular—you’ll know which one when you see it—completely blows any other action filmmaker currently working in Hollywood out of the water and might just be better than anything in Fury Road. I admit that might be recency bias speaking, but it’s at the very least as strong in that department when it wants to be. The focus simply lies elsewhere: revenge.

Furiosa is a long movie that spans an even longer timespan and paints in broad brush strokes as it depicts a defining conflict in the history of the wasteland. But no matter how big or small any given moment is, every second of the movie further builds the seething rage of Furiosa against a world that continuously wrongs her, but above all against Dementus. And in that endless pursuit of vengeance, the movie makes some bold choices that set Furiosa apart from any other Mad Max movie, and makes for a final confrontation that hits in a way no previous Mad Max movie was able to because of it.

And it works because of Anya Taylor-Joy’s mostly wordless performance, in which she depicts so many different layers of rage that build and build endlessly. She does so much with her eyes and, by the end, transforms into Charlize Theron seemlessly. And then on the opposite end we have Chris Hemsworth as Dementus, who gives an absolute powerhouse performance that will more than likely go down as the highlight of his career. There’s so much energy and charisma in that performance, as he just keeps talking and becomes the most hateable piece of garbage you’ve ever seen. A villanous performance for the ages. The last actor that needs to be pointed out is Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack, who within all the chaos channels a calm demeanor that turns him into an absolute badass.

I think for many people Furiosa won’t quite live up to Fury Road (2015), but I also think time will be very kind to Furiosa. Once you come to accept that the movie is doing a completely different thing than Fury Road (2015), I think people will really come to love it as its own masterpiece. But for me, Furiosa is already up there as potentially the best Mad Max movie and the best movie of George Miller’s career.

Nairon Santos de Morais
Nairon, 21, from Berlin, is a film student by day, and a writer for FlickLuster by night. Movies and video games are his two big passions in life. As long as they are being kept separate, please no more awful video game adaptations.

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