Review: ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’

By

Whilst Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024) is the fifth entry in the Mad Max series, George Miller’s latest spectacle can be enjoyed by both long-time fans and newcomers alike. In anticipation of this film’s release, I watched the entire Mad Max anthology for the first time. Although I enjoyed my time with the series, I did not find that I needed to have watched any of the previous films in order to understand or adore Miller’s latest film. However, fans of the previous films will still enjoy some subtle and not-so-subtle call backs, especially since this film acts as a prequel to the 4th entry, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

The film focuses on the early life of Furiosa, a character first introduced in Fury Road and originally played by Charlize Theron, now played by award-winner Anya Taylor Joy and Alyla Browne. Furiosa is snatched from one of the few safe havens in an apocalyptic, crime-ridden Australia, and the film follows her journey for revenge against the man responsible for ruining her childhood: Dr Dementus (played by Chris Hemsworth). While the plot may seem straightforward, Miller succeeds in creating an extremely compelling and emotional story through heated exchanges of dialogue and violence. In fact, Furiosa returns to the roots of the franchise, as the protagonist is continuously tortured with loss and grief, fuelling her desire for revenge and the audience’s anticipation of her success. Although Max himself is absent, Praetorian Jack (played by Tom Burke) fills a similar archetype and serves as both a mysterious ally in Furiosa’s quest for revenge and a love interest; a dynamic not often explored within Miller’s series.

Furiosa returns to the roots of the franchise, as the protagonist is continuously tortured with loss and grief, fuelling her desire for revenge and the audience’s anticipation of her success

While Miller succeeds in making one of the most emotionally and narratively compelling films of the Mad Max franchise, that is not the only feat this movie achieves. Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy do a fantastic job in showing how Furiosa’s life and character changes after years spent separated from her family and idyllic childhood, working under the ruthless Immortan Joe, who returns from the 4th film. Since the last film, Immortan Joe’s original actor Hugh Keays-Byrne has passed away, but the character is continued by Lachy Hulme, who captures the spirit and menace of the original performance. Beyond the actors and characters, George Miller thrives in innovating the action and spectacle even further beyond the chases of Fury Road by introducing more tools for destruction. These include aerial gliders used by bandits to swiftly steal supplies like gasoline and bullets, or even turbines with flails attached, fitted to the back of tankers to tear up any vehicles or bandits that cross their paths. Furthermore, these fun new tools are often filmed practically, which adds to the sense of realness and intensity of each violent exchange found upon the fury road. These set pieces are only enhanced by the work of the film’s sound department, who ensure audiences feel the rev of each engine, adding to the sense of power behind each vehicle and the speed of each chase.

Although Furiosa innovates upon Fury Road’s action set pieces and emotional storytelling, it fails to innovate in some important areas. For instance, while Simon Duggan does a terrific job with the film’s cinematography, it still doesn’t feel up to par with John Seale’s cinematography in Fury Road. In the previous film, each shot was composed to have the object of focus at the centre of the shot, which made it easier for the audience to perceive visual information amid extremely fast-paced editing and chases. Furiosa loses such clarity, and shots often feel messier as a result, meaning important details may be easily missed by idle viewers. Furthermore, Furiosa fails to innovate upon the world shown in Fury Road. Many of the same characters and locations from the previous film return, which may be disappointing for fans who have been waiting 9 years to see how Miller expands and innovates upon his apocalyptic wasteland. Between films, Max often wanders to different locations, meaning the viewer gets to see new cultures and societies born from the apocalypse. Even though the film adds a new faction run by Dementus and explores locations previously established, like the Bullet Farm and Gastown, in more depth, the world doesn’t feel as fresh as it did in the 4th instalment. However, this shortcoming is somewhat forgivable considering the nature of making a prequel, and this obviously won’t be an issue for anyone wanting to try the franchise with this film. I left the cinema wanting to see more of Miller’s post-apocalyptic world, and I hope we get to see more in a sequel following either Furiosa, Max or a completely new character.

Anyone with a love for incredible stunts, violence, nuanced character writing and retro cars fitted with spikes and flamethrowers can enjoy this film

Even though Furiosa may not exceed Fury Road in every single aspect, this film is still expertly crafted, incredibly entertaining and gripping throughout. Unfortunately, despite the high praise that the film has rightfully received, it is not doing well financially. According to Screen Rant, Furiosa earned only $26 million on its opening weekend; while this demonstrates a better box office performance than the first three films, the figures are still lower than that of Fury Road, which underperformed as well. Perhaps audiences are cautious of Furiosa, especially if they haven’t seen the rest of the series. If this is the case, then I urge those who haven’t seen any Mad Max films to try Furiosa. Anyone with a love for incredible stunts, violence, nuanced character writing and retro cars fitted with spikes and flamethrowers can enjoy this film.  If you’re looking to watch one of the best films to come out so far this year, go see Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.

Image: Warner Bros

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.