Year:  2024

Director:  George Miller

Rated:  MA

Release:  23 May 2024

Distributor: Universal/Warner

Running time: 148 minutes

Worth: $16.00
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Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Alyla Browne, Tom Burke, Lachy Hulme, Nathan Jones, Josh Helman, John Howard, David Collins

Yes, it’s indulgent and overlong. No, it’s not as good as Fury Road or Mad Max 2. But still, this is an extremely entertaining and exciting trip through the wasteland with one of Australia’s true originals behind the wheel.

2015: What a year for Aussie-themed post-apocalyptic cinema. The long-awaited and oft delayed Mad Max: Fury Road came out, the first entry since 1987’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and against all odds it was an absolute belter! Hell, it was probably up there with 1982’s Mad Max 2 (arguably the perfect Mad Max film), at times perhaps even better. A two-hour action sequence featuring amazing stunts, spectacular action, and great performances from the likes of Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Fury Road was a film like few others and a perfect way for director George Miller to cap off the Mad Max series. Except, the 79-year-old director wasn’t done. Enter, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, which takes us through the one-armed arse kicker’s earlier years, and while the result is a pretty bloody good time, it’s not quite the revelatory experience that was hooning down Fury Road.

This Mad Max saga begins with young Furiosa (Alyla Browne/Anya Taylor-Joy) straying too far from the idyllic Green Place of Many Mothers and being kidnapped by grotty acolytes of the Biker Warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). This begins an epic comic-of-age tale for the plucky youngster, where she will learn harsh lessons of the wasteland and the dark joys of violent revenge.

Furiosa is trying to tell a very different story to Fury Road and indeed the other Mad Max films. This is a more character focused yarn (closest in spirit in the original 1979 Mad Max) with plenty of world-building and quieter moments. Oh sure, there’s action aplenty as the film progresses, but this is a more sprawling tale. A bit too sprawling, to be honest, as the 148 minute runtime feels more protracted than necessary. The pacing, as well, is a bit off with the first act feeling too slow and some of the later beats oddly rushed.

Still, there’s plenty to like here. Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy are both superb as the titular heroine, showcasing a believable and sympathetic transformation from a curious innocent to the taciturn bad arse we know and love as portrayed by Charlize Theron. Tom Burke is also excellent as Praetorian Jack, showcasing a deeply impressive Aussie accent and a stoic gentleness that reminds one of a slightly less mad Max. However, undeniably the film belongs to the gleefully over-the-top performance from Chris Hemsworth as Dementus, a fascinating villain who is at once despicable and deeply entertaining, even with his comically goofy-looking faux schnozz. So much of what works in Furiosa comes down to Hemsworth’s uncanny ability to add new layers to this wild-eyed antagonist who feels completely at home in George Miller’s universe yet unlike anyone we’ve met before.

On the downside, other than the aforementioned time and pacing issues, there’s a troubling amount of dodgy CGI. Like, obviously Fury Road was chockers with the stuff, but it felt less intrusive and used more to augment the practical stunts. In Furiosa, it’s everywhere and can be distracting at times, making some of the film’s bigger moments feel somehow synthetic, inauthentic. Also, this being a prequel, you’re likely to be a lot less surprised than in other entries in the saga. Much of the iconography from Fury Road is built upon in interesting ways, but you’re unlikely to be gobsmacked by new concepts or ideas.

Furiosa is far more about iteration than innovation.

Ultimately, Furiosa is a different beast for the world of Mad Max. It’s a more considered, contemplative piece. Almost an epic fantasy except instead of wise wizards and brave knights, you’ve got inked History Men and cackling War Boys. Yes, it’s indulgent and overlong. No, it’s not as good as Fury Road or Mad Max 2. But still, this is an extremely entertaining and exciting trip through the wasteland with one of Australia’s true originals behind the wheel. Who better to do donuts with in the Macca’s carpark of modern cinema?