It has been 9 years since the release of George Miller’s magnum opus Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). With the success of the film it was never really a surprise that there would be a sequel, the only real questions being what form would it take and how long would audiences have to wait.

Considering the popularity of Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, it is understandable why Miller would choose to make a film focusing on her, but rather than following the events after Fury Road, Miller has decided upon a prequel, showing the early days of Furiosa and how she develops into the fierce leader originally portrayed by Theron.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga opens in the fabled Greenplace of Many Mothers where we are introduced to the young Furiosa (Alya Browne) and her sister Valkyrie. While out collecting peaches they are discovered by a gang of Raiders who kidnap Furiosa. Her mother Mary (Charlee Fraser) chases them down and manages to kill all but one of the raiders. Unfortunately the one surviving Raider is able to deliver Furiosa to warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth).

Mary manages to rescue Furiosa that night but it isn’t long until they are captured, with Dementus killing Mary and keeping Furiosa as a prisoner. Afterwards, Dementus and his Raiders scour the Wasteland looking for other places to raid, finally coming upon Immortan Joe’s Citadel.

After several attempts to take the Citadel, Dementus comes to an agreement with Immortan Joe to rule Gastown. For this, he is forced to exchange Furiosa for this power, with Immortan Joe wanting her as one of his future wives. Rather than become one of the wives, Furiosa works up the ranks, assisting in the build of the “War Rig”, an armed tanker that can withstand raider attacks.

The now adult Furiosa (Anya Taylor Joy) ends up becoming part of Praetorian Jack’s (Tom Burke) team, with him promising to train her if she helps him build up his crew. Through working together they grow closer and decide to escape the Citadel together. However, before this they have to deal with the machinations of Dementus, with Furiosa’s need for revenge overcoming any desire to escape.

The first thing to get out of the way is that this isn’t Fury Road. It shares many of the same elements as that film, with there continuing to be strong visuals coupled with awesome action, but Miller’s latest is a very different beast from what came before, with more of a focus on character than previous entries in the series. Whilst action packed, this has a more leisurely pace than any entry before, with Miller taking his time in telling the backstory of Furiosa. Unlike Fury Road, which pretty much takes place over a couple of days, Furiosa is set over a 15 year period, with the film being broken into 5 separate chapters.

The pace of the film shouldn’t put people off. While it is definitely slower than previous Mad Max movies, it is never boring, with the world and the characters that inhabit it grabbing the audience’s attention from the very start. It also means that when the action finally comes it feels earned rather than just for action sake.

As expected, Miller hasn’t lost any of his skills behind the camera, exuding a level of confidence in his material that many other directors lack. This is especially true when you realize that the film has been running for at least an hour and 10 minutes before he even introduces Anya Taylor Joy, with Furiosa being played by the young Alyla Browne up until that point. It is a ballsy move, showing how much trust Miller has in his material as well as his audience.

Taylor Joy makes for a fine replacement for Theron, bringing the same steely determination to the character as her predecessor. For long sections of the film she has to rely solely on her body language and facial expressions, with Furiosa hardly saying a word. Like Mel Gibson in the Road Warrior, Joy’s Furiosa only speaks when deemed necessary. Ayla Browne also does well as the younger version of the character, who likewise doesn’t get much in the way of dialogue but still brings emotional depth to the part.

Although Anya Taylor Joy is given top billing, it is Chris Hemsworth that is afforded the most screen time, with his crazed villain Dementus being the true highlight of the film. Anyone who thinks of Hemsworth as merely a “beefcake” or deems him wooden really needs to see him here, with Dementus being a proper showcase for his talents. Hemsworth gives a strange, unexpectedly affecting performance, reveling in the opportunity to play a multi-layered villain.

Unlike Fury Road’s Immortan Joe, Dementus does on occasion show his humanity, with an early scene having him reminisce about the death of his own children, then later he fights off those attempting to take the young Furiosa. Sure, this is probably because he deems her as his property, but Hemsworth still shows some glimmer of humanity in his defense of her.

Whereas Joy is silent for long periods of the film, the opposite is true of Hemsworth, with Dementus delivering long, Shakespearean-like speeches. Some could see this as excessive but Hemsworth makes this aspect of the character enjoyable, with his dialogue containing some of the film’s most humorous dialogue. Hemsworth isn’t exactly hurting for work, but his performance here could open up new avenues for the actor and should once and for all shut up any naysayers.

As much focus has been put upon Joy and Hemsworth, audiences shouldn’t overlook what Tom Burke brings to proceedings. A late addition to the film, replacing Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Burke’s Praetorian Jack is very much in the Mad Max mould but less damaged, with him still willing to trust others. The relationship that slowly develops between him and Furiosa gives the film an additional emotional edge.

Burke is no stranger to action, proving his mettle in the BBC show The Musketeers (2014), which had him take part in many a sword fights. The action in Furiosa is obviously of a different breed but Burke acquits himself equally as well, getting involved in much of the vehicular action as well as some shootouts. This is one of the highest profile roles to date for Burke and shows he could be a bonafide action star if he wanted to be.

In addition to the main cast, there’s several notable turns from the likes of Elsa Pataky, Lachy Hulme and Charlee Fraser as well as many reprising their roles from Fury Road such as Angus Sampson, Nathan Jones, and John Howard. I was also surprised that Miller included characters from the Mad Max video game, with Bryan Probets appearing as Chumbucket and Josh Helman portraying Scrotus, another of Immortan Joe’s psychologically unstable sons.

I have noted some complaining about Miller using CGI this time around as if Fury Road was all practical. While a great deal of the vehicular action in that film was done for real, it is clear that it is still assisted by the use of CGI. It is true that it does seem to be used more in Furiosa, but other than a few shoddy shots, it is implemented well, contributing to the action more than it takes away.

In terms of action, the standout set piece takes place during chapter 3, The Stowaway. Coming not long after Joy first appears, it has Furiosa sneak on board the War Rig captained by Tom Burke’s Praetorian Jack. It’s not long until the War Rig is attacked, with Furiosa being discovered by Jack during their fight for survival.

It is a tour-de-force of action film making, with Miller and his team spending a whopping 78 days shooting this one set piece, with around 200 stunt people being involved. Similar to the finale of Road Warrior, the action involves marauders trying to take over a massive rig, with the action being filled to the brim with death defying stunts. Even at the mighty age of 79, Miller brings a youthful energy to his action.

However, unlike many younger, up and coming directors, the geography and choreography involved in Miller’s action never becomes unclear. Miller has never been one to chop up his action to the point of disorientation or confusion. The action is crisp and clear, even when taking place in the dusty wastelands.

The film is once again accompanied by a fine score from composer Tom Holkenborg, carrying over some of the signature beats from Fury Road but still feeling fresh for the most part. Holkenberg keeps the adrenaline pumping during the louder moments but is able to pull it back when needed, giving the score a romantic, melancholic vibe during the scenes between Joy and Burke.

Furiosa hasn’t fared as well as expected at the box office, but this shouldn’t be an indicator of the film’s quality. Sure, it isn’t the bonafide classic that Fury Road was, but it is still a powerful piece of filmmaking, and one that George Miller should be immensely proud of. Fingers crossed that this isn’t his last Mad Max saga.

Plot: 4/5
Acting: 5/5
Action: 4/5
Overall: 4.3/5


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

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