Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review — This is no Fury Road 

Rafa Sales Ross
Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa

Nine years after Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller returns to the Wasteland to tell the story of Imperator Furiosa with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, a movie that lacks the refinement of its predecessor but is not without its thrills.

When it comes to art, consensus is a slippery thing. George Miller, however, got as close to it as one can get nine years ago with desert epic Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller’s passion project was infamously stuck for years in development hell but went on to bag six Academy Awards and become widely considered one of the greatest action movies ever made.

So of course all eyes were on when — and how — Miller would step back into the Mad Max world, and the answer came in the shape of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. 

We were first introduced to Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in Fury Road just as she broke out the wives of cult leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) from their ivory tower within the heavily guarded walls of the Citadel. Alongside Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), Furiosa set the rhythms of an adrenaline-infused chase that saw cinema’s coolest-looking monster vehicles cut through the never-ending badlands — some searching for vengeance, others for hope. 

Furiosa is the origin story of revenge

It is hard to imagine someone embodying the angered longing of Furiosa as expertly as Theron did in Fury Road. The actress played the warrior with a measured containment that beautifully translated the Imperator’s unshakeable resolve to see her home once more, a truth that never eluded her in the many years since she was violently taken away from her family. 

Home is precisely where we meet her in Miller’s latest, still as a young girl roaming the compact but mighty forest of her land. Small hands reach for fruits hanging atop trees until a cacophony of revving — machine and human alike — cuts through the air, announcing that danger is nearby. Soon, just like a peach plucked from a branch, Furiosa is snatched away, unaware that this is the last time she will ever see the green mounds where she once led a carefree childhood. 

Set between 15 and 20 years before the events of Fury Road with a brief introduction alluding to the events that led to humanity’s age of scarcity, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga grants Miller the chance to expand our understanding of Theron’s soulful ache and her unquenchable thirst for revenge.

Newcomer Alyla Browne and The Northman’s Anya Taylor-Joy share the burden of having to fill in Theron’s precisely measured shoes, the former playing Furiosa as the small child that lands into the hands of Chris Hemsworth’s Dementus while the latter finds herself already within the Citadel under the command of Immortan Joe. 

Furiosa isn’t Fury Road

Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa

For those expecting the prequel to measure up to the thrills of Mad Max: Fury Road, there is some disappointment to be had. While Fury Road had the advantage of urgency, told in three action-filled days, Furiosa looks back at many years. Told in five chapters, the film feels less like an epic than an odyssey and plays at a slower pace in comparison, with long-winded sequences dwelling on the conflicts that have come to shape the Wasteland.

It takes over an hour for Miller to introduce Taylor-Joy and properly kick in what would become known as the Wasteland Wars, at last revving his own narrative motors and taking the audience back to the blood-pumping highs of the 2015 offering. 

Hemsworth dons a massive prosthetic nose but can’t seem to escape the shadow of his Thor. This proves an advantage when it comes to the brute’s rare moments of comic relief (his massive body adorned by a tiny teddy bear is one of the film’s many attempts to humanise and poke fun at its new villain) but stands in the way of the Aussie actor breaking out of his Marvel Cinematic Universe confinement.

As the bad guy, Dementus feels little but a nuisance when compared to the menacing Immortan Joe. Hemsworth plays the warlord like a disgruntled child and, as Furiosa develops into the fierce warrior Theron first brought to the screen, the central confrontation declares its clear winner before even giving it a proper shot. 

Out of the new characters, Tom Burke’s Praetorian Jack is the standout. The Souvenir actor seems an unlikely choice to enter the chaos of Miller’s Wasteland but meets Furiosa at her level — a silent, exact driver who intimidates not through brutal violence but coldly calculated precision.

The film is rarely better in terms of emotional punch than when it allows for Taylor-Joy and Burke to share the screen, words rarely shared but also rarely needed. Jack’s introduction grants a brief glimpse into a life where the titular girl-turned-warrior lives a life that isn’t fuelled solely by revenge. 

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review score: 3/5

Despite failing to live up to the stakes set by its predecessor, Furiosa: A Mad Max saga is still a Miller Mad Max instalment and sees no shortage of brilliantly executed action sequences and a parade of memorable guys, gulls, and grumps to boot.

A lizard reaching out to a fly from inside a broken skull is crushed by the weight of old tyres, malnourished hands pull and pluck at iron to build weapons of destruction and survival, limbs are torn and bodies bent, all in the name of a power more and more fragile as the water tanks dry up. And, as Miller cleverly demonstrates with a sleight of the hand on the credits (which should and will be kept as a surprise here) one can always return to Fury Road if Fury Road is what they are looking for. 

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga arrives in cinemas on May 24. You can also find out what other new movies are coming to cinemas this month.