Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Movie Review: I went for the action, but fell for the emotion

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Movie Review: I went for the action, but fell for the emotion

Furiosa doesn’t take the misstep of vying to be better than Fury Road. Instead it paves its own path, one carved in emotion than action
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga(4 / 5)

As Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga begins, you expect to be greeted by arid desert land—perhaps with a manic army or two in hot pursuit of some hapless victim of chaos. Instead, George Miller greets us with verdant land. Or as it is referred to in the film, ‘abundance’. It’s the first sign of a film that is rather self-aware, and understands not just its strengths and objectives, but also our expectations of it. That’s perhaps why Furiosa never really seems to be trying to upstage Mad Max: Fury Road, of which this is both a prequel and a spinoff. This film has unforgettable action, yes, but it’s also looking inward in a way Fury Road didn’t and couldn’t—and therein lies much pleasure if you are of my ilk.

Director: George Miller

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, Alyla Browne

This time, the focus isn’t as much on the chaos of the wastelands as it is on the consequences of it—specifically on one miss Furiosa. Anya Taylor-Joy speaks very little, but when her eyes speak as much, even as they observe and process and deduce and plot, why bother with the dialogues? In fact, after a prolonged period of silence (Dementus, in another moment of self-awareness calls Furiosa’s pained silence, ‘poignant’), when she first speaks, it’s to signal the first seeds of new trust. Come with me, she says—for, she’s clear from the beginning what her destination is. The ‘how’ has been her impossible challenge. If all of this is starting to feel rather philosophical, rather allegorical even, I don’t think it’s accidental at all.

For when action is handled superlatively, it always leads to an almost meditative understanding of life—like how martial arts has always fed off philosophy. As Furiosa, separated from her clan as a child, is forced by survival quests towards accelerating into an adult, I found it hard not to see it as an allegory of coming-of-age, of maturity. Doesn’t every person, once out of the cocoon of predictable familial safety, get forced to reconcile with adult challenges presented by the unpredictable chaos of the world? Doesn’t every adult, on some level, rue the loss of some parts of themselves as they undertake life quests? Doesn’t every adult, on occasion, look back upon innocence as something cherished, as something lost? In the case of Furiosa, she loses her family and childhood. And for her, even as it is for Dementus, all that’s left to live for is the nebulous hope of a ‘better future’. The film wonderfully incorporates such deep themes, and that’s why I thought it was ‘poignant, as Dementus would say, that George Miller deals with a climactic showdown not with weapons but with words.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga faces the unenviable burden of living up to the expectations set by an all-time great genre film in Fury Road, and those who seek similar pleasures here will have plenty of reason to rejoice. There’s also great visual beauty as you’d expect. The orange vastness of the empty desert stretches. The dustiness of bike tyres screaming over the sand dunes. The dash of colour when bombs explode in the sky to communicate messages. And oh, how about the lovely transitions. A breathtaking crimson sky leads to another scene. Furiosa’s hair flung on a branch results in a time-lapse video of a plant growing around it. What about all the impressive world-building? More than in Fury Road, there’s concerted effort at world expansion here. It all helps to keep any potential monotony at bay. The film, after all, is about the horrific coming-of-age story of a rather muted Furiosa. The chapter format, in films that focus on one specific character, as opposed to many, can sometimes feel rather dissociative, but George Miller ensures that the film is energetic and shuffling between places, with Furiosa, the film and the character, constantly on the move and negotiating newer, increasingly difficult obstacles.

I found the film—and its deliberate choice of literary vocabulary—to be delightfully funny. When Dementus realises to his shock that he’s being tracked down, he quips, “…someone competent and excessively resentful.” Immortan Joe’s successors are dubbed “genetic absurdities”. When a character pays Furiosa a compliment for her pluckiness, he says she shows “purposeful savagery”. Such imaginative dialogues are their own entertainment. Even when someone hurls abuse in frustration, the dialogue goes, “That… that piece of… anus pus!”

Almost no film is going to be able to live up to the rush of Fury Road’s action, but this film’s many set pieces are not without merit. I enjoyed the inventiveness of having Furiosa fight from under a rig for almost an entire sequence (and found the bassy, percussive score to be a fantastic ally). Or how about that impossible rescue mission Furiosa performs in Gastown? The ‘bommyknocker’ moment. The man who uses a decoy to fire a missile. The aerial rigs. There really is so much to like about the action. But this is a more personal film largely, and so, the action is often aimed at character development. That’s why even though it’s fantastic to watch Furiosa and Praetorian Jack combine to unleash mayhem, it all acquires more meaning when Dementus observes at the end of the sequence, almost with envy and longing, that the two worked as a team. That’s why where the first film had a character exclaiming, “What a day, what a lovely day!”, here, we often have tired characters sighing, “It’s been a hard day.”

The action is great even if not necessarily ‘epic’ (as referenced at the end of the film), but the emotion is better this time around. Even the vicious Dementus was able to get me welling up with the briefest hint of his back story, of his psychological makeup. It all ties together well with why George Miller, even while satisfying our bloodlust with the action, channels his inner ‘history man’ with a small narration about the inevitability of war. So long as civilisation exists, Mad Max films shall always serve as relevant, cathartic commentary. And I hope I can witness them all.

Cinema Express