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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024) Spoiler-Free Movie Review: Stories of the Wasteland

Poster for "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga"
Sean Fang Sun, 26/05/2024 - 16:50


Summary: While not quite a piece of generational filmmaking as "Fury Road", "Furiosa" takes the time to tell the human stories in a Wastland devoid of humanity.

"It was hard to know who was more crazy: Me ... or everyone else."

These were the words uttered by Max Rockatansky, AKA Mad Max, at the start of "Fury Road". This is the level of self-awareness that separates a Wasteland legend like Max from the crazed sociopaths that roam the Wasteland. In "Furiosa", we follow the stories of individuals who have suffered a similar traumatic personal loss like Max but straddle either side of the thin line between hero and villain. And unlike "Fury Road", which focuses on action more than on characters or storytelling (in a good way), it's the stories that make "Furiosa".

Still from Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga - The War Rig

This is probably why many will be disappointed by this latest addition to the "Mad Max" universe, a prequel to "Fury Road". Many will come expecting another roller-coaster-esque thrill ride like "Fury Road", but instead find a more personal story of revenge, redemption, and loss, and plenty of world-building. Yes, there are still chase action sequences that can be best described as absolutely insane, but these occur at different parts of the timeline in the multi-year spanning story, and so feel less coherent than the "one big chase" that was "Fury Road".

Those who wanted more than the mere glimpses or mention of "Gas Town" and "The Bullet Farm" will also be delighted that we get to finally see these two other locations of the Wasteland "power triangle" (the last one being "The Citadel", which we got to intimately know in "Fury Road").

Still from Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga - Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa

The cinematography of "Furiosa" is impressive again, although somewhat muted and more reality-based than "Fury Road" (it may have something to do with the change in shooting locations, from the more exotic Namibia, back to outback Australia where the film series is set). Similarly the music, especially now without the contribution of the iconic Doof Warrior, seems more muted. But "Furiosa" is a more muted, personal story, and so this all makes sense.

Still from Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga - Charlee Fraser as Mary Jabassa and Alyla Browne as Furiosa

Anya Taylor-Joy is a delight as Furiosa, and notable mention must also go to Alyla Browne, who portrays Furiosa as as a child and teenager. Tom Burke plays Praetorian Jack, a sort of Mad Max stand-in, only with a truck and not the Interceptor. Charlee Fraser only has a short amount of time on screen as Furiosa's mother, but it's a memorable one. And Chris Hemsworth thoroughly milks everything out of the movie's main antagonist, Dr. Dementus, giving the character the unique combination of charm, absolute villainy, insanity, and dare I say it, a bit of sympathy (only a tiny bit, mind you).

It's this last character trait of Dementus, and the powerful exchange between Furiosa and the psychopathic leader of the Biker Horde in the last act of the movie, that makes this movie in my opinion. Finding out the details of how these characters became who they are was never going to be as interesting as finding out why they became who they are, and through that final exchange, we find out why Dementus becomes who he is, why Praetorian Jack was able to retain his humanity, and why Furiosa becomes who she will be in "Fury Road". Max himself only has a cameo in this film that only lasts seconds, but we too can see how easily Max could have become another Dementus had he processed his grief in a different way.

Still from Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga - Chris Hemsworth as Dr. Dementus

If you ask me to list the biggest fault of "Furiosa", it would have to be one that's not unique to this type of film. "Furiosa" is a prequel, and in my opinion, most prequels are unnecessary. This is especially true for "Furiosa", a prequel to a film that's just about perfect as a standalone story. While I'm always a big fan of world-building, there is really no *need* to find out in detail what "Gas Town" or "The Bullet Farm" looks like and how they work, nor do we really need to know about Furiosa's backstory to appreciate her courage in "Fury Road". Want, yes, but no need. Personally speaking, I wanted to find out more about the transformation of the military man Colonel Joe Moore to the villain that he becomes in Immortan Joe, but the story occurs years after this has already happened, and Joe is only a minor character in this film.

Putting the necessity of a sequel debate aside, "Furiosa" is still well worth your effort. It is an extremely well-made film that builds on the lore of the Mad Max universe, with some uniquely intense and interesting action sequences, and a more personal story about the survivors of the Wasteland.

"Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" is in cinemas 23 May 2024. Streaming release date: TBC.