Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review – In the shadow of Fury Road

Few recent movies have come out with such big shoes to fill. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga not only has to continue the legend of the Mad Max franchise, but it also has to do it as a follow up act to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Despite coming out almost a decade ago, Fury Road is still on the top of many people’s minds as not only the best Mad Max movie, but one of the best movies ever made.

Adding to these expectations, the titular Furiosa is not played by South Africa’s own Charlize Theron. The aforementioned years of waiting lead the actress to other engagements and Anya Taylor-Joy to take up the mantle. Then there’s Chris Hemsworth, playing the big bad after his disastrous turn in Thor: Love and Thunder has many people sour on the actor.

Lastly there’s the trailers. Instead of getting people excited for the movie, the odd look and obvious (and obviously not great) CGI in the trailers you see on this page have people again thinking of Fury Road and its vast amount of practical effects and use of its own CGI that was much more difficult to detect.

But that’s all behind us. We’ve seen Furiosa so let’s answer some of the big questions right at the top.

How does this compare to Fury Road?

Furiosa struggles in comparison to Fury Road and simply can’t compare – it’s a lesser movie in every way.

Okay then, is it a good Mad Max movie? Yes, it’s a great and worthy entry in this storied series and we hope we get more “Mad Max Saga” movies in the future. How do Taylor-Joy and Hemsworth perform?

Taylor-Joy gives in a great performance; we never missed Theron. Hemsworth is… kind of bad. His dialogue isn’t great to begin with and then his performance left us wanting and highlighted the problems with his script.

For those who want the broad idea instead of those specifics, let’s look at the official description of the movie:

“As the world fell, young Furiosa [Anya Taylor-Joy] is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and falls into the hands of a great Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus [Chris Hemsworth]. Sweeping through the Wasteland, they come across the Citadel presided over by The Immortan Joe. While the two Tyrants war for dominance, Furiosa must survive many trials as she puts together the means to find her way home,” reads the official synopsis.

Here we already have some internal problems on the premises. Warner Bos. describes this movie as “an all-new original, standalone action adventure” but then the official description leans heavily on places and characters from Fury Road. This is the classic prequel problem but we are happy to report that viewers don’t need to have seen Fury Road to enjoy what Furiosa has to offer. Hell, even those who have never seen a Mad Max movie can come into this completely blind and enjoy themselves.

On the topic of story, a lot more happens in Furiosa. One of the few complaints people have about Fury Road is that its plot can be summarised as “two very long chase scenes”. Furiosa, on the other hand, has a much wider story with more meat on its bones.

Now Furiosa does have almost half an hour longer in its runtime, but it is nice to see that the Mad Max franchise can tell, well, a saga and not depend entirely on the spectacle of wasteland vehicle insanity. Unfortunately, the story here is a bit plodding and, in certain scenes and with certain plotlines, you really feel that extra runtime lagging.

We can already tell that a certain number of justifiable complaints will be levelled against Furiosa, asking for more of those chase scenes. We’d say that the story could have used a few more edits before it was committed to filming.

Dialogue, as we mentioned for Hemsworth, is not this movie’s strong suit. You may have already seen some articles stating that Furiosa says very little in this movie and, while that is true, it doesn’t mean there’s little dialogue overall.

The other characters do a lot of talking and none of it is particularly fun or engaging. It’s either workmanlike to explain needed parts of the story and the dialogue that isn’t entirely necessary is far too fluffy and full of nothing. The writers try desperately to come across as deep or meaningful but it all falls flat. Violence and war is bad, is it? Did humans nuke the world to hell and everything sucks, does it? Yes movie we know, you don’t need bad poetry and forced metaphors to understand that.

The characters suffer because of this poor script. Hemsworth’s Dementus is so close to being a good villain, but fails in every scene. They tried to make a scary wasteland warlord who also isn’t immune to failure, to the odd bit of humour, but he simply comes across as a clown.

This was partly intentional – the movie goes to great lengths to show that being the biggest guy in the room doesn’t always make you the strongest in the wasteland – but if you continually goof on your villain it becomes impossible to see him as an actual threat, even as he kills innumerable people.

The lack of dialogue, conversely, makes Taylor-Joy’s Furiosa all the better. She did a great job bringing this younger version of the character to life and there weren’t enough bad dialogue scenes for the audience to sour on her. We did have to laugh in some moments where it seems like she’s doing a Charlize Theron impression, but the rest of the time she’s solid and fun to watch.

The rest of the cast is equally solid and we won’t spoil who says or does what, but none shine as brightly as Furiosa or cause as much bother to the experience as Dementus.

At this point you may simply not care about everything discussed so far, you just want to know if there’s a lot of fun vehicular violence on offer. Well, it’s a mixed bag.

There are many scenes of the crazy vehicles that the Mad Max franchise has perfected. Even better is the fact that we get a lot more vehicle variety compared to Fury Road. Dementus, as mentioned, leads a biker gang so we get more two-wheeled action, but many other forms of Guzzolene-powered machines litter the action scenes.

But again we run into a problem. The action is used more sparingly in this movie, separated by many dialogue and scene-setting portions. You’ll be sitting in the theatre hoping and praying that the current scene will end and we can get back to something more exciting.

On top of this, the wonky CGI from the trailers is completely accurate to the experience in the final movie. So much of Furiosa just looks bad. The CGI is unconvincing and ugly, and it pulls you right out of the fun. Fury Road had a sensible threat of danger thanks to its reality and then in Furiosa, once we’ve seen the hundredth CGI body get crushed by a wasteland vehicle, we have already tuned out.

A lot of times we’re just left wondering why CGI was used so heavily, or used at all. Multiple times in the movie there is CGI fruit. Yes – CGI fruit. The fruit isn’t alive or dancing or singing, it’s just fruit that people eat. Why did they have to CGI it?

To balance this there are some outstanding piece of filmmaking. One particular chase in the middle of the movie, we think, will become known as the best piece of action in the entire Mad Max franchise and maybe in all of movies.

The sound design is also stellar, incredibly punchy (especially in IMAX, which is how we experienced this movie) and helps to cover up the cracks left by the CGI action. We can also report that we could mostly hear what the characters were saying, something we have to comment on for every movie as Hollywood continually shows that it has forgotten the art of sound mixing so we can hear actors speaking in movies.

The score is good too, even if it is heavy-handed. A sad scene will happen and the sad music will immediately be piped up, action will start and loud music will come with it, etc. It’s very… expected and left us wanting.

“Left wanting” is how we’d describe most of this movie. It has moments of brilliance and the entire package is worthwhile, especially for the current high price of cinema tickets, but by the end we’re left asking for more, or for all of the two hours and 28 minutes to have been better utilised and refocused on what makes a Mad Max movie fun.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is going to walk away with a recommendation from us and a higher score than you may expect with all our grievances in this review. But this movie, more than most, should come with a reminder of setting expectations and, as we mentioned right at the start, the opinion of ours that this can’t hold a candle to Fury Road.



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