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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review | Do We Need Another Hero? 

Anya Taylor-Joy behind the wheel in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
Anya Taylor-Joy takes over for Charlize Theron in the new movie Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Her character is referred to in the film as the “Fifth Rider of the Apocalypse.”

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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga takes place in the same world as that of Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), a highway patrolman introduced to us in 1979 in the post-apocalyptic thriller Mad Max. His story continued in 1981’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and in 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (where we meet Max’s most interesting nemesis of all three movies: Aunty Entity, played by Tina Turner).  

Tina Turner (Aunty Entity) with Mel Gibson (Max) in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Turner starred in the movie and sang the song “We Don’t Need Another Hero” for the soundtrack, which was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance”. It would become one of the biggest hit singles of her career, peaking at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

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When we first meet Max, he is one of the few cops left trying to enforce the law even though society has long since broken down. Eventually, after a series of tragic personal losses, Max realizes he can no longer play by the rules. By the time we catch up with him in Thunderdome, he has become just a drifter, a survivor who will stay out of your business if you stay out of his.   

Thirty years later, in 2015, his story continued somewhat in Mad Max: Fury Road. I say ‘somewhat’ because Furiosa is the star of this story, as played by Charlize Theron. Tom Hardy plays Max. We learn that Furiosa was kidnapped from her home many years before, a lush paradise known as the “green place”and she has spent a great deal of time, years in fact, trying to get back to it. All of this takes place in a vast radioactive desert wasteland where the only precious commodities are water, food, and fuel. 

Charlize Theron first played Furiosa in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

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Although Fury Road’s worldwide box-office take was close to $380 million, it did not entirely recoup its costs. But it was received quite positively, so much so that a black and white (excuse me, a “Black & Chrome”) edition was released on 4K Blu-ray. Nominated for ten Oscars, Fury Road took home sixincluding “Best Achievement in Production Design” and “Best Achievement in Film Editing.” So, it looked inevitable that a sequel would be greenlit.   

And so it was, but that sequel became a prequel with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. It begins by going back in time before the events in Fury Road and introduces us to a very young Furiosa (Alyla Browne). Here, we see her kidnapping as told by Furiosa to Max in Fury Road. The kidnapping is bad news for Furiosa, but it implies a bigger threat: the biker gang have seen where Furiosa and her family lives, with its fresh fruit, water and trees, and they will want to return with reinforcements to claim it as their own.   

But first they have another problem: Furiosa. Perhaps only ten years old, she sabotages the bikers’ journey home, allowing her mother to catch up to her and reunite briefly.   

“Whatever you have to do,” Her mother pleads in their last moments together, “however long it takes, promise me, you’ll find your way home.”  

Easier said than done. She’s in a land ruled by Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) and the name suits him. Dementus has grand plans, but perhaps overestimates his abilities to the point of delusion. He rides around in a chariot towed by three riderless motorcycles (how this contraption could work and be steered is beyond me, but it is cool to watch) while dreaming of being the ultimate ruler. His plans are to wipe out all the other warlords, and capture a fuel refinery station called “Gastown” that is somehow still operating 45 years after the apocalypse. With some trickery, he succeeds in taking it.  

Eventually, Furiosa is traded as part of a larger deal by Dementus to a warlord named Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme). She quickly escapes her new captors, and we jump ahead in time some years, finding she has reinserted herself back into Immortan Joe’s camp, disguised as a boy. She has aged (and is now played by Anya Taylor-Joy) and to hide her sex she covers up her hair and pretends to be a mute boy.  

I find Taylor-Joy’s performance as Furiosa not nearly as engaging as Theron’s. Of course part of the blame is the script, but the truth is I don’t feel Furiosa is ever in any real danger, probably because she doesn’t act like she is. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be said for confidence, but some of the situations she finds herself in should be downright terrifying.

There’s a reason for this though. According to an interview with Taylor-Joy in the film’s electronic press kit, she states, “In this universe, being human is at your own detriment. She makes herself a machine. She is a machine. And that begins this mythology around her.”  

Director George Miller, who at 79 has directed all five Mad Max movies, adds: “She’s had no time to think about it, she’s got to completely improvise in the most intense circumstances.” 

 

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga releases new images
Chris Hemsworth plays Dementus, one of the warlords in a post-apocalyptic Australia where everyone fights over food, water, and gasoline.

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Hemsworth’s performance is terrific. He is not as bulked up as his character Thor, his hair is longer, greasier, and he sports a ridiculously long beard. But it is his voice–his voicethat has undergone the most dramatic change. Hemsworth himself described it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as “nasally,” “piercing” with a dash of “side show circus entertainer.” If it were not Hemsworth in the role, I would swear another actor dubbed his lines. When Dementus announces “Henceforth I will be addressed as the Great Dementus! Beloved ruler of Bikedom, Lord Guardian of Gastown…what a day!”, we understand the words but don’t understand how he can be taken seriously as a warlord with a voice like that.   

Another character is introduced, Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), who discovers Furiosa is a woman but instead of sharing this news, he offers to train her on the art of “road war.” But we see none of that training and we don’t get to see them bond either. But suddenlyas if some scenes were cutthey are in deep discussion about running off together to find her home. What follows is more vehicle and truck chases, crashes, explosions, and a high body count.   

The cinematography and effects are as good as Fury Road. And the stunts are just as astonishing, as when we see the ‘war rig’ being pursued by bandits on motorcycles, cars and even hand gliders. But I found myself not entirely engaged, my mind wandering. I wondered why that was and I suppose it came down to this: I just didn’t care (enough) about these characters. I didn’t feel I knew them (with the exception of Dementus, and I wasn’t rooting for him anyway). The movie may offer new ways to hunt a vehicle down on the road, but without an engaging storyline, what’s the point? What’s worse is that because this is a prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, we already know that Furiosa will make it through anything that happens here. And we know what she will discover when she finally makes it home.

All of this makes me think that perhaps Furiosa’s story did not need to be told—or at least not this particular chapter of it.

Behind the scenes shot of Director George Miller giving direction to Chris Hemsworth (Dementus). Miller has directed all five Mad Max movies and there is talk of a sixth.

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As mentioned, this world exists almost a half century after civilization has crumbled. Surprisingly, fuel and bullets are still being produced in mass quantities. Since nothing new can be built, and everything has to be scrounged around for, how is this possible? Or furthermore, how do they even have the knowledge? I can believe that people can fix cars, but the production of bullets and gasoline must take some training and skill, no? And where does the lead, copper, polymer and other materials come from to make the bullets? As for gasoline, the knowledge necessary to distill crude oil alone must require a degree or two, and even then, it’s not like there’s an endless supply of natural petroleum being shipped to Gastown.   

Watching the movie, I found I didn’t really care about the answers to these questions either. I miss Charlize Theron’s Furiosa and I miss having Max in the movie. It is refreshing though that the producers did not try to hide the fact that the story takes place in Australia rather than pretend it was a post-apocalyptic United States. 

Not what you want to see in your rearview mirror. According to one of the producers, Doug Mitchell: “It’s an action symphony. A rock’n roll disaster with 200 stunt people.”

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As for the box office results, it earned over $171 million worldwide based on a budget of $168 million. So not nearly as successful as its predecessor. Since the production costs do not include marketing, Furiosa easily underperformed. Plans were underway for another movieMad Max: The Wastelandbut based on the lackluster reception of Furiosa, it is unlikely to happen now. Or, not for a while.

If production somehow does go forward, I hope they bring back Max. 

Garry Murdock
Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

Garry Murdock

Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

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