The Movie Waffler New Release Review - FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review
young enslaved Furiosa is caught up in a battle between two tyrants as she tries to make her way home across the wasteland.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: George Miller

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemswoth, Alyla Browne, Tom Burke, Nathan Jones, Angus Sampson, Quaden Bayles, Daniel Webber, Lachy Hulme

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga poster

The success of George Miller's first two Mad Max movies gave rise to a wave of knockoffs in the early '80s. Mostly Italian, these movies aped the post-punk petrolhead aesthetic of Miller's films, with Mohawk-sporting warlords crashing dune buggies into one another in the Spanish desert. While some of those movies were fun and provided cheap thrills for an '80s audience eager to feed their new VCRs, they lacked something. For a start they couldn't compete with Miller's craft, but there was another key element missing: they weren't Australian. The Aussie-ness of Miller's first two Mad Max movies makes them all the more convincing. Someone once described Australia as the Florida of the world, a country filled with the sort of lunatics who could only thrive at the edge of civilisation. While Fury Road saw Miller working at the top of his game, there was a geographical ambiguity to that movie that made it feel distanced from the originals. It certainly looked like a Mad Max movie and was filled with the jaw-dropping action that is the franchise's trademark, but it felt a little off in its distinct lack of boganity. You can imagine the movie's Hollywood backers telling Miller to tone down the Aussie.

With Furiosa, his Fury Road prequel, Miller seems to have been given more leeway, and it's the Aussiest film in the franchise since The Road Warrior. It opens with a shot of planet Earth that rotates until the continent of Australia fills the screen, at which point we zoom in and land in the familiar desert terrain of the series' post-apocalyptic world. The first words we hear are spoken in an almost impenetrably thick Aussie accent, and we feel a warm glow of nostalgia. This is the Mad Max we know. Despite Max Rockatansky being absent (or is he?), this is the most Mad Max movie since The Road Warrior. This ain't Miller Lite, it's Miller XXXX.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review

As the title suggests, this movie is focussed not on Max but on Furiosa, the one-armed warrior played so memorably by a shaven-headed Charlize Theron in Fury Road. We're introduced to Furiosa as a child (played by Alyla Browne, as impressive here as she was in the recent creature feature Sting), kidnapped from her home in a verdant oasis and ending up the property of Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), a warlord who models himself on the emperors of ancient Rome, right down to riding a chariot into battle.

A decade or so later Furiosa (now played by Anya Taylor-Joy) has become the property of another warlord, Fury Road's Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), and has shaved her head, pretending to be a boy, not so she can play on the school soccer team but to avoid becoming part of Joe's harem. Her skills see her team up with Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), an ace big rig driver, and while running errands across the wasteland she plots her revenge against Dementus.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review

While the action in Fury Road was certainly spectacular, it was also a tad monotonous. That movie was based around two extended set-pieces which offered little variation, essentially chases in a straight line. It was a bit like watching a Nascar race with no left turns. The action in Furiosa offers a lot more diversity while at the same time delivering the thrills and spills you expect from a Mad Max movie. We're constantly reminded of the influence of classic westerns on Miller's series, with post-apocalyptic retreads of stagecoach attacks. In real life I have zero interest in cars/bikes/trucks or anything on wheels, but for the duration of Furiosa I became the world's biggest petrolhead. The constant rumbling of engines makes you feel you're at a speedway event rather than a multiplex, and there's an obsession with engines, pistons and chrome here that makes Fast & Furious seem like a series about jogging in comparison. Praetorian Jack's big rig is one of the all-time great movie vehicles, a jacked up, rigged out cousin of James Bond's Aston Martin, crushing everything in its path. Within broader set-pieces there are small details that make you lean forward in your seat as you realise the scale of what you're witnessing. Each sequence is filled with so much detail it will require several rewatches to take it all in.

As the human figure at the centre of all this mechanised mayhem, Taylor-Joy certainly looks the part but lacks Theron's steely charisma. When Furiosa opens her mouth, which is rare, Taylor-Joy's accent is incongruously polished for someone who has spent the last 10 years in the company of white trash Aussies. I know she has to sound like Theron, but giving Furiosa a bogan brogue would have made the character a lot more convincing. Browne is so good as the younger Furiosa that you might wonder if Miller should have paused shooting for a few years in order for her to also portray the adult Furiosa. Burke is given little to do but look rugged and brooding as the Max stand-in, but he does it well. The film is stolen however by Hemsworth as Dementus. He's having the time of his life playing an absolute wanker, and he seems to have drawn inspiration for his performance from the infamous "succulent Chinese meal" bloke of online fame.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review

The film's production design is similarly demented, with little details like the mannequin torso on Dementus's motorbike that are so weird they fit right into this insane world. You get the feeling Miller gave his team free rein to come up with the craziest shit imaginable and they ran with it. The only distraction is some unfortunate deployment of b-grade CG to render backgrounds. The CG is so unconvincing that it takes you out of the world for a moment and it's completely unnecessary, like those retouched Star Trek blurays from the 2000s. But thankfully such moments are few and far between as this is mostly a movie built around practical effects and stunts, of men and motors, women and wheels, all smashing into one another for our viewing pleasure. Miller, you mad bastard, you've done it again.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is in cinemas from May 24th.

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