Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

A world gone mad, irradiated and barren, the Green Place of Many Mothers is perhaps the last hidden oasis of fertility and abundance in a hot red desert of the land once known as Australia, home to a community dedicated to preserving that legacy and protecting it, its secret location its greatest defence, a tribe of sap and seed under threat by the outsiders, the marauders to whom gasoline is more valuable than blood.

Captured by a raiding party, young Furiosa was a prize to the warlord Dementus, her mother trying valiantly to rescue her but overwhelmed by sheer numbers as they made their way back across the desert and through the storms which she had hoped might offer cover; a witness to the ambition of Dementus, she was traded as part of a bargain which saw Immortan Joe relinquish Gastown to his challenger, later seizing a chance to vanish and exist unnoticed in the Citadel, passing herself off as a boy to avoid attention.

While Fury Road flew under the banner of Mad Max, a character with an established history though handed over to a new actor, it was in many ways the story of Furiosa and her sister wives more than his, and while Furiosa may carry the superfluous subtitle A Mad Max Saga it is fully her story, although once again it is a film which introduces not one but two new leads to the role originated by Charlize Theron and now played by Three Thousand Years of Longing‘s Alyla Browne as a child and The Menu‘s Anya Taylor-Joy as the adult Furiosa.

Director George Miller’s fifth film in the sequence launched in 1979 and arriving nine years after Fury Road although originally intended to have been produced simultaneously, to say that Furiosa is a lesser film than its immediate predecessor is not to damn it in any way, for that breathless ride was a modern masterpiece while this is a very different work, a passage of time rather than of distance, the focused anger of the hostage playing the long game rather than the already depicted escape attempt itself.

A prequel which dovetails into Fury Road, there are crossovers with John Howard, Angus Sampson and Nathan Jones reprising their roles as the People Eater, the Organic Mechanic and Rictus Erectus while Lachy Hulme replaces the late Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe, the principal new characters treading the red sands Klokkenluider’s Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack, master of the War Rig and a man of surprising honour, and The Avengers’ Chris Hemsworth as Dementus.

A man who like Max Rockatansky was once a father, it is the loss of his family which triggered Dementus but now drives him on a very different path; where Max rode alone, avoiding the complication and responsibility for others, Dementus is the mad king overseeing a three-ring circus of excess and violence, not caring who or what is destroyed, gathering an army of the desperate with impossible promises and laying siege with the lives of his new followers as collateral to be expended, a contrast to Furiosa who remains anonymously silent even as she makes herself useful in order to learn.

Less urgent than Fury Road even as it illuminates the events which led to those events, a companion piece which paced over years rather than days, the action of Furiosa is not so relentless, a film which is less exhausting but also less exhilarating, although despite the frequent parallels Miller and returning co-writer Nico Lathouris succeed in adding new dimensions to the desert sieges and rolling battles while staying close the long-established aesthetic of post-apocalyptic scrapyard.

The chaos unleashed by Furiosa requiring a significant digital post-production, the scale of the destruction more than could be realised practically, particularly in the battle for the Bullet Farm, like the deal struck between Immortan Joe and Dementus it is an unfortunate compromise which in some ways disappoints but does not derail the film, though it is more frustrating that a blind eye must be turned to the unfathomable ease of Furiosa’s escape in the final act of a film which otherwise seamlessly jerry-rigs the insane mix of mismatched of plot, character and action into a monstrous hybrid which thunders on despite the odds.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is currently on general release and also screening on IMAX



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