"Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" Delivers Glorious Drama and Thrills

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Director: George Miller
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Genre(s): Action
Rated: R (For sequences of strong violence, and grisly images)

Nine years ago (!!!) when I first sat down to watch "Mad Max: Fury Road," I was less than optimistic. No, I wasn't expecting the film to be terrible, however, considering it came from a franchise I didn't hold in high esteem from a director - Academy Award-winner George Miller ("Three Thousand Years of Longing," "Happy Feet") - who had been a mixed bag for years, I wasn't sure what to expect from the movie. What I was treated to was one of the best action films I've ever seen coupled with one of the best 3D experiences ever committed to celluloid. 

When word got out there would be a prequel, my expectations were different. It turns out, they should have been more different, because "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" may take place in the same world we occupied last time, it is tonally a very different beast. Yes, Miller is still a director who has full control over what he wants to show and say. Yes, the visual landscape of this wasteland is still compelling and tells a story in itself. And yes, there is no Max this time around (a fact that makes tying this film to the character in 'Fury Road' seem misguided in my eyes).

What is different is that "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" isn't a gloried Road Runner cartoon: this is a high-stakes drama where a protagonist gets a raw deal and must navigate an unforgiving world just to survive. Taken from her mother as a child and forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) learns at an early age to keep her mouth shut and her eyes watchful. She blends in with her surroundings like a snake in the grass. If she gets caught, she slithers away before anyone has a chance to catch on to what she is doing.

Her ultimate goal is to get back to the home she was kidnapped from, a land she must be silent about for fear of wanna-be dictators and cult leaders seeking it out for the natural resources. Her biggest obstacle in life is Dementus, a man who has dreams of being a great ruler (and a clever pun that I am now just getting). While Anna Taylor-Joy succeeds in filling the very big shoes left behind by Charlize Theron, it is Chris Hemsworth's bigger-than-life performance as Dementus that leaves the biggest impact. Managing to somehow be the most skilled dumb antagonist I've ever seen, Hemsworth shows to be an actor with true charisma who should have a long career beyond his performance as Thor.

Some viewers may be disappointed that "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" isn't as frenetically paced as "Mad Max: Fury Road" was. The film is a bit slower this time around (and maybe a bit too long, as it seems it should be 15 minutes shorter than it is), but it is still one of the most visually bold films I've seen all year, with some stunning acting and a drive to show that action films can still have something to say in this landscape. And it appears Miller still has more to say: he already had a third film written and ready to shoot. Hopefully, the box office gods will be kind on it in the long run.