May 25, 2024

Movie Review: Furiosa, a Mad Max Saga (The War Rig Rides Again)

This film is the prequel to George Miller's stone cold classic from nine years ago, Mad Max: Fury Road. This is the continuing saga of Max in Australia's post-nuclear-apocalypse wasteland, but the previous movie introduced the iconic character of Furiosa, portrayed by Charlize Theron, whose backstory we get here. Because Fury Road was in many ways more Furiosa's story than Max's, George Miller decided to tell the story of her growing up, being kidnapped from the Green Place, her fight for survival in Immortan Joe's Citadel and her attempts to get back to her home. 

The first thing to note about Furiosa is that since Miller decided not to de-age Charlize Theron and cast two different actors instead (Alyla Browne in the first two "chapters" of the story, when Furiosa is ten or eleven-ish, and Anya Taylor-Joy fifteen years later, which takes place an unspecified but not very long amount of time before the events of Fury Road), both actors nail the part. They look enough like each other--both have the same sharp-chinned, heart-shaped face--that you can imagine both Browne and Taylor-Joy growing up to be Charlize Theron. They also, since Furiosa doesn't have much dialogue, tear you to shreds with their wide-eyed gaze. 

The other character of note is Chris Hemsworth's Dementus, a rival wasteland warlord to Immortan Joe who is both unhinged and "crazy like a fox." I can see why Hemsworth took this part--it's about as far from Marvel's Thor as it is possible to get. Dementus has more dialogue in the film than nearly everyone else combined, and he spits out his combination of crazed, erudite, and over-the-top lines with scene-chewing glee. 

Unfortunately, there are a couple of plot holes in this one I feel compelled to pick at. The biggest one is after Dementus leaves Furiosa at the Citadel as part of his bargain with Immortan Joe, she is put with Immortan Joe's "wives" (also known as reproductive sex slaves). She manages to escape and after cutting her hair disguises herself as one of the Citadel's War Boys, eventually falling in with Praetorian Jack, the driver of the War Rig before Furiosa herself. This is years later as her hair has grown out again, but at the climax of the movie Immortan Joe doesn't recognize her or seem to notice that the younger version of Furiosa escaped? Dementus also had that problem, not realizing until the last confrontation that the steely-eyed, grease-masked warrior pursuing him is the child he kinda-sorta rescued years ago and called "Little T." But Furiosa's face is distinctive enough that both of them should have known who she was. Also, one of the reveals of this film is how Furiosa lost her left arm, but following the torture scene where Dementus strings her up by said crushed left arm and drags Furiosa's lover Jack to death behind a motorcycle, she seems to have the apparent superpower of being able to chew her own arm off while simultaneously keeping herself from bleeding out? (Followed by a nasty scene of maggots writhing at the end of the stump, thus explaining why she didn't die from a massive infection.)

Technically, there is a bit more CGI in this film, as opposed to Fury Road which was almost entirely practical effects, and nothing like the metal guitar guy in Fury Road whose vehicle was stacked ten feet high with speakers. Dementus does get a six-wheeled rig that can roll right up the sides of steep sand dunes, and Praetorian Jack's war rig is even longer than Furiosa's. The editing is also nowhere near as tight as Fury Road's (editor Margaret Sixel rightly won an Oscar for it). I didn't miss Tom Hardy's Max in this movie (we will not speak of Mel Gibson) as both Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy held my attention as the title character, and I enjoyed finding out more about the sometimes batshit crazy wasteland world. 

I saw this on an IMAX screen, my second such experience this year after Dune Part Two. This time I was able to get a seat near the top (for IMAX, nosebleed seats are definitely the way to go). This film was loud enough that I stuffed my fingers in my ears at several points, and the theater irritated the hell out of me by showing thirty effing minutes of previews before the film I had paid fifteen dollars to see actually started. This pointless annoyance did not engender any urge to see the objects of said previews, with a possible exception of the fourth-wall-breaking Deadpool & Wolverine

Altogether, this film did not scale the heights of Fury Road, which is a masterpiece. However, it is worth watching on its own terms, and I expect to buy it on Blu-Ray when it is released. If you can, see it on IMAX, as you can really get the sense of the blasted, collapsed, dying world these characters are trying to survive in. 

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