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Furiosa – What a Wonderful World

Did you get to see FURIOSA yet? For me, it cemented GEORGE MILLER’s legacy as one of the most important filmmakers of our time. No one else does it like George. The 9 years since he unleashed MAD MAX: FURY ROAD have gone in a flash. I was looking back at what I wrote here at the time (you can find it here). I was particularly struck by a couple of things: first, FURY ROAD wasn’t really about Max – he was the conduit for the story, and second – the world building was on another level.

Those two points are proven with FURIOSA. The character of Max is (almost) entirely absent, and we’re plunged even deeper into Miller’s relentlessly bizarre yet remarkably plausible dystopian future. Though it’s unquestionably cut from the same cloth, this film is a very different beast from its predecessor. I don’t think it holds up quite as well as FURY ROAD, but it’s a phenomenal movie, nonetheless.

As the world fell, young Furiosa is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and falls into the hands of a great Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus. Sweeping through the Wasteland they come across the Citadel presided over by The Immortan Joe. While the two Tyrants war for dominance, Furiosa must survive many trials as she puts together the means to find her way home.

That Miller claims to have written the script for FURIOSA before writing FURY ROAD speaks volumes. In order to tell the story of FURY ROAD, he felt he had to know Furiosa and how she reached the place where Max first encountered her. As a writer, that fills me with admiration – there’s a level of investment there on the part of the creator that’s absent from pretty much every other major science-fiction/horror franchise. I remain a sucker for STAR WARS, but my engagement is fading because every new series I watch (with the exception of ANDOR which was superb) chips away at the myth and mystique that I loved about the original movies. The MARVEL films too have become so entangled in their own mythos that they seem to have to 1) fit into an increasingly convoluted overarching story (Christ, how I’ve grown to detest the phrase ‘cinematic universe’), and 2) tick any number of corporate required pre-defined boxes. This approach reduces art to product, and it sucks the joy out of franchises we’ve loved and invested in. KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES proves my point. Though not entirely unsuccessful, it lacks a reason for being (as I argued when I wrote about it last month).

The MAD MAX films are different. Each of the five films is, on the whole, a completely isolated story, seen through the eyes of Max, initially, and now Furiosa. You can watch each one in isolation. Importantly, you don’t have to have seen every frame of every other film and know every character’s backstory to get a couple of hours of top-notch enjoyment out of each movie. Each episode feels different to the others, and yet there’s no question that they all belong in the same tough and violent, post-apocalyptic world.

FURIOSA stands apart from the other films. While the preceding movies all take place over a short period of time, this one spans 15 years. It’s divided into five separate chapters, but they’re skilfully combined into a single, cohesive tale. Again, it’s testament to George Miller’s mastery that you don’t question for even a second the changes in actor that accompany the stages of Furiosa’s life. Throughout the 15 years, you simply accept that you’re following the tormented path of the same individual.

Okay, so there are some tips of the hats to fans here, but I’d argue that finally seeing locations like the Bullet Farm and Gas Town are important to the overall story and are more than just fan service. There’s a brief cameo, though, that does feel somewhat out of place given all that I’ve just been saying.

As you’d expect from a George Miller MAD MAX movie, there are some incredible set-pieces, and the vehicles and chases are like nothing else. There’s a beauty to the madness – it looks unhinged and chaotic, but it’s perfectly choreographed for maximum effect. You could argue that such vehicular madness is becoming cliched in MAD MAX films, but I’d disagree. I think the engines and the violence are the essential language of the story.

A scene from Furiosa: a Mad Max saga

The stylised palette of FURY ROAD is on display again here, this time augmented with cold blues and flashes of green. The central theme of all the MAD MAX films is, I think, the quest for survival and the essential elements for life (it just so happens that, in this world, fuel and ammunition is as important as food and water). The brutal atmospherics and (almost) endless desert are also integral to the story, because it’s the harshness of the environment that forces the characters to adapt in order to survive. And as in previous films, those characters are remarkably three-dimensional given the base brutality of much of what they do. ANYA-TAYLOR JOY is excellent taking over the Furiosa mantle from CHARLIZE THERON, and CHRIS HEMSWORTH seems to be having as much fun playing Dementus as we do watching him (if not a little more). TOM BURKE’s Praetorian Jack is an interesting, but sparingly used character, whose seems to act as a quasi-Max.

Though not quite matching the gloriously unexpected energy rush of FURY ROAD, I wholeheartedly recommend FURIOSA. It’s a franchise film done right – made in the right way, by the right people, for the right reasons.

Thanks for reading.

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