Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews Furiosa

Josh Reviews Furiosa

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of my all-time favorite movies.  I have a lot of love in my heart for all three original Mad Max films, but Fury Road is true masterpiece, a master-class in how to tell story and create character through action.  The film was a visceral action experience, a movie-length chase scene filled with incredibly creative and thrilling action mayhem, brought to life mostly through practical stunt-work.  At the same time, the film created rich characters for whom I cared deeply by the end.  I have seen it many times and I love it every single time.  (Click here for my original review!)

I’m thrilled that, nearly a decade later, George Miller has returned to the Mad Max world.  And while each previous Mad Max film has basically stood alone, not necessarily fully in continuity with anything that came before, it was exciting to me that Furiosa would be so closely tied to the story and characters from Fury Road.  (I wish it was a sequel and not a prequel, but I’ll take what I can get… more on this in a moment…)

Furiosa is a pleasure to watch.  It’s filled to overflowing with incredible, extraordinary action sequences.  George Miller hasn’t lost a step.  He can still create riveting, blow-the-audience-through-the back-of-the-theater action spectacle like no one else out there.  He’s assembled a fine cast, anchored by a rich, powerful performance by Anya Taylor-Joy, inheriting the role of Furiosa from Charlize Theron.

Is Furiosa as good as Fury Road?  No.  Its biggest weakness, for me, is that it has a start-and-stop herky-jerkiness that kept me from getting sucked as completely into the story and the world as I was in Fury Road.  The story takes place over 15 years, so frequently, just as I was starting to get immersed in what was happening, the film would jump forward in time, which interrupted the flow.  Being divided into five chapters, each with their own title, only exacerbated the episodic nature of the film for me.  (I think those chapter titles were a huge mistake.  Every time the film faded to black and a new chapter heading came up, it threw me out of the story.)

The film is also a prequel, and I generally hate prequels.  The question you have to ask with a prequel is: did this story need to be told?  And as much as I enjoyed Furiosa, I have to admit that I think the answer is no.  The beautiful and perfect Fury Road already told us everything we needed to know about Furiosa: who she was, where she came from, what she wanted.  I didn’t need to actually see all of her backstory mapped out like this.

That being said, this is still a fantastic movie!!!  I highly recommend it, and encourage you to see it on the biggest possible screen.  Get some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the mayhem.  Furiosa is a fantastic time in the movie theater.  I loved it!!!

Let’s dig in a little deeper, shall we?  Beware minor SPOILERS ahead.

I was surprised how much of the film takes place with a younger Furiosa, played by Alyla Browne.  I wasn’t timing it, but it feels like she’s the star of the film for almost the first full hour.  She’s excellent!!  From the drop, Ms. Browne is immediately compelling.  She’s almost entirely silent, so all of her performance is conveyed by her body, her face, and her eyes.  She’s wonderful.  This is a talented young woman!  I hope she has a long and successful career ahead of her.

They really do keep us waiting for Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, Last Night in Soho), but when she finally arrives, she’s worth the wait.  I love that our first glimpse of her has her masked, with just her eyes visible.  Those beautiful, enormous eyes!!  What a great introduction to her version of Furiosa.  It’s hard to equal Charlize Theron’s work in Fury Road, but I loved Ms. Taylor-Joy’s performance.  In watching her, I never for a second found myself wishing I was watching Charlize Theron.  She throws herself into this intense, physical performance.  It’s also — as was the case for Alyla Browne’s younger version of the character — a nearly-silent one.  Furiosa says very little in this film!  (Apparently she only has around 30 lines of spoken dialogue.  Wow!)  Ms. Taylor-Joy’s physicality tells us everything we need to know, though,  It’s an impressive performance.

She has an equal in Chris Hemsworth as the villainous Dementus.  Is he the best villain of a Mad Max film???  I don’t know, there’s a lot of great competition, but Mr. Hemsworth is marvelous.  He’s dangerous and scary and also funny and strange.  It’s a fantastic performance.  I love the high-pitched, skwawking voice Mr. Hemsworth puts on.  I love how chatty Dementus is, a lovely contrast with the nearly-silent Furiosa.

I wasn’t expecting to see so many Fury Road characters in this film, but it’s a lot of fun to see many of the wonderful characters, who all died grisly deaths in Fury Road, back here.

I was surprised how involved Immortan Joe was in this story, especially because the actor who portrayed him, Hugh Keays-Byrne, had passed away in 2020.  But Lachy Hulme does a wonderful job at playing the character here.  He nails the voice… and his eyes!!  So perfect!

The weak link for me was the character of Praetorian Jack, who has a close bond with Furiosa in the middle of the film.  I wish they’d better developed this character.  I wanted to get to know him better, so I’d have more heavily invested in his and Furiosa’s partnership, and so what happens later would have hit more emotionally.  The actor, Tom Burke, is perfectly fine.  But he’s just a little too soft and quiet.  I wanted this character to be a stronger, more dynamic presence in the story.  (I also wish the film did a better job at telling the audience his name.  I didn’t get that his name was Jack until after he was gone from the story.)  Apparently Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman, Watchmen) was originally cast in the role, and wow, I think that would have dramatically improved this character and the middle section of the film.  Oh well.

It’s a delight hearing composer Tom Holkenborg’s themes from Fury Road back again, along with lots of new wonderful music.  It’s cool that so many of the key creative collaborators from Fury Road (many of whom won Oscars for their work on that film) returned for Furiosa, including but not limited to: costume designer Jenny Beavan, editor Margaret Sixel, makeup designer Lesley Vanderwalt, production designer Colin Gibson, and sound mixer Ben Osmo.  This film looks and sounds amazing.

And the action.  Oh, the action!  The film is filled with stand-out sequences.  I was particularly taken with the long mid-movie battle on the first mission of the new War-Rig, in which Furiosa and Jack make a connection.  That final brutal battle at the Bullet Farm was also magnificent.  And there are so many other wonderful beats and moments in the film!  Mr. Miller’s sense of propulsive energy is incredible, and it’s balanced by his ability to make the action crystal clear — we always know exactly what’s going on, and where the characters are — even when they’re flying across the screen in vehicles moving at incredible speed.  I doff my cap to Mr. Miller and his team.

I wish George Miller was able to make movies like this more often!!  I wish and hope he’s able to make lots more!  That we had to wait almost ten years for this one, and that it hasn’t made such a splash at the box office, doesn’t bode well for a return to this Mad Max world in the near future.  Is this the final Mad Max film?  I hope it isn’t, but if it is, I’m satisfied.  Furiosa is terrific, and I hope I can find the time to see it again soon!

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