Movie review: 'Furiosa' relishes vast and furious world

Anya Taylor-Joy is "Furiosa." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
1 of 5 | Anya Taylor-Joy is "Furiosa." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

LOS ANGELES, May 15 (UPI) -- Furiosa, in theaters May 24, need not be another Mad Max: Fury Road, which was a high watermark for cinema, let alone this franchise. It would be fine to be another Thunderdome, which was also good, but Furiosa still exceeds even those measured expectations.

In the post-apocalyptic wasteland, young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) is kidnapped from the Green Place by members of Dementus' (Chris Hemsworth) Congress of Destruction. None of the congressmen live to tell Dementus where this oasis is and Furiosa won't talk either.


So Dementus keeps Furiosa hostage, even bringing her to The Citadel to attempt to overtake its warlord, Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) and his army of War Boys. Much later, and now played by Anya Taylor-Joy, Furiosa plots her escape and revenge against Dementus.

The Mad Max world George Miller created supports different forms of storytelling in each film. Fury Road was propulsive and bombastic while Thunderdome was more localized to one region of the wasteland, and a second that Max discovers after being exiled.


The first sequel, The Road Warrior was more of a vehicular heist movie while the original film was more of a drama than an action movie. Closer to Thunderdome, Furiosa lives in the worlds introduced by Fury Road but it is no less epic.

Because Furiosa is a prequel to Fury Road, fans know that Furiosa ends up with Immortan Joe, shaves her head and loses her arm. Still, those events occur naturally, sometimes incidentally, and never stop the movie to point out the callbacks.

The Citadel and Immortan Joe's harem of concubines were first seen as Fury Road plowed through them in chase scenes. Here, entire scenes get to play out in those realms.

Furiosa visits the neighboring Gastown and Bullet Farms, who provided armies for Fury Road's chase but now are settings for plot and action. Dementus' encampment is a new enclave of the wasteland.

The film introduces awesome new vehicles for chases between Immortan Joe and Dementus' men, with Furiosa in the middle of it all. But, in a bittersweet irony, the longevity of the Mad Max franchise now means that the current film employs more screen work than its predecessors, which simply didn't have that luxury.


Perhaps Miller's imagination finally got bigger than could be built in the real world. There is still real vehicular work, but many sequences appear to use The Volume technology to allow the filmmakers to film in front of backgrounds unfolding on a screen behind them.

Fury Road combined shots and enhanced backgrounds digitally, but a tanker chase in the middle of Furiosa is particularly glaring. It looks like they used Fury Road as the backdrop for the new movie.

Coloring the sky to look more apocalyptic is fine. Putting the sky on a screen behind actors looks far less natural.

The sequence is still full of new contraptions, like parasails and a metal claw like a full size version of a claw machine in an arcade. Miller still uses the camera dynamically in these sequences, judiciously following the assault on a tanker from all sides.

But when it cuts to Taylor-Joy standing on a real outback road, it's a relief to be back in the real world.

The Citadel was already a digitally enhanced set in Fury Road. Having more stationary dialogue scenes on those sets allows more time to notice the background when characters are chatting on impossibly high catwalks.


There's still probably more vehicular work than any other Hollywood movie, just less than Mad Max films used to employ. They do drive over a dozen War Boys standing atop a tanker down the desert road.

The final chase looks like they're really driving on sand dunes, except for closeups but that's fair to cut to reaction shots. A shootout occurs on an outdoor set.

So these are still Mad Max action sequences created by George Miller, and designed by Guy Norris. They're playing with more tools than used to be available, and watching War Boys fling themselves off moving vehicles to self-immolate never gets old.

In the score, Junkie XL himself, Tom Holkenborg, employs some of the memorable cues from his Fury Road score for relevant action scenes. But elsewhere, he lets the music be subtle for this film's dramatic attention.

The world Miller created in 1979 continues to generate worthwhile new stories and engrossing places to explore. With Furiosa as compelling as Max Rockatansky, that world grows even more vast.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.


Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth attend 'Furiosa' premiere at Cannes

Left to right, star Chris Hemsworth, director George Miller and star Anya Taylor- Joy attend the photo call for "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 16, 2024. Photo by Rune Hellestad/UPI | License Photo

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