2 min read

Furiosa

"Furiosa" is an electric adventure, powered by imagination and diesel.
Furiosa

With "Furiosa," writer-director George Miller and his impeccable team more than justify the existence of this prequel; they craft a masterful, kinetic revenge story that both meets the franchise's high bar for inventive action and successfully differentiates itself from its predecessors with its emotional depth. 

Though the first "Mad Max" film in 1979 was a revenge story too, it is hardly recognizable compared to where the franchise is now. That film still took place in an urban setting, with buildings, petrol stations, and adequate hydration. Since then, the Wasteland of Australia has dried up, making every drop of water and gasoline the difference between life and death. And after that first film, instead of revenge, Max (first Mel Gibson and then Tom Hardy) becomes motivated by survival. In those successive installments, Miller asks us between madcap explosions and riotous car chases, what does one survive for? Do we survive for the sake of others, similarly toiling away underneath a vengeful sun? Do we survive to work our way up a human-skull studded totem pole? Do we survive for the next sunrise over rippling sand dunes? Or can we survive for ourselves? "Furiosa" is a natural extension of this thematic exploration, that does not once take its foot off the pedal. 

Like its forebearers, "Furiosa" is filled with adrenaline-pumping action. What makes its high-octane carnage so thrilling is how tactile the Wasteland is. The war rigs, behemoth-like trucks, are fully realized with their spigots and screws, making stakes clear while rarely articulated them through language. Every prop is utilized and imaginative, mirroring how the barbarians of the Wasteland make use of every single piece of scrap they can find. It's a visual language Miller has been refining over four films, known for their sparse dialogue. Actions count far more than words when mouth are parched, even if those actions aren't violent. In the rare moments when the danger subsides and calm takes hold, Miller still insists on unique visuals to keep the movie vibrant, despite its hefty 150 minute runtime. 

Anya Taylor Joy takes the wheel from Charlize Theron, the originator of their shared character. Like Theron, Joy is largely wordless and imposing. And thankfully, Miller sidesteps the usual prequel trope of showing how a character becomes what we know. Instead, Joy starts taciturn and competent, a performance carried by the body instead of words. That's very unlike her nemesis, Dr. Dementus, played by Chris Hemsworth, who terrorizes as the film's verbose villain. It's a gloriously hammy and delirious show from the oft-leading man, that is genuinely unlikable (in a good way.) He fits right into Miller's vision of a barbaric Australia, playing a character who thrives in these arid conditions, indulging in sadism to ignore the painful drudgery of survival.

It's been over four decades since the first "Mad Max." There's been five films, with the longest gap between them being three decades ("Thunderdome" in 1985 and "Fury Road" in 2015). But that's not enough to slow down George Miller. Despite its storied history of on-set conflicts and its controversial first star, he's managed to keep this truck going. But not just going, not just surviving. For five films, Miller has accelerated, as he pushes each installment to become more inventive and imaginative than the last. It feels like the franchise persists, not for box office glory, not for hungry fans, but so Miller can outdo himself. And with "Furiosa," he has done just that.