Furiosa Is Every Bit the Mad Max Masterpiece You’re Hoping For

Furiosa Is Every Bit the Mad Max Masterpiece You’re Hoping For

If you think of Mad Max: Fury Road as The Hobbit, Furiosa is its Lord of the Rings. They’re two stories set in the same world, with the same characters, taking place at different periods of time. One is a little more singular and focused while the other is larger and more expansive. They’re two stories that stand alone beautifully, but also complement each other magnificently.

The comparison goes further too. Much as J.R.R. Tolkien (and to an extent Peter Jackson) created those stories to be part of something broader, so too has co-writer and director George Miller done with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Furiosa is not only a prequel to the events of Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s also the table setter for the entire world. Fury Road told the story of a woman (Charlize Theron’s Furiosa) attempting to break several other women out of Immortan Joe’s Citadel, with the begrudging help of Max. Furiosa takes things several steps further, not only explaining how and why Furiosa got to that point but adding context to everything around it. We see the other strongholds of the Wasteland. We witness how barter and politics work there. And, most importantly, we see how a young woman kidnapped from her hidden, plentiful home will spend her entire life fighting to save it.

Of course, the biggest challenge with Furiosa is standing up to its groundbreaking masterpiece of a predecessor. Was it even possible for Miller to achieve that with a follow-up? The answer, as per the Rings comparison, is an emphatic “Yes.” In some ways, Furiosa might be even better than Fury Road. Overall, it’s at least just as good and that’s saying a lot.

Furiosa on the warpath.
Image: Warner Bros.

Furiosa is bigger than Fury Road. It has more heart. It has more meaning. And, yes, it has even more bonkers, you-won’t-believe-your eyes action. This time though the set pieces are longer, more visually stunning, and often so wildly over the top, you’ll fight off laughter before exploding into applause. The trucks are bigger, cars are faster, and motorcycles are more plentiful. And though a touchstone of Miller’s films has always been a certain grounding in reality, here he stretches that to its limits with additions like fan backpacks, parachutes, and hang gliders, just to give you a hint of what’s in store.

Miller, who not only directs but co-wrote the film with Nico Lathouris, breaks Furiosa into chapters, each representing a crucial section in her life. The first two feature the dynamic, powerful young actress Alyla Browne as the title character, a child who is taken from her home by the minions of an evil warlord named Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Young Furiosa is forced to survive for herself among these nasty, evil people struggling to make a living, and eventually, she finds herself as the property of Immortan Joe (here portrayed by Lachy Hulme). It’s in Joe’s Citadel where Furiosa begins to carve her way into the world. She grows and evolves, and after two chapters, Anya Taylor-Joy takes over the role, leading toward the story we already know.

Structuring the film in this way, Miller allows for each section to gradually escalate the film, with each getting slightly bigger and more exciting. Plus, each jumps ahead in time, which constantly provides surprises. Character development is left to our imaginations. Social dynamics change. It can be a tad odd but soon you realize all that matters is how both Furiosa and the world around her are evolving quickly. Dementus continues to expand his world too as Furiosa works her way up the ranks to become a driver alongside Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), a new character that plays a crucial role.

Furiosa, Jack, Dementus, Dementus’ arm.

Furiosa, Jack, Dementus, Dementus’ arm.
Image: Warner Bros.

Now, when you introduce a character like Jack—a mentor figure, member of the opposite sex, confidant, etc.—the expectation is there to be some kind of love story. And while Miller never says there isn’t a love story there, Furiosa keeps it on the edges of the frame, allowing the audience to make their own inferences and conclusions. It’s a tactic that applies to every character in the film. Even the ones you hate, you come to be fascinated by because we see them from all sides. What are they doing to survive? Do they have to? Would we do that? Miller rarely judges the characters himself, instead letting their actions do the talking.

That’s driven largely in part thanks to the performances. Taylor-Joy doesn’t talk a lot in Furiosa, but every movement and glance speaks volumes. It’s a true journey from scared young woman to an almost Terminator-like machine. We love Charlize Theron’s version of the character, but you never for a second miss her. Hemsworth is a force in the film too. Yes, his accent is weird and potentially divisive, but it makes his character so distinct and unique that you can’t help but be drawn to him. It also sets up an excellent juxtaposition of a guy who sounds and acts stupid but is in fact incredibly brilliant. He’s a worthy, dangerous, complex adversary.

Those performances also fit right into this world that George Miller has created. It’s always been one of his trademarks to build a world down to the last tiny detail, but somehow it’s even more impressive in Furiosa. From the symbols on the hubcaps to the materials used for various helmets and more, everything works together, drawing you deeper into the world. While the movie is clearly a must-see on the big screen, home viewings should allow fans to pause and admire the attention to detail throughout.

Shiny and chrome.

Shiny and chrome.
Image: Warner Bros.

That extends to the cinematography and editing, which work in tandem to make sure every shot and scene has a purpose. And, usually, that purpose is multi-faceted. In Furiosa, if we see someone shooting a gun, the camera then moves and we see a car crash too. If someone runs out of frame, a beat passes, and something chases them on the other side. Every shot tells its own story with multiple things happening. That makes a film that’s filled with awesome still feel easily digestible. On every level, Furiosa is a lot, but it’s never overwhelming and is always beautiful to look at.

Now, I don’t have to do this but if I had to come up with negative things to say about Furiosa, there’s probably an argument to be made that Fury Road’s ambiguity about many of its worldbuilding suggestions added to its mystique, and this undercuts that. There are also a few Easter eggs that feel a smidge like fan service. Or maybe you simply can’t stand Hemsworth’s choice of accent. Those are certainly things you could say that are negative about the film but I don’t endorse any of them.

I do fully endorse this though: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is another George Miller masterpiece. You’ll want to watch it again and again and then watch Fury Road right after it again and again. It’s a top-to-bottom cinematic stunner.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is in theaters May 24.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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