review

Furiosa movie review: George Miller’s Mad Max follow-up is impressive but it’s no Fury Road

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Anya Taylor-Joy in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure "FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Anya Taylor-Joy in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure "FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros./Supplied

Fans of The Simpsons will remember Poochie, a loathed addition to Bart’s favourite cartoon, The Itchy and Scratchy Show.

When viewers revolted against Poochie, the network executives killed him off by saying Poochie had to return to his home planet. Rather than create a scene of Poochie flying off, the filmmakers pull the current animation cel upwards and Poochie floats off without moving a muscle.

That scene in The Simpsons is played for laughs but the image of Poochie levitating away lingers because in the 27 years since that episode, advances in CGI technology have enabled filmmakers to envision and execute fantastical action set-pieces.

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In effects-heavy blockbusters such as superhero epics, there are myriad characters and figures flying through the air, being thrown about and leaping from place to place. But there’s no weight to them. As a result, there’s no jeopardy in those scenes.

The counterpoint to that has been directors such as David Leitch and Christopher Nolan and stars such as Tom Cruise, who insist on practical stunts as much as possible.

Chief among this crew is Australian filmmaker George Miller, whose 2015 movie Fury Road is still cited as featuring some of the most heart-in-your-throat, ambitious action sequences ever committed to film. Fury Road is rightly considered a masterpiece — not just of genre filmmaking but of cinema.

Anya-Taylor Joy, Tom Burke and Chris Hemsworth in Furiosa.
Anya-Taylor Joy, Tom Burke and Chris Hemsworth in Furiosa. Credit: Warner Bros.

A follow-up has a high bar to reach. Perhaps it would be fairer to not directly compare Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga to Fury Road, but that is made more difficult when Furiosa makes the odd choice of playing Fury Road clips over its end credits, ostensibly to tie it into the 2015 film but has the effect of reminding audiences that what they just saw wasn’t as unimpeachable.

And there’s the fact the bold and spiky Furiosa began as an addendum to Fury Road, a script written almost as homework to flesh out the character Charlize Theron played. With a rewind to her origin story, the fierce road warrior is taken over by Alyla Browne as a child and Anya Taylor-Joy as a young woman.

The film tracks Furiosa’s story from when she was kidnapped as a child from the Green Place by members of a motorcycle gang loyal led by Dementus (Chris Hemsworth, clearly enjoying himself), an unhinged warlord occasionally prone to theatrical pontificating.

Furiosa is passed into the hands of Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), and traded off to be one of his wives. She manages to disguise herself and slips into the throng of war boys at the Citadel. Her talents and gumption eventually land her on Praetorian Jack’s (Tom Burke with a near-perfect Australian accent) team, helping him on the perilous runs between the Citadel, Gastown and the Bullet Farm.

But she has her eyes set on revenge against Dementus, who has since taken over Gastown and is conspiring to take on Immortan Joe.

Chris Hemsworth in character as Dementus, for Furiosa.
Chris Hemsworth in character as Dementus, for Furiosa. Credit: Warner Bros Pictures/TheWest

The story is the framework for the character journey of Furiosa, to see how she was formed, how she developed her game and her sense of right and wrong, to become the Imperator we meet in Fury Road.

But Furiosa is mostly a series of impressive stunts that make you stop thinking about anything else. The elaborate choreography and execution are truly imposing. Its set pieces, including one that took 78 days and 200 stuntpeople to film, are visually immersive and with a sound design that threatens to overwhelm.

There are some pacing issues (Taylor-Joy doesn’t even appear until an hour in) and it’s too long at maybe one sequence too many.

If Furiosa had been a standalone, it would be considered an incredible feat, but as the fifth instalment, it doesn’t evolve on the spectacle we’ve already seen in Fury Road. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, there’s a strong argument to be made that just being back in this dirty, frenetic and amoral world is enough.

And it is enough. But it’s just not more.

Rating: 3.5/5

Furiosa is in cinemas from Thursday, May 22

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