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For better and for worse, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is an ambitious all-you-can-eat of Wasteland lore

George Miller's Fury Road prequel doesn't disappoint, but it can feel bloated and uneven at times.

Furiosa under attack
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is smart enough to avoid trying to replicate Fury Road's miracle formula and relentless pacing, but doesn't always hit the mark. 'Too much of a good thing' is indeed a valid complaint here.

Clocking in at around 148 minutes, Furiosa is far weightier than you'd expect from a Mad Max movie. In a way, it's all the extra runtime that allows it to embrace a unique voice and more complex structure that make it more than just a riff on Fury Road or a simpler, Rogue One-ish prequel. It dovetails right into the 2015 masterpiece, much like the first-ever live-action Star Wars spin-off movie, but it's a far more expansive tale about the Wasteland and every major player involved in Fury Road and then some.

The severely underrated Mad Max video game by Avalanche Studios, which also arrived in 2015, also acted as a canonical prequel to the events of the last mainline movie, and Furiosa even acknowledges a couple of major characters and small plot points. If we assume Mad Max: The Wasteland is happening sooner or later and is yet another prequel, it seems that George Miller had a lot of mad worldbuilding done around the fourth Max-led flick.

At this point, the current state of the Mad Max IP already feels like a huge detour from past expansions with new entries; the series' chronology and simpler continuity elements have always been wobbly at best, with Miller straight-up confirming he doesn't care much about all that, instead choosing to approach the figure of the Road Warrior and the myths of the Wasteland as legends that may or may not be entirely true. It's a refreshing approach to building out a franchise, and at this point, we just need to roll with it. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, however, marks the very first time two installments are strictly linked together.

Furiosa - Dementus' gang
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

In fact, the Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth-led prequel finds a sweet spot between carrying continuity obligations on its back and toying with the idea of an unreliable narrator from the get-go. Miller is fully conscious of how the Wasteland and its legendary figures are perceived by the audience at this point, and simply goes even wilder with the narrative. His previous work, Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022), may be a recommended watch to fully understand what Miller was going for here, especially when it comes to a structure that oft feels like a 'tale of tales' and a bit of a Biblical epic.

While Mad Max: Fury Road was very much designed to be one big action sequence with a handful of small respites, Furiosa packs all the background information, ambitious lore, and extra character development that fleshes out everything and everyone we saw back in 2015. Was this all needed? Not really; Fury Road is a nearly perfect example of an economical script and the 'show don't tell' approach to filmmaking at its best. This story does, however, add more emotion and meaning to several plot points and key players, making the obvious Furiosa/Fury Road double features a must from this point onwards.

Furiosa - Anya Taylor-Joy
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

All the structural and tonal differences are Furiosa's biggest strengths instead of weakness. Nonetheless, it does struggle a bit with keeping the momentum going amidst all the drives back-and-forth between the Citadel, Gas Town, the Bullet Farm, and whatnot. The pacing early on feels solid despite its meandering nature, with Furiosa's post-kidnapping childhood getting way more attention than you'd expect, but the back half of the movie is very much the opposite, with the script blasting through key character beats and major plot events that often feel a bit undercooked and random. With the runtime being as generous as it is (Miller really got away with the specific movie he wanted to make), the end result feels annoyingly unbalanced, even if most of the stuff happening on the screen is awesome.

That's kind of the gist of this movie: George Miller driving off the road and making a movie for a handful of film freaks while risking to miss the mark feels far more engrossing than 90% of the corporate-approved slop hitting cinemas on a regular basis. Furiosa is bold blockbuster filmmaking through and through, and I can't think of many living directors who'd be able to replicate most of the action sequences and goofy-yet-believable worldbuilding constantly on display. It's yet another audiovisual marvel that feels both hard-hitting and cartoony in the right ways.

Furiosa - Chris Hemsworth as Dementus
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Of course, the movie's secret weapons (and potentially the glue holding everything together) are Anya Taylor-Joy (Furiosa), Alyla Browne (child Furiosa), Chris Hemsworth (Dementus), and an excellent supporting cast that brings back many familiar faces as well as new standouts like Tom Burke (Praetorian Jack) and Charlee Fraser (Mary Jabassa). Taylor-Joy is able to channel the raw but calculated anger of Charlize Theron almost effortlessly while giving the performance her own touch; Hemsworth might've delivered a career-best 'loser who thinks he's hot s**t' villain performance here; and Browne threatens to dominate the first half of the movie with a quiet but commanding presence that will surprise most viewers. As for Burke and Fraser, each of them gets an incredibly cool character that folks will be raving about for a while.

Any and all spoilers severely impact the enjoyment of Furiosa, so I recommend going in as fresh as you can. You may think you know what to expect since we knew what it was leading to, but it's a far meatier (and bumpier) story than expected. While it's a bit saggy and often redundant in places, returning to Miller's strange Wasteland is a blast, and the fact I walked out of this one thinking 'hey, Immortan Joe actually wasn't that terribly bad of a post-apocalyptic ruler' should tell you everything you need to know about how much it adds to the mean yet colorful world that was reinvigorated nine years ago. I suspect this one will age like a fine wine as we get used to its rougher edges.

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