Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga – Film Review

In a time long ago, the world ran on machines fuelled by black crude pumped from deep within the earth. As mankind eventually turned on each other, the entire planet was swallowed up in the resulting chaos. The only escape was into the toxic wastelands where marauding gangs of supercharged warriors clashed violently in the ruins.

But there remains a secluded forest in the middle of Australia named, The Green Place of Many Mothers. From there, a young girl named Furiosa is snatched by a biker gang, the warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) slaughters her mother but the forest remains safe. Refusing to reveal the secret location of her home, the girl is enslaved for years as Dementus‘ posse roam the wasteland. Eventually coming upon an empire ran by the great cult leader Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), Dementus sleazes his way into this operation, selling the young girl in the process.

Growing up, Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) holds onto her rage. She becomes a mechanic on the “war rig” hauling supplies across hostile territory, along with the brave Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke). As tyrants and destruction burn all around her, Furiosa builds her strength and skill. With vengeance in her heart, she sets in motion her life’s goal – killing Dementus once and for all.

Titled Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, this long awaited follow up to the 6x Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road of 2015 sees master storyteller George Miller go in a different direction. Rather than a 5th instalment in the adventures of Aussie rev-head icon Mad Max, we get a prequel. An origin story telling the beginnings of Mad Max: Fury Road‘s mysterious heroine, Furiosa with Taylor-Joy here portraying the younger version of Charlize Theron’s explosive character.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is different to the rest of the film franchise which tended to focus on Max as an unwilling participant dragged into other people’s conflicts such as the emancipation of Immortan Joe‘s wives aided by Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road‘. Here, the focus is much more direct and follows Furiosa over a 15 year period of her life.

As a prequel, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga does well to establish the hero’s traumatic childhood and antagonisms with Dementus. Although, it doesn’t truly set up her rise to infamy as Immortan Joe‘s underling (foreshadowing her eventual betrayal of him), nor does it paint her in morally grey light or elucidate on the reasons behind her quest for ‘redemption’ that were hinted at in Mad Max: Fury Road.

The film does expand on The Wasteland of Mad Max: Fury Road, giving cinema audiences a look inside areas not seen prior. Also, if you’re as much of a fan of the tie-in 2015 Mad Max videogame, you’ll appreciate Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga sticking close to how ‘Gastown’ was depicted, as well as the inclusion of Scrotus (Josh Helman), the son of Immortan Joe. Unfortunately, other areas where Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga attempts to fill in the blanks of Mad Max: Fury Road can harm the mystique of that movie at best, or outright contradict details at worst.

The new cast members mostly do well with Anya Taylor-Joy portraying a younger, quieter but equally furious Furiosa compared to Theron’s memorable performance. While Hemsworth channels his inner Jason Momoa/Johnny Depp with his over the top Dementus.

On the other hand, Tom Burke sadly feels wasted in an underdeveloped love interest role. He’s great in the film but there just isn’t enough of him. While Lachy Hulme as Immortan Joe, taking over from the late great Hugh Keays-Byrne, and far from making the role his own, is underwhelming. Gone is the terrifying antagonistic presence the character once had. Instead, Hulme comes off more like somebody wearing ill-fitting cosplay.

Aesthetics were a large part of the appeal of Mad Max: Fury Road with the film being unlike anything we’d ever seen before. There were composite effects and CGI but the majority of that movie contained stunts, cars and characters which all felt real. It was gritty and exciting but in comparison, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga fails at this for a multitude of reasons.

An overreliance on substandard CGI and frankly ugly cinematography makes this new film pale in comparison to its predecessor. Oscar-winning Director of Photography John Seale has been replaced with Simon Duggan. Duggan is no slouch having worked on beautiful films like The Great Gatsby or Hacksaw Ridge, as well as effect heavy spectacles like Warcraft and Die Hard 4.0 (a personal favourite), so I’m not sure of the issue but the energy was just not here, nor is the creativity with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, relying almost entirely on iconography established 10 years ago.

There’s nothing substantially new or innovative here and the film leans too heavily into the comfort of nostalgia in its art design. Dementus‘ motorcycle chariot was interesting but nothing on par with seeing the Doof Wagon’s flamethrower guitar for the first time!

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga had some pretty big shoes to fill and for some audiences, I’m sure George Miller’s latest effort will suffice. But the story it tells feels like it needed a different medium, perhaps a novelisation, in order to breathe comfortably. Much worse is the action, it feels fake and never comes close to that same “wow” factor that Mad Max: Fury Road did a decade ago. With visual effects which have somehow regressed in that time Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga doesn’t “Go out historic” and it isn’t “Awaited in Valhalla”. Instead, it’s as Immortan Joe would say, “Mediocre!”

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