29 May 2024

Review: Furiosa

From At The Movies, 7:00 pm on 29 May 2024

When Australian director George Miller revived the Mad Max series 30 years later, people were mostly interested in how Tom Hardy was going to fill the giant boots of Mel Gibson’s Road Warrior. Until they saw 2015’s Fury Road.

The film was entirely owned by the Charlize Theron character, Furiosa. Max was the merest bystander. So, who was she?

Miller pre-empted that question with a private prequel covering the 15 years from Furiosa’s childhood in the idyllic Green Place to finding herself in the Citadel of the monstrous Immortan Joe.  

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Photo: Screenshot

It wasn’t meant to be filmed – just to help Charlize get a handle on the character. But why waste a good script?

But where a three-day car chase in a post-apocalyptic Wasteland has its own built-in structure, 15 years is harder to shape.

Furiosa is a monumental three hours. And the star, Anya Taylor-Joy, takes almost an hour to show up at all.

We meet infant Furiosa at home in the Green Place just as she’s kidnapped by a gang of marauding bikers. But her fearsome mother takes off in hot pursuit.

The leader of the motorbike horde – think an Australian, petrol-head Attila the Hun – is one Doctor Dementus. Miller’s character names are inimitable!  

And Dementus is played by an unlikely Chris Hemsworth.

Hemsworth seems to go to some trouble to disguise his strapping, surfie good looks – everything from a beer-belly fat suit, to Shakespearean vowels in Thor.

Here he sports long greasy hair, a shaggy beard and a fake, crooked nose. Not to mention an idiotic voice.

Having captured Furiosa, Dementus chucks her in a cage like a pet.

Then he gets into a turf war with his neighbour Immortan Joe, who tells him he likes the look of his latest acquisition.

Little Furiosa bides her time, until finally morphing into Anya Taylor-Joy. 

At least she avoids the usual fate of Joe’s female prisoners – permanently pregnant – and instead joins the manual labourers working on the giant truck, the War Rig.

And while Taylor-Joy is considerably more sylph-like than the physically imposing Charlize Theron, she manages to convince as Furiosa’s younger self through total commitment to the part and a ballet-dancer’s physical dexterity.

It’s interesting how many female action stars come from a ballet background, rather than, say, martial arts.  Charlize, Anya, Michele Yeoh, Emily Blunt, Zoe Saldana….

They all have one thing in common. You show them a move, they can do it.

I was never totally convinced by Taylor-Joy’s early starring roles in movies – though she was gripping in the TV series The Queen’s Gambit.  

Well, she comes into her own here.  She may not be Charlize Theron’s Furiosa yet, but you can see she soon will be.

But a story that travels 15 years doesn’t have the simple, forward momentum of Fury Road – or the earlier Mel Gibson Mad Max films.

Furiosa is a warrior’s journey – all the things that make young Furiosa what she is. 

There’s the hint of Mad Max himself in Praetorian Jack, an early mentor played by Tom Burket. 

And for all the stopping and starting, and occasional swerves off the track, the visuals and stunts are as stunning as anyone could wish.

Also, along for the ride, those brilliant Miller names – Rictus Erectus and his brother Scrotus, The People Eater, Toe Jam, Vuvalini, Vulture and the History Man. 

In a world of sequels, prequels, reboots and cover versions, Miller is that very rare thing, an original.

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