Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review: souped-up, high-octane and totally bonkers


Following on from 2015’s spectacular Fury Road, George Miller returns to the Mad Max franchise, this time telling the origin story of Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron in the previous film).

All the questions you may or may not have asked yourself about the feisty fighter – where she came from, how she lost her arm, how she came to be working for Immortan Joe – are answered here.

Miller does a concise job of explaining how the world got to be in such a state in neat soundbites, as news reports talk of the devastation and destruction of the planet against a black background in the opening minutes. This is so succinct, it does make you wonder why it takes the director almost three hours to tell the rest of the story.

Furiosa first appears as a child (played by Alyla Browne) with her companion Valkyrie. These two girls live with a community in an oasis in the middle of Australia – it’s all solar panels and inhabitants in hippy-dippy blue outfits.

But the location of this bucolic and virtually inaccessible idyll is fiercely guarded and the girls’ names signpost the community’s battle readiness against any marauding intruders.

Furiosa is then captured and taken to Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), who looks like he stepped straight out of a biblical epic. But this man is a petrolhead and his only god is oil and the power it wields. He also rides a chariot driven by three motorbikes, in keeping with his swords and sandals aesthetic.

Hemsworth, resplendent with flowing hair and beard and an impressive prosthetic nose, is a treat and risks stealing whole the show, flexing his comedy chops as well as those famous muscles.

Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (AP)
Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (AP)

He flaunts a codpiece and sports a little teddy bear, which has its own back story. Dementus is such an entertaining villain that we risk yet another prequel in which Dementus’s tale gets told.

But back to Furiosa: while still a child, she is traded by Dementus and falls into the hands of Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), who rules the Citadel with the aid of his two sons. Furiosa’s future is to be that of a wife, but she has other plans.

She escapes the upper reaches of the citadel and works as a mechanic, her gender and identity hidden. The years pass and Anya Taylor-Joy picks up the reins as the eponymous heroine.

Furiosa is virtually silent throughout the film and Taylor-Joy uses those fabulously expressive eyes to convey many emotions – a post-Apocalyptic Lillian Gish, if you will.

It is while tinkering with the mega-machines that she meets the Citadel’s top driver, Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke) and here a romance of sorts sparks among the sparkplugs and petrol. Burke doesn’t have too much screen time, but he makes every moment count and would make a fabulous romantic lead.

There are convoluted plots involving Gastown and Bullet Town, and the fight for domination between Dementus and Immortan Joe.

And of course, there are myriad action sequences, with the most improbable stunts, explosions and rollovers that go on and on, the noise of the revving engines constant and relentless.

And for all the depiction of humanity destroying nature and fighting over the planet’s limited resources, this film is almost as in thrall to those gas guzzling machines as Dementus.

Despite the impressive sequences, when those scenes finish and silence prevails is when the film is at its strongest. But to complain about a Mad Max film having too many car chases and improbable stunts is like whinging about the plot of a James Bond film being implausible.

As Dementus says: “When things go bonkers, you have to adapt.” Miller relies on the audience to do just that and to succumb to the souped-up, high-octane bonkers energy of his film.

And why not? It might not reach the heights of its predecessor, but Furiosa is furious ride with three utterly watchable leads. Taylor-Joy has done Charlize Theron proud as this fabulous vengeful heroine.

In cinemas from May 31

Cert 15, 148 mins