Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ movie review: Fury Road prequel a thunderous achievement

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A young girl kidnapped from her oasis of a home in the post-apocalyptic outback fights to survive in the desert wasteland in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, opening in Prague cinemas and worldwide this weekend after premiering at Cannes last week. This sprawling epic is not the slam-bang jolt of adrenaline that was Mad Max: Fury Road, and may suffer in direct comparison, but provides a wider scope with its own many rewards. You’re unlikely to see a better blockbuster at the multiplex this year.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga tells the story of Praetorian Furiosa, portrayed by Charlize Theron in the earlier movie and here played by Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy. Considering the minimal characterization provided to the titular Mad Max in each film apart from the 1979 original, one might not think we need the full life story of this side character; but Furiosa only serves as a strong central presence for writer-director George Miller to build the kind of a vivid world not seen in his previous four films.

In Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga‘s dynamite opening action sequence, a group of skull-helmeted bikers kidnap the young Furiosa (played by Browne over the first half of the movie) from her home in the mystical Green Place, a fertile oasis in the midst of the desert wasteland. They hope to bring her back to their leader as proof of greener pastures, but her Vuvalini mother (Elsa Pataky) tracks them through the desert, picking them off one-by-one.

Chris Hemsworth takes center stage over much of the first half of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga as Dementus, the fittingly demented leader of the roving band of bikers. He takes a liking to young Furiosa as an echo of his own children, memorialized through a teddy bear chained to his chest, but imprisons her in a cage as he sets his eyes on grander ambitions.

Dementus’ search for wasteland glory brings him to a rogue War Boy and ultimately the Citadel, the heavily-guarded fortress home of Immortan Joe (played by Lachy Hulme following the death of Hugh Keays-Byrne). Failing in his attempt at a siege, he sets his sights on capturing Gas Town and the Bullet Farm, the Citadel’s source of oil and ammo – but barters off Furiosa in the process.

There’s an awful lot of backstory and exposition during the first half of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, and while the eye-popping visuals always keep our attention (Simon Duggan’s breathtaking cinematography even tops John Seale’s Oscar-nominated work in Fury Road), the narrative begins to sag without much drive to this standalone story. It doesn’t help that we’ve already seen a film that takes place directly after the events of this one, and can infer much of what transpires, story-wise.

But Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga steps into high-gear as an arresting Taylor-Joy takes over the now-adult central role, working under disguise as a mechanic building Immortan Joe’s War Rig, to be driven through the hostile wasteland by the dashing Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke, the film’s lone sympathetic male presence).

The memory of Mad Max: Fury Road is vivid in Furiosa‘s finest action sequence, which features Jack, Furiosa, and a band of War Boys defending the War Rig from a group of marauders who have splintered off from Dementus. The sequence features all manner of visionary Road Warrior action as paragliding attackers assault the tanker, but while Fury Road was essentially one long action sequence in the same vein, here it’s a short 20-minute burst.

The focus on the surrounding world helps Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga become something significantly different than its predecessor, even as it recreates many of the same environments and characters. There’s a unexpectedly touching, underplayed relationship between Jack and Furiosa, and the Dementus character is a standout: he shares a backstory and several character traits with Max, but has chosen the darker path towards survival.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga in the fifth film in the Mad Max franchise but the very first to focus on building upon a landscape beyond the scope of the immediate movie, and provides the kind of rich world-building that other franchises have leveraged into theme parks and action figures. It’s not the standalone action spectacle that was Mad Max: Fury Road, but immerses us into a visionary world that we can’t wait to return to. Other major franchises should be taking notes.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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