Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Fury being the key word here. We all crave revenge though, just as Chris Hemsworth’s wicked Dementus would say, but while we may not be able to balance the scales of our suffering with such revenge - seeking after such does have the capacity to make for one hell of a story. Such is the tale of the titular Furiosa in George Miller’s nine-year-later follow-up to his bombastic Fury Road. While that film - itself a thirty-six-year-later follow-up to Miller’s dystopian trilogy that began simply as a story of another vengeful Australian who set out to stop a violent motorcycle gang - is now something of a cultural milestone and turning point for action filmmaking in and of itself it didn't necessarily blow me out of the water in the way so many of its fans praise it for doing (more on that later). Why Miller, who will be eighty in less than a year, chose to enter this world once again through the prism of a prequel to flesh out the details of a fascinating yet not necessarily unambiguous character whose destiny we are well aware of might at first feel a little puzzling as the film unfolds the filmmakers justifications are made clear: re-entering this world and continuing to flesh out not only the character of Furiosa but all of the characters at play in these wasteland fortresses along with the wasteland itself is what makes it worth the trip. Such a task is an admittedly impossible line to walk in not only in having to deliver on the expectations set by Fury Road, but also in attempting to deliver something that is inherently cut from the same cloth yet stands on its own merits. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, for all the context, history, and set-up that would seem to inform its creation is ultimately still an origin story - the beginning of a saga if part of one at all - and needs none of the circumstances surrounding it to be known in order to flourish for what it is. Where Fury Road, for all its audacity and inspiration, felt more like an art installation of a movie - meaning I was floored by its visual achievements but not necessarily moved by or invested in its experiment - Furiosa is full-fledged epic where the storytelling is as front and center as the action - much to the chagrin of the majority of movie-goers, I'm sure.

Young Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) establishes herself as a key figure in the Citadel's control of precious resources in the Wasteland.
Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture - © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

That said, the film still delivers where it will count for most just not as often as some might have hoped. Following-up a film that was essentially two or three long, extended action sequences with something more akin to a mythic tale of how a warrior earned their stripes is certainly a pivot, but if you thought Miller wouldn't still delight in big rig chases featuring an array of aerial acrobatics you'd be mistaken. While one of the early action set pieces that takes place in the heart of the Citadel suffers due to the same fears this film's first trailer ignited by the time we reach the single biggest sequence in the middle of the film in which Miller is both cooking and flexing as a character named Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke) drives a decked out semi through a storm of war boys and sandstorms while Anya Taylor-Joy gives birth to the titular character as we know her to be - slickly maneuvering from one tanker to the next and into the cab of the truck while dismissing upwards of ten adversaries along the way - all faith has been restored and all bets are off. It is in these action sequences that Miller is clearly (and oddly) most comfortable as he seemingly delights in being able to orchestrate things unfolding in-camera that less than a handful of other filmmakers could pull off, but also where he finds himself able to express the most with said visuals. What Furiosa does have in common with Fury Road is its lack of dialogue with an obvious emphasis on action, but even more it is about how one action leads to the next and how these measures different characters make and take build on top of one another, overlay each other, and generally move us not only further along in the story but deeper into theme as well. Furiosa is a movie about controlling your own destiny, not simply accepting the hand fate seems to have dealt you but taking that hand and fashioning it to work in favor of your own objectives even as the journey perversely does the same thing to you; molding you into the type of person with the skills and personality to succeed in the face of that adversity.

Furiosa's main objective is returning home. The film begins in the "Green Place of Many Mothers" where a young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) is picking peaches along with her sister, Valkyrie. This "Green Place" is one of the last remaining areas in an otherwise barren desert with fresh water and agriculture. This place is also very much a safeguarded secret haven so when Furiosa and Valkyrie spot a couple of plunderers picking through their plants Furiosa attempts to sabotage their bikes but ends up captured instead. In this first, tone-setting sequence of the film Furiosa's mother (Charlee Fraser) chases said plunderers through that aforementioned barren desert only to stumble upon an outpost of desperate and dirty bikers led by Hemsworth's Dementus. Through a series of events Dementus proves worthy of his title of "warlord" as he holds the young Furiosa captive and charges into the Citadel making demands we know the immortal Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) will never bend to. In response to this lack of compliance Dementus invades and captures Gastown - the second fortress of the wasteland that features some really cool production design - positioning Dementus as just as critical a player in this story as Furiosa herself. 

Miller and co-screenwriter Nick Lathouris with whom Miller also wrote Fury Road are certainly interested in their female lead's arc, but it is Dementus and Hemsworth's performance as the villain of the piece who is something of an unexpected focal point for the film, some might even say the narratives loudest voice. While I didn't expect too many surprises from a prequel to a sequel that took a decade to make and release, I was somewhat surprised not only by the lack of similarities between this film and its immediate predecessor but also by the structure that ultimately shapes Furiosa. For starters, Taylor-Joy does not appear in this film for the first full hour thus giving Hemsworth time to really sink his prosthetic nose into the sand and the mind of this somewhat deranged, mostly dumb meathead who likely found himself in charge more for his physical prowess than his strategic mind. Knowing the road certain characters must take and the demise some must face in order for the events of Fury Road to begin is an aspect that hangs over this more traditionally told story, but while Fury Road as a film likely contained more ideas than it did support any kind of actual story the opposite feels true of Furiosa as it is more of a plot-driven film with a few main ideas propping up Miller's craftmanship that is on full display - the real reason any of this exists at all. Even still, Furiosa manages to unravel a few surprises along the way despite the foregone conclusions of its script and more traditional storytelling methods; how well the film still plays and how absorbing everything happening on screen continues to be only validates further how strong of a film this is despite any hesitation toward the prequel approach and story decisions. 

Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) is a warlord in the post-apocalytpic outback who looks to establish dominance over the wasteland fortresses.
Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture - © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
is both more of what one might expect Miller to deliver, more of the same as Fury Road, yet simultaneously something completely different. Though not a Mad Max completist, mega fan, or Miller enthusiast necessarily - I still found myself taken with the oddities of this counter culture Miller and co. created while admiring the wittiness of what dialogue does pop up to the extent my limited familiarity with Miller's filmography made this quite possibly my favorite thing I've seen him do. Whether it be in small touches like Immortan Joe's right hand man and his gas mask crotch guard, the hole he purposefully cut in his shirt for easier access to his nipples, or better yet - the design of the chariot of motorcycles Dementus conducts, the breadth with which this world has been sketched out and filled in is impressive solely on its own terms. Complaints of pacing and imperativeness of the material in general will arise and the third act especially could have been condensed as the film stretches toward the two and a half hour mark, but as an audience member completely immersed in not only the aesthetics of Miller's playground but the plight of Furiosa - I didn't mind. Taylor-Joy's performance honors the Charlize Theron energy of the character while still communicating her controlled rage and mechanical competencies through what is largely a wordless performance. Sure, Hemsworth steals the show when he's on screen as this scoundrel that would have you believe he's smarter than he is, and Burke is notably effective in his role but none of it distracts from the frenetic energy surrounding the titular character. There are a lot of opinions on what prequels and sequels and prequels to sequels should be or should embody and it depends on the franchise what route said types of films in the lineage will take. Furiosa could have seen Miller spending more time in "The Green Place" or more time deepening and enhancing aspects of this character we already know and instead - for better or worse (but to the great amusement of this movie fan) - Miller chooses to balance the character study with more vehicular mayhem and war boys that, together, somehow manages to still pull a fair amount of substance from its familiar elements.        

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