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Review: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

When it debuted in 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road was a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, and anticipation has been high for the follow-up prequel, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. While George Miller’s visual style and action sensibilities are as sharp as ever, Furiosa feels more bloated and less finely tuned than its predecessor and was a pretty big disappointment.

Furiosa follows the titular character’s story as she is captured from The Green Place as a child and forced into the court of the twisted Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), the leader of a massive horde of bikers.  After failing to seize control of Immortan Joe’s Citadel directly, Dementus takes Oiltown, forcing Joe and the other warlords to come to a shaky alliance, part of which passes Furiosa to Immortan Joe as one of his brides.  Escaping, she hides among the mechanics, learns about the War Rigs, and eventually becomes partners with War Rig driver Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke) while never forgetting her thirst for vengeance against Dementus.  When we met Furiosa in Fury Road, a lot of mystery made her incredibly intriguing, but seeing her actual history is just not that interesting.  There are a lot of familiar beats, even with all of George Miller’s gonzo style on top of it, including a bland and formulaic love story, and there’s definitely not enough that is over the top or exciting enough for the bloated 2 and ½ hour runtime. It’s also weird that the movie, though all its runtime, never set up any of the dynamics between Furiosa and the Immortan’s brides, which is one of the driving forces of Fury Road.  There are barely any scenes with the brides and you don’t get any sense of a connection or relationship between them and Furiosa, definitely not enough to justify her defying everything she knows to get them out.  The storyline about Dementus and his quest for control of the Wasteland is much more interesting, as his plans are a mix of stupidity and cunning, and the back-and-forth gamesmanship between him and Immortan Joe and the other warlords offers up some fun world-building.  If Fury Road was a sleek, brutally fast V8 Interceptor, Furiosa feels like an Interceptor with many unnecessary accessories that slow it down.

Acting-wise, Chris Hemsworth and Anya Taylor-Joy are fantastic, with Hemsworth giving a wonderfully unhinged, equally goofy, and horrifying performance.  He fits right in with the gonzo lunatics that inhabit the Wasteland and stands alongside Immortan Joe and Lord Humongous as a great Mad Max villain.  Taylor-Joy does a ton of work with her facial expressions and especially her famous eyes to show the inner rage of Furiosa.  As young Furiosa, who is in surprisingly most of the movie’s first half, Alyla Browne does a great job of matching Taylor-Joy’s intensity and making you believe they are the same character.  Lachy Hulme does a good job filling in the shoes of Immortan Joe after the passing of Hugh Keays-Byrne and his court of characters, including his dim-witted sons, add some welcome humor and weirdness to everything.  Tom Burke seems like they are trying to make him a Max equivalent, but he’s a nothing burger of a character, and you don’t get any reason why someone as fierce and independent as Furiosa would fall for a boring slab like him.

There’s some great action in Furiosa, but it’s not the non-stop adrenaline rush of Fury Road.  It feels like a long time before a big action sequence finally occurs, but even when it does kick off, it feels much smaller than the demented Cirque Du Soleil style of Fury Road.  There’s some fun stuff with various aerial threats in one sequence, like hang gliders and parachutes, but none feels as visceral and massive as what came before.  It doesn’t help that the movie, bizarrely, shows clips of Fury Road over the credits, reminding you how incredible that movie was and how this one seems lacking.  It felt like there was more CG this time, making some of the actions less impactful.  I do not doubt that tons of stuntmen were doing insane stunts in this movie, but I never once doubted it in Fury Road as I did at times here.

Fury Road is one of the greatest action movies ever made, and the bar was set super high for any follow-up.  Maybe my expectations were too high, but Furiosa does not compare favorably to Fury Road in almost every way.  Bloated where Fury Road was streamlined, there aren’t enough exciting elements to Furiosa’s backstory to justify the downtime between action sequences and the extended runtime.  After the montage during the credits, I think I’ll probably stick with Fury Road to get my over-the-top, post-apocalyptic action fix.

Where to watch Mad Max: Fury Road

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