FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA is the Search for Innocence on the Road of Revenge

Warning: This review goes into some detailed plot synopsis and might be considered spoilery.

Depending on how deep you’re into the Mad Max lore, you would know that there were three scripts born from the fire of the creation of Fury Road. Along with Mad Max: Fury Road, there was also a Furiosa script that was given to Theron on the background of her character and a Mad Max prequel to setup how Max showed up at Immortan Joe’s doorstep. At one point Miller was going to do all three films back to back to back, but disaster hit the shoot on its first attempt, so much so that there’s a rather excellent book about it Blood and Chrome. After said troubled production, Fury Road would then go on to be released, fuse with the cultural zeitgeist, reinvigorate the action genre and win 6 Oscars. Now why it took 9 years to produce a script that already existed, was thanks to Warner and Miller fighting over the profits from that first film. 

Now that that’s over, we now have Furiosa, starring Anya Taylor-Joy replacing Charlize Theron and playing a much younger take on the character. Miller’s choice to replace Theron seems more rooted by his lack of confidence in the current state of CGI anti-aging, something he’s been very vocal about as something that could easily tank a film. That said, Taylor-Joy is a fantastic choice and actually only inhabits the character for the second hour of the film, since we spend about an hour with a very young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) in a film about one woman’s loss of innocence and her journey to win it back, only to dedicate her life to protecting the innocence of others. This film is a prequel, that while setting up the events of Fury Road adds an enormous amount of depth and pathos to the character of Furiosa and gives us the tragic how and why of the one armed war rig driver. 

The film starts off in the fabled green place in better days, when a group of raiders have discovered the paradise. These raiders work for Dementus, a new warlord introduced in this film played by Chris Hemsworth, who is obviously having the time of his life with a prosthetic nose and the kind of scene stealing antagonist bravado we have yet to see from the actor. The raiders kidnap the young and healthy Furiosa as proof that the place has not only food, but no radiation allowing the birth of “Full lifes”. Along their way the men are killed one by one by Furiosa’s mother before they can make it back alive and spill the location. She is immediately captured attempting to rescue her daughter, only to be graphically tortured and killed in front of her daughter. Furiosa is then off the hook when Dementus discovers some lost war boys who lead them to Immortan Joe’s Citadel, which offers the charismatic warlord resources and another path to power. 

This has Dementus quickly executing an operation taking over Gas Town and to keep it, offers up the young girl to Immortan Joe as a soon to be wife. After spending some time as one of the wives locked in the vault, Furiosa is nearly raped by one of Joe’s sons and escapes within the Citadel. She takes up residence with the war boys becoming a mechanic in the lower levels of the compound, where she rises through the ranks due to her intelligence, resilience and tenacity. There is a mild romantic bit with the current war rig driver Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke) who takes the woman under his wing until she can learn to the ways of “road battle” and make her epic getaway as seen in the previous film, but that’s not the bulk of the story. It’s an origin story, but one that really centers on a character stuck in a terrible place trying to escape after being stuck in a worse place. 

Structurally, the film is a more traditional 3 act narrative compared to the frantic pacing and non-stop action of Fury Road, which was simply a two hour chase sequence. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, we still have those over the top action beats and sequences that up the ante adding raiders on parachutes and hang gliders to deliver the spectacle you’d expect here. Furiosa’s tale is not the kind of story I was expecting, it’s just bleak, because we need to witness the lengths she’s pushed to get where she is at the beginning of Fury Road, and we see why she’s willing to go to those lengths to get back home. Taylor-Joy handles not only the heavy character work as expected saying volumes of dialog with simply a darting glance, keeping the audience locked in, but also doing the action proper justice. This is opposite more than a few returning faces from Fury Road who really help to infuse that world with even more savagery this time around. 

The visuals are a bit amped up from Fury Road, with almost a surreal color palette employed,  that seems like HDR on steroids. While the majority of the film looks spectacular with lots of practical effects seamlessly flourished with CGI. There are however a few very jarring obvious green screen shots that could have benefitted from cooking a bit longer and stick out like sore thumbs here and there, but those are forgivable given how big Miller is swinging here. The editing on this film is a bit more traditional compared to Fury Road, which may throw off some action junkies expecting another simply the same film. The pacing here, with the film broken up into chapters, feels purposeful to highlight stages of the journey we’re taken on that does not deliver the same respite as the previous film. Tom Holkenborg is back scoring and it really helps to solidify the connective tissue between the two films as you’d expect basically doing more of the same, thankfully.

Furiosa is a brutal punch in the face of an origin story that shows the flames that forged her into the woman who, even after it all, would remain unbroken and never stop fighting. It’s a bit more graphic compared to its predecessor, but that’s the story that needs to be told and the journey we need to endure to get the end of this chapter. The film is an examination of innocence, the loss there of, and the search for that unquantifiable thing when you’ve survived trauma. Is there a way to get it back through vengeance? Is it as easy as that?  What are you willing to endure to achieve your end goal? Of all the questions I hoped this film would answer, and this film does, is it perfectly explains that dead, bottomless stare that we’re granted with when we first lock eyes with Furiosa in the war rig at the beginning of Fury Road and its we earned.

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