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  • Nate Adams

'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga' review: An explosive, if underwhelming chapter in the apocalyptic franchise


Courtesy of Warner Bros.

 

It says a lot about Co-writer and director George Miller’s intentions with his prequel “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” when lead star Anya Taylor-Joy doesn’t show up until an hour into the movie. It should be taken as an immediate signal that this is not going to be another “Fury Road,” and, while it’s an unfair comparison considering that 2014 blockbuster is one of the best action flicks of all time, it’s also impossible not to pit the two against each other. That isn’t a knock against the expansive world the Australian filmmaker has cooked up, but it does lack the propulsive intensity one might expect from a “Mad Max” movie. The star remains the deserted wasteland and the maniacs who inhabit it, notably Chris Hemsworth’s devilish warlord Dementus, who almost walks away with the entire movie playing the main heavy. 


Miller is very much in the driver’s seat and he wrote “Furiosa” before starting production on “Fury Road,” because he needed to know how this character, played in that film by Charlize Theron, came to be. The result is a frantic, long, and occasionally jaw-dropping spectacle booming with flair and immersive visuals. Yet, as an origin tale of both Shakespearean tragedy and vengeance, it can be somewhat distant. You can enjoy the wild (sometimes repetitive) stunts and the unwavering commitment of everyone in the film while still wishing there was a little more meat on the bone. 


And yet, even when Miller is operating in second gear, his taste and hunger for entertainment can still put most summer offerings to shame. He’s spent an obscene amount of time expanding this universe, which will no doubt enhance future “Fury Road” viewings, a rare feat most prequels never accomplish. This adventure begins with a young Furiosa getting abducted from her sanctuary, many will remember as the Green Place, by a pair of raiders who take her to Dementus in the hopes she will tell him where to find this utopia of fresh fruit and clean water. It’s a strong foundation that establishes the main conflict that’ll no doubt see Furiosa and Dementus collide at later points in the film. 


Driven by revenge and being eaten, chewed up, and spit out by the wasteland, Furiosa eventually climbs the ranks within sadistic villain Immortan Joe’s cabinet, operating and overseeing the transport of supplies between the three fortresses: “Bullet Town,” “Gas Town,” and, of course, “The Citadel.” In perfect union, these cities are supposed to co-exist and operate efficiently, but Dementus, who weaseled his way into being the leader of Gas Town, has gotten greedy and sent the entire arrangement into a downward spiral. All hell has broken loose. 


Split up into five episodic chapters, “Furiosa,” is attempting to do something previous installments have never done: putting character over action. In some respects it does work, but then you we’re introduced to characters like Jack (Tom Burke - who was terribly underrated as Orson Welles in “Mank”) who is obviously thrown in as the potential love interest, however, him and Taylor-Joy are so good at sniping bad guys and cracking skulls when necessary, you can almost let it slide. 


Taylor-Joy might not have that much dialogue, though she does make up for it in brooding staredowns and like Theron before her, can handle herself against the onslaught of invaders standing in her way. Besides Hemsworth’s maniacal portrayal, which is probably a career best, Taylor-Joy has an excellent presence that rises to the challenge of answering the pivotal question: Did we really want to know the backstory of this character? 


After watching all two hours and thirty minutes of “Furiosa,” it made me want to go home and throw on “Fury Road” (clips of that film are spliced into the end credits) and keep staying immersed in this crazy, post apocalyptic world. “Furiosa” might not hit the same euphoric notes as its predecessors, but it more than proves Miller has got the juice to keep cranking these out and I’m stoked we’re here to witness them.


Grade: B 


FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA is now playing in theaters. 


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