FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA: “Do You Have It In You To Make It Epic?” [Spoiler Free Review]

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I’m not really here to tell you if Furiosa is “better” or “worse” than Mad Max: Fury Road, or any of the other installments of the Saga.

Hell, I haven’t even processed what to do with the fact that The Road Warrior was one of my top five all time films and then Fury Road came along and caused me to question everything I’ve ever understood about cinema. 

What I am here to tell you is that George Miller is a singular voice, a brilliant madman who created a wasteland, and a 5 entry deep film franchise spanning some 50 years now, that I value and appreciate and will revisit over and over again throughout my brief time on this earth.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, like Fury Road and the original trilogy before it, is a brainchild. It’s a product of an auteur unlike almost any other. It’s the latest in a series that has almost no comparisons to measure against. What other series has hit 5 entries over almost 50 years all directed by the same individual, with the level of indelible cultural significance, critical acclaim, and mythological resonance as the Mad Max wasteland? Someday perhaps the Avatar series will be comparable. They’re certainly at the scale and sheer level of vision that the mighty George Miller brings to his creations. 

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And I know that every film ever made is a massive community effort. A veritable army of cast, crew, and studio reps all have to come together to craft every single blockbuster that’s ever come along. And yet: it seems that George Miller is simply one of the best to ever do it and leads his army of devoted creatives to generate a vision so singular that it’s unmistakable and unforgettable. 

I must still admit that I had my doubts and misgivings. I’m not the world’s biggest prequel fan: it can be frustrating kind of “knowing” where it’s all leading. I’m not the world’s biggest re-casting fan: Charlize Theron (or Mel Gibson for that matter) kind of can’t be replaced. Miller also seemingly broke a couple of his own rules here, for the first time making an indisputably direct prequel to the last entry when all the other tales have seemingly been riffs on a wasteland legend with little tying one entry to the next beyond the production design and eternal loner hero Max Rockatansky. And even for the first time seemingly confirming that this wasteland is indeed his own native Australia. (At least it is this go-round). 

And yet, I should never have doubted. Because Miller is a born storyteller and these films come from deep within his heart. Anya Taylor-Joy (like Tom Hardy before her) feels like maybe the only human being on earth who could have successfully headlined a major franchise like this and filled the shoes of Theron. She’s striking and believable and gives it her all. Chris Hemsworth’s antagonist Dementus is a confident, layered, humorous, and frightening presence and some of the best character work of Hemsworth’s career. Tom Burke’s Praetorian Jack plays a significant role and it’s one of those exciting situations where I’m blown away by a character and an actor I wasn’t expecting and knew almost nothing about. 

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The inspired world building and production and action design still shine, if done on a slightly smaller budget and with a higher reliance on visual effects work. Your mileage may vary on how the CG sheen of Furiosa compares or contrasts with Fury Road, but I’m personally in a place where I just wanted some unfiltered George Miller supercharged, V-8 guzzoline, and I feel zero disappointment walking out of Furiosa. It’s a different era now and if Miller needed to use more CG to keep the budget in a place where he could still make the story he wanted to tell with the studio’s money: let him cook.

And then there’s the action. I think it’ll sound like some kind of cop out to say that Miller made a brilliant move and created a wildly different film with Furiosa than he did with Fury Road: one that’s less of an action movie. Setting out to make a never ending chase sequence with Fury Road, Miller created what might very well be the greatest action film ever made. There simply was no way to top that, so Miller instead focused on an epic tale. And I was absolutely swept up in Furiosa’s origins in a way that felt lived in and organic, not like a studio notes nightmare. But if it sounds like I’m hedging on the action, I’m honestly not. Miller will STILL show you things you’ve never seen before when it comes to massive action set pieces. My mouth remained agape multiple times as a hundred incredible visual ideas played out before my eyes. Just don’t expect the pace and tightness that was the Fury Road exercise.

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It’s been a rough few years for me, and frankly, for us collectively as a nation and as a planet, since Fury Road hit. We’re not living in a wasteland, but we’re facing one down all the time. My own needs and desires for what a blockbuster can give me have shifted and a story’s ability to sweep me away to a distant world and sustain me there and envelop me in its madness is somehow more important than ever. Furiosa will join Dune: Part Two and Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes as some of my favorite films of the year precisely because they swept me up into an endlessly fascinating world that took me out of the troubles of this day and age and dazzled me with their spectacle, but also held a mirror up to us as we totter on the brink of a future dominated by despotism and despair. Miller is a font of ideas and his wasteland is the tapestry on which he can paint about war, suffering, resilience, and redemption. 

At almost 80 years old, the visionary story teller George Miller unquestionably still has it in him to make it epic. 

And I’m Out. 

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