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Review – Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga – Less Fast, Less Furious

Some films arrive in such a surprising and compelling way that they instantly become legend. “Where were you when Mad Max: Fury Road came out?” Fury Road brings the screen to life in spine-tingling fashion. Cinematic maths demands that any follow up will be met with sky-high expectations. George Miller, a visionary and an intellect, knew this, so he used his 21st century renaissance period to make 3000 Years of Longing. It’s a lovely film that’s only real comparison to Fury Road is its nimble visuals. But because 3000 Years was so different, and not part of Miller’s Max Max Wasteland universe, the hype was not sated. Oh no, the hype grew into a disgusting gas-guzzling, silver-toothy-sprayed, steampunk monster. And that monster would only be satisfied with more about Furiosa, the character Charlize Theron thrillingly inhabited in Fury Road.

Of course Furiosa didn’t meet these expectations, how could it? But, that aside, Miller has made something that blends his two previous films. It is slower and atonal with stunning visuals. Furiosa world-builds like crazy and never quite hammers home its environmental message. However, it often forgets about the character of Furiosa. Maybe it should have been called Dementus.

Furiosa begins in a ‘place of abundance’ where young peach-tree dwelling Furiosa (Alyla Browne) lives a safe life until nasty skull bikers come to take paradise for themselves. The gang’s leader is (Dr) Dementus (Chris Hemsworth, having a whale of a time) an insane, moustached and strangely ripped creature. Furiosa is captured, but protects the location of her home from Dementus, who wants to rule all of the Wasteland. He pays a visit to Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), slightly less insane than his Fury Road archetype, but just as dangerous. Furiosa’s cunning helps her blend in to this world, eventually growing up (to become Anya-Taylor Joy) and meeting Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke). Jack is a war-rig driver distributing food and fuel to tyrant leaders. When Dementus’s despotic tendencies spiral Furiosa is caught in a civil war in the lawless desert.

There is one reason to watch Furiosa and it is this: The first war-rig run. This scene, coming 1.5 hours into this 2.5 hour movie, is absolutely amazing. A heart-stopping tanker trip, where Jack and Furiosa must defend against all comers. The combination of gyrating camera, crazy transitions and audacious production design could be the best thing in cinema this year. If only Miller wanted to make Fury Road 2 and give us more of this. But he doesn’t, so he provides this beautiful concession. The rest of the film meanders, showing struggle through barren desert and the wild predilections of those in power (all despicable). The extreme heat and hunger has crazed every citizen. Furiosa is brimming with references to (and on occasion, actual footage from) Mad Max and Fury Road, which will only make sense to devout fans. Surprisingly, Taylor-Joy is only in 2/3 of the film. She is so slight that she seems physically incapable of doing all she has to, yet Taylor-Joy’s near wordless performance is impressive. Burke’s Jack is a kinder version of Max and the one other person to root for. But this is Hemsworth’s movie. His vigour, humour and taste for the weird make this a scene-stealing performance.

Furiosa is a good movie, it just isn’t Fury Road. Come for the war-rig, stay for the folklore and be prepared for the uneven pace.  There’s still nothing like a Wasteland movie.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga hits cinemas on 24th May 2024.

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