Thursday, May 23, 2024

'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga' (2024) Movie Review

anya taylor-joy looking post-apocalyptic
“Do you have it in you to make it epic?” one character asks another near the end of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. In answer to his own question, George Miller casually strolls over, taps the mic, leans in, and responds, “Yes, yes I do.” The 79-year-old action maestro has once again stepped up to show the whippersnappers exactly how to do it. And it is good.


You know her, you love her, she is the Imperator Furiosa, and in Miller’s latest sojourn into the post-apocalyptic wastes he first blasted through in 1979, we learn how she came to be the one-armed, bald-headed bastard we met in Mad Max: Fury Road. The plot tracks her life from her idyllic childhood in the Green Place, to her encounter with biker warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) and how she came to be in the service of Immortan Joe. We learn all about her, how she got her shaved head, acquired her skills at Road War, lost her arm, and so on. Very much an origin story, the narrative plays like a biopic if Furiosa was a real person. All wrapped up in insane, chaotic, beautiful action.


[Related Reading: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Movie Review]

anya taylor joy with a sniper rifle

Played in her younger iteration by Anya Taylor-Joy (and younger still by Alyla Browne), Furiosa continually bucks the odds, time after time proving herself fearless, capable, and, of course, badass enough to front a high-octane movie of this ilk. Not as near-mute as Tom Hardy’s Max in the previous film, she’s not exactly vociferous, relying on stern, steely looks, power posing, and unflinching split-second decision making to get her point across. She may be slight of stature, but even baby Furiosa is no one to trifle with. (There’s also a running gag where she almost loses her arm, toying with the audience’s existing knowledge, that’s reminiscent of Crispin Glover in Hot Tub Time Machine.)


Hemsworth has an utter ball prancing around the wastes in a dicey prosthetic nose as a burgeoning despot who uses charm and bluster to mask a cruel, vicious streak. He’s the embodiment of what it would be like if a party-bro were left in charge. It’s all fun and games for a while, but things ultimately spiral out of control and before long there’s no toilet paper and all that’s left in the fridge is a bottle of mustard of questionable age and half a can of flat beer from three days ago. Tom Burke, who you’ll never convince me isn’t actually digitally de-aged Stacy Keach, plays Praetorian Jack, Furiosa’s mentor and the only man who shows her any kindness. The two have a strong bond and form the central emotional hook of the film.


[Related Reading: The 50 Most-Anticipated Movies of 2024]

chris hemsworth with a problematic nose

Outside of these main three, the other characters exist primarily to be apocalyptic and look cool as members of various factions. That’s not a knock, their weird ticks, the cobbled togetherness of their outfits, and the general disheveled aesthetic give the world a lived-in texture and authenticity necessary to sell everything else. Once again, the costume and set design is top-notch as Furiosa pulls back the curtain on the likes of Gastown, the Bullet Farm, and the rest of this ruined world.


In the hands of a master like Miller, the action is, of course, top-top tier. Astounding set pieces, wild, how-the-hell-did-they-even-conceive-that stunts; clear, concise, coherent chase scenes; perfect editing, and maniac practical effects make you lament every muddy looking, poorly lit, incomprehensibly staged “tentpole” the studios try to pass off as epics. This is grand, gorgeously executed action at the highest level. It turns out blockbuster movies don’t have to look like garbage, you just need filmmakers willing to put in the time and effort. (AKA lunatics like George Miller.)


[Related Reading: 'The Witch' Movie Review]

furiosa a mad max saga

Though the action exists as spectacle of imposing scope and impeccable design, Miller once again demonstrates he’s a pro at using this action not just as adrenaline-fueled eye-candy, but as an actual storytelling tool. Every chase, every fight, every crash pushes the narrative forward. We learn about the characters—who they are, what they want, their dreams and hopes and fears—by how they behave in these moments of great strain, by how they act when besieged by a cadre of hang-gliding marauders, or what they do when both their freaking nipples get ripped off. (Yes, that happens.)


Let’s be honest, you probably don’t need this review to decide whether to go see Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. It’s a follow up to one of the greatest action movies of all time, and while it isn’t an identical clone, it manages to be awesome in ways that will tickle Fury Road fans and carve out its own apocalyptic path. Quieter (by degrees) and more introspective, the action is still the centerpiece, and this is must-see cinema for action fans and, in truth, everyone else. (Unless you hated Fury Road, which is mind-boggling, but you do exist.) At nearly two-and-a-half hours, it flies by; it’s gorgeous, it’s thrilling, you’ll marvel at the action, cheer for the heroes, share in their pain, and leave the theater on an endorphin high. [Grade: A]

No comments: