Comfortable and Furious

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

To call Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga a prequel is reductive, as the term tends to imply a sort of retroactive reverse engineering of what made an original work successful, or an unnecessary cash-grab designed only to exploit the public’s fondness for that original work. At best you might get something like Rogue One, which basically asks you to care about a bunch of characters who died on the sidelines of the movie you already loved, and at worst you get something like Solo, which exists to ruin a beloved character’s name with a lame throwaway joke (it gets a lot worse than Solo, but you see my point). 

Furiosa is cut from a different cloth in that its screenplay was written even before the completion of its predecessor, Mad Max: Fury Road, and was originally planned to be shot at the same time. The care and attention to detail that makes Fury Road such a timeless masterpiece included full backstories for all of its characters, even down to the double-guitar-slinging Doof Warrior (iOTA), and Imperator Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy, taking over here for Charlize Theron) was certainly no exception. Her history, only hinted at in dialogue with Max (Tom Hardy) in Fury Road, is explored more thoroughly in a companion piece that adds dimension and richness to an already perfect movie while carving out its own place in the filmography George Miller, who has made a great case for himself as our best living action director with only his five Mad Max movies. 

Even more than the incredible action, though, the thing I’ve always loved best about these movies is the world-building, and it is a pure joy to be back in the brutal but beautiful wasteland Miller and his team have conjured. Furiosa allows a more leisurely exploration, given that its timeline takes us through some 15 years of its protagonist’s life, rather than the frenetic 48 hours of Fury Road. It is a significantly longer movie, divided into five chapters and spending a good amount of time in the beginning on a third incarnation of Furiosa, when she is played by Alyla Browne as a child. Her capture by the villainous Biker Horde gang, led by the flamboyant Dementus (Chris Hemsworth, clearly having the time of his life), and their murder of her mother lead her into a violent quest for revenge, much like the protagonist of the original Mad Max

While it is visually and aurally in the same vein as Fury Road, the storytelling is approached somewhat differently, lending credence to the fan theory that each Max movie is another myth passed down by future generations. Max narrates his own story in Fury Road, so we see it as he does: as an adrenaline-fueled war on wheels with only relatively few quiet moments. Furiosa is narrated by a supporting character, much like Mad Max 2 (known to us in the States as The Road Warrior), and there is more than a hint of unreliability to the narrative, especially in its denouement. Even more than Max himself, Furiosa is a mythical, larger-than-life figure, the ideal opponent for the likes of Dementus and Immortan Joe (played here by Lachy Hulme after the death of Hugh Keays-Byrne, though the character design renders this change in casting all but unnoticeable). 

The problem with any sequel, or prequel, is expectations. Fury Road managed to exceed them even for longtime fans with a bold new vision that stood strongly on its own, but was enriched by a familiarity with what had come before. Furiosa has the unenviable task of living up to the best action movie of the 21st century (or all time, if you ask me, and if you’ve read this far you implicitly have), and its status as a worthy successor comes down to Miller’s obvious and infectious enthusiasm for the world he’s created. To me, it is similar to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (though I know popular opinion holds that sequel in even higher regard than the original) in that everything great about it was established in the previous film, the enjoyment being in the expansion of and re-immersion in that beloved narrative world. Fury Road is perfect in every way, but Furiosa is pretty damn shiny and chrome in its own right. 



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One response to “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga”

  1. Goat Avatar

    Thank you Ezra for a great job. I want to see this one.

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