Thursday, May 23, 2024

“FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA”

THE STORYSet 15 to 20 years before the events of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” as the world falls apart, young Furiosa is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and into the hands of a Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus. While two Tyrants war for dominance over the Citadel, Furiosa survives many trials as she plots a way back home through the Wasteland.

THE CASTAnya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, Alyla Browne, Lachy Hulme, Nathan Jones, Charlee Fraser, Josh Helman, John Howard & Angus Sampson 

THE TEAMGeorge Miller (Director/Writer) & Nico Lathouris (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 148 Minutes


Mad Max: Fury Road” was not just one of the best action films in 2015. It was one of the best films of 2015 overall. It was not just one of the best action films of all time. Some would say that it’s the greatest action film ever made, period. In short, director George Miller, the 79-year-old helmer of the “Mad Max” franchise, had returned after a long 30-year gap between “Max Max Beyond Thunderdome” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” to deliver an instant masterpiece of the action genre, one which boosted the world of Max Rockatansky and introduced us to an iconic film character in Furiosa (wonderfully played by Charlize Theron in the 2015 film). Expectations for a new “Mad Max” film in 2015 may have been low. Still, after its critical acclaim, audience reception, and Oscar success, those expectations are now at an all-time high for his prequel film “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.” Although it may be tough, or damn near impossible, to top the adrenaline-pumping thrills and artistry of “Mad Max: Fury Road” Miller, ever the brilliant madman that he is, has decided not to replicate his previous film by giving us more of the same. Rather, “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” sets itself apart in a few unique ways, making this a worthy film to stand alongside “Mad Max: Fury Road” and not against it, allowing for a larger story with far greater thematic exploration and a vision unlike any other.

Set 15 to 20 years before the events of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” opens with a black screen and sounds from radio and television news stations commenting on how the world might’ve ended. From there, an opening title card indirectly informs us that this will be a sprawling story broken up into several chapters as the film progresses. A young Furiosa (played in the film’s first hour by the highly impressive and spunky Alyla Browne) is living peacefully in what was referred to in “Mad Max: Fury Road” as “the Green Place” of the Many Mothers, who are all battle-trained and tested warriors. An isolated utopia of abundance compared to those who are living on the fringes or in complete chaos due to the world’s lack of resources, most notably water, the location of The Green Place is unknown to the outside world except to those who live there. Kidnapped by a group of bikers, Furiosa is taken from her home, many miles across the Wasteland, and presented to Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), a warlord of a biker horde who will stop at nothing to obtain more power for himself and a better life for his people. Pursued by her terrific ace shot of a sniper, mother (Charlee Fraser), anyone from the outside who knows the location of The Green Place must die so that it is never found and exploited. Furiosa knows this as she remains silent even under the worst of circumstances at the hands of the cruel and demented Dementus. Her world is turned upside down as Dementus takes her hostage, introducing her as his daughter, whom he calls “Little D,” hoping that one day she’ll tell him where the Green Place is located. Years pass, and eventually, Dementus and his gang cross paths with the Citadel and run under the iron fist of Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme). To prevent an all-out war from erupting between the two power-hungry leaders, an uneasy but fortuitous pact is made with Furiosa caught in between. In captivity to both men at different points in her life, Furiosa waits patiently for the right time to take her revenge upon the man who stole her childhood from her and to one day make her way back home.

Incorporating more CGI than “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and with more starts and stops in the film’s pacing (typically communicated through various fades to black and cross dissolves courtesy of Oscar-winning editor Margaret Sixel and Eliot Knapman), “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” still contains all the hallmarks of a “Mad Max” film despite not being so relentless in its execution. Miller is setting off to tell a more epic story on the nature of revenge and the development of hope and hate when the rest of the world has fallen away into devastation and loss. Its aim is ambitious, and while nothing could probably ever top “Mad Max: Fury Road,” this prequel comes pretty close in its own right. Part of that is Miller’s striking, vivid, and extravagant vision of the world he created 45 years ago and how it has evolved from film to film. Minor and major details from “Mad Max: Fury Road” are further explained and, in some cases, given new meaning as we see the formation of how certain characters came to be who they are and lines of dialogue from “Mad Max: Fury Road” are brought to life, further expanding upon the world-building.

On a technical level, “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” still enthralls and overwhelms with some of the best action set pieces you will find in any film (the attack on the war rig by vehicles with giants fans, parachutes, paragliders is jaw-dropping). While there may be some increased usage of computer graphics to give “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” a slightly different feel to it than “Mad Max: Fury Road” (aided in no part by the change in cinematographers from John Seale to Simon Duggan), these choices are only meant to up the ante from what came before, delivering bigger set pieces with more destruction and carnage. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, know that Miller’s storytelling is so captivating that the film’s shift in presentation will likely not hinder your experience of what he and his talented crew are delivering. From the roaring sound work to the war drums of Tom Holkenborg’s pounding score, “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” is a tremendous big-screen experience with so much heavy metal ingenuity on display in its production design, costumes, makeup, and props that it’s so easy to get lost in the world Miller has created.

The other part of what makes “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” such a robust film is the performances, which have generous room to develop over the nearly two and half hour time and across many years of storytelling, something “Mad Max: Fury Road” didn’t contain (though, it did a hell of a job circumnavigating it and providing us only what we needed to know). Some may be quite taken aback by how little Anya Taylor-Joy is in “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” as she doesn’t appear until about an hour into the film and has very minimal dialogue (not as surprising considering the nature of the character). Perfectly emulating what made Theron’s performance so compelling, Taylor-Joy’s physicality, commanding screen presence, and the ferocious anger she brings to the character make this continuation across two films and two actresses appear virtually seamless. Lachy Hulme brings a menacing quality to Immortan Joe through the simple use of his voice, and Tom Burke finds unexpected shades of morality, honor, and empathy in Praetorian Jack, the original rider of the War Rig he and Furiosa develop for Immortan Joe and Furiosa’s mentor. However, the real highlight is Chris Hemsworth as Dementus. In what may go down as Hemsworth’s finest hour, the Australian actor wildly lets loose all of the character’s idiosyncracies and unexpected violent behaviors while never turning him into a goof or a meme. Introduced with a stuffed animal bear chained to his back, we come to understand the years of heartache Dementus is masking through his cruelty to others and why he will stop at nothing to obtain as much power as possible to ensure such torment is never inflicted upon him again. He is a man who firmly believes there is no hope for anyone in this world, including himself, and it allows Hemsworth the rare opportunity to dig beneath the surface into a character and reminds us what a great actor he can be when he’s working with a true artist (see also his villainous work in “Bad Times At The El Royale” and “Spiderhead“). When he and Taylor-Joy finally come together, face-to-face in the film’s long-awaited final confrontation, both of them, including Miller, have invested so much in each character’s journey, it makes the pay-off that much sweeter.

There will always be war, but one can only hope there will always be artists as bold and visionary as George Miller working within the film industry with his maximalist approach to storytelling and world-building. What he created with the “Mad Max” films was already regarded as a classic of action filmmaking, but with the pairing of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” linked by their female protagonist, he has further elevated his imagination for a new generation to experience and enjoy. Some may take issue with “Furiosa’s” slower pacing and long runtime, but such an approach was not only necessary to avoid comparisons with the near-perfect “Mad Max: Fury Road” but to place it alongside it as an essential companion piece (with a third film bringing us back to the Max Rockatansky character hopefully forthcoming) that further builds upon an ever-fascinating world where everyone has lost their minds, the world is in chaos and hope has never been tinier. In many ways, such a harsh depiction doesn’t feel too far off from our own today, which is why “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” remains just as relevant as it is exhilarating.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Jaw-dropping action set pieces. Maximalist filmmaking. Expansive storytelling that builds upon the world and allows the performances to breathe. Chris Hemsworth's finest hour.

THE BAD - Some may take issue with the film's runtime and pacing.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Sound & Best Visual Effects

THE FINAL SCORE - 9/10

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Matt Neglia
Matt Negliahttps://nextbestpicture.com/
Obsessed about the Oscars, Criterion Collection and all things film 24/7. Critics Choice Member.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Jaw-dropping action set pieces. Maximalist filmmaking. Expansive storytelling that builds upon the world and allows the performances to breathe. Chris Hemsworth's finest hour.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Some may take issue with the film's runtime and pacing.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-picture/">Best Picture</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-director/">Best Director</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/">Best Supporting Actor</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-costume-design/">Best Costume Design</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-film-editing/">Best Film Editing</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-makeup-and-hairstyling/">Best Makeup and Hairstyling</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-production-design/">Best Production Design</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-sound/">Best Sound</a> & <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-visual-effects/">Best Visual Effects</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>9/10<br><br>"FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA"