Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review: A Biblical Epic on Wheels

George Miller delivers a sprawling wasteland adventure in the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel.

When you see a film like Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga handle its prequel status so deftly, it calls into question why it's so difficult on the whole for that device to work with other franchises. Naturally, this gives way to continued marveling at the storytelling on display in Furiosa, which is less concerned with answering the dullest possible questions that plague similar films and more interested in connecting to its predecessor in unexpected and satisfying ways. Furiosa fills in the gaps that make its title character and her journey across Mad Max: Fury Road even richer, imbuing her personality with details that make her more interesting. In fact, when Furiosa does go out of its way to address key mysteries, it always manages to make sure that your consideration of those elements is the furthest thing from your mind, surprising you with the answers when you're so enthralled with what's on screen that you forgot you were waiting for them.

Set across the backdrop of Furiosa's entire young life, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is told across five chapters. Unlike Fury Road, which was nearly a non-stop chase sequence, there is respite to be found in Furiosa, which some viewers may not find as engaging. It would be dishonest to call these "quiet moments," since the seats will literally shake in the theater, but character is the driving force of Furiosa

Anya Taylor-Joy anchors the film as the titular Imperator. Through most of the film, she's forced to a strictly physical performance, working with no dialogue for maybe the first 30 minutes that she's on screen. It's a heavy task, but she handles it well, and director George Miller accentuates her eyes, thanks to both the costume and make-up design of the character. It's an aspect of her performance that persists throughout the movie, and thanks to its slightly slower pace compared to Fury Road, there's always enough time for the movie to allow her to tell the story with just a look, even in explosive action moments. 

Noteworthy opposite Taylor-Joy, however, is Chris Hemsworth as Dementus, a Wasteland warlord whose fascist tendencies result in him coming to blows with some other notable baddies that are roaming the desert. Hemsworth is clearly having a blast, but Furiosa proves that his talent has largely been wasted in other films. With Dementus, Hemsworth is able to channel his huge comedic energy into spurts of madness while also bringing a sinister edge to his entire presence. Some of the best subtext to be found across the entire movie is in Dementus and how his world changes, and that's thanks to how Hemsworth finds the balance between humor and perverse madness.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga also includes the addition of Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack, a fellow Wasteland driver who teams up with Furiosa as another key pillar of her story. Burke keeps up the trend of "Mostly Eye Acting," and manages to make it especially impressive thanks to having intense chemistry with Anya Taylor-Joy, despite minimal dialogue. I'd also be remiss if I didn't offer praise for Alyla Browne, who takes on the role of an even younger Furiosa during her childhood years. Browne is able to tell full stories with a look, showcasing the anguish, ingenuity, and crafty sides of the character's personality that have been present throughout.

Like Fury Road before it, Furiosa has its fair share of intense action. Key sequences in Furiosa do feel like Miller working to see how he can top himself from the last time around, and in two key moments, he's able to match the Oscar-winning Fury Road, and, arguably, exceed it in at least one of them. A major action sequence with the War Rig being attacked brings a literal dimension to a vehicle chase sequence that Fury Road wasn't able to deliver. It's all still exciting, even if the artifice of visual effects is a little more noticeable than before. 

Comparisons to Fury Road will no doubt bounce about like a flaming tire rolling down a well-paved Wasteland street, but Furiosa and Fury Road are focused on different things. Though there are similarities to be found, and several characters and key locations appear in both, Furiosa is aiming for something closer in nature to Spartacus or Lawrence of Arabia than Fury Road, despite their aesthetic overlap and narrative loops. If there's a fault to find in Furiosa, it's that some of its attempts to really connect itself to Fury Road aren't seamless. It's not that they don't work, but the timeline of events becomes slightly muddled, which is the film's only real stumbling block and the kind of flaw that will fade into dust with time. 

The Wasteland is still clearly an inspiring place for George Miller, who not only continues to find things to say about our own world, but to enrich his own stories that he's already told. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is equal parts post-apocalyptic action thriller and biblical epic. Even if you think you've seen what this world has to offer, there are still surprises to find in the sand. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga lands in theaters on May 24th.