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Is Furiosa a worthy follow-up to Mad Max: Fury Road?

Anya Taylor-Joy shields herself from fire in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024).

There aren’t many modern action movies as universally acclaimed as Mad Max: Fury Road. Released in 2015, the fourth installment in writer-director George Miller’s Mad Max franchise is a surreal, gasoline-soaked action movie of the highest order. An orgiastic procession of mind-boggling stunts, car chases, and explosions, it’s action filmmaking at both its most elegant and crude. Now, nearly 10 years after that film hit theaters, Miller has returned with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, his long-awaited Fury Road prequel. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth, it tells the story of how Charlize Theron’s Fury Road scene-stealer transformed from a kidnapped young girl into the head driver for a possessive, brutal warlord.

Expectations have been high ever since Furiosa was announced, but skepticism among die-hard Mad Max fans began to grow after the film’s first trailer was released. Put off by some of the seemingly unfinished visual effects featured throughout the teaser, some fans suddenly felt forced to wonder whether or not Furiosa would truly be able to recapture the magic of Fury Road. But few could have expected that Furiosa would try to cast a different spell altogether. Unlike Fury Road, which relentlessly hits you over the head until you’re left dazed and practically concussed, Furiosa mesmerizes you.

Furiosa is a different kind of Mad Max movie

Both films offer overwhelming experiences, but whereas one is assaultive, the other is hypnotic. Across its 148 minutes, not a single one of which is wasted, Furiosa traps you in its own measured, deliberate rhythm, making you feel every step that its heroine takes on her journey across a cinematic wasteland that only seems to grow more hopeless and unforgiving with every return trip Miller makes to it. Comparing the two now seems both foolhardy and necessary.

Chris Hemsworth leads an apocalyptic motorcycle gang in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Mad Max: Fury Road is an engine-busting chase that kicks into high gear after just a few seconds and doesn’t ever come to a full stop until its credits roll. Furiosa is, conversely, a slow march through Hell. It’s a longer, slower blockbuster than Fury Road — one that so thoroughly takes its time exploring its heroine’s story that its ostensible star, Anya Taylor-Joy, only shows up around the film’s midpoint. Visually and tonally, Furiosa feels like a natural extension of Fury Road. In terms of its pace, length, and structure, though, it’s almost the complete opposite of that film. It tosses out the lean style of Fury Road — a thriller that speaks only in brilliant, but concise shorthand — in favor of a more meditative, literary approach that places a heavy emphasis on the epic, mythological nature of Furiosa’s personal, vengeance-fueled story of loss and redemption.

To enjoy Furiosa, you must do this one thing

Those who go into Furiosa expecting it to be as constantly adrenaline-pumping and fast-paced as Fury Road will, in other words, be disappointed. That doesn’t, however, mean that Furiosa is itself a disappointing follow-up to its beloved parent film. In certain instances, the prequel proves that it’s capable of delivering set pieces that are so deranged in their construction and jaw-dropping in their execution that they could have easily been featured in Fury Road. Its action sequences are not Furiosa‘s biggest priority, though. The film’s interests are more psychological and environmental because its story is less about literally fighting for a better future and more about how hope is lost and kept alive in a world in which human hopelessness has transformed the very Earth.

Tom Burke stands between Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Jasin Boland / Warner Bros. Pictures

Furiosa follows its titular protagonist as she loses her home, mother, identity, arm, and the only man she’s ever been able to love (Tom Burke’s Praetorian Jack) over the course of just 15 years. She comes from a place of “abundance,” full of trees, life, and hope, and finds herself trapped in one devoid of all of that. Along the way, Miller further fills out Fury Road‘s desert wasteland. The film’s villain, a psychotic warlord named Dementus (Hemsworth), tries to take over not only the Citadel, a fortress of vegetation, shade, and freshwater, but also its two neighboring communities, Gastown and the Bullet Farm, both of which are similarly defined by their resources. When Dementus arranges a meeting with the Citadel’s leader, Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), he doesn’t demand money or surrender, but weekly shipments of food and bullets in exchange for continued trade with his recently conquered Gastown.

In Furiosa‘s world, basic necessities like food and water are rare commodities to be fought over and controlled. As important as those resources are, though, the battle at the center of Furiosa isn’t one for oil or bullets, but between hope and hopelessness. By killing her mother, stealing her from her home, and then killing Jack, Dementus repeatedly tries to take Furiosa’s hope away from her. Miller and co-writer Nico Lathouris make this explicit when Dementus captures Furiosa and Jack. “Where were you going, so full of hope?” he asks, before bellowing, “There is no hope! For you, for me, for any of us!” All the while, Furiosa carries with her a seed from the Green Place, given to her by her mother just minutes before she died. The seed naturally becomes a symbol of hope — a belief that something new, beautiful, and worthwhile can still be grown even in a world as inhospitable as the one Furiosa has found herself in.

A road warrior’s origin story

A bloodied Chris Hemsworth holds a gun and a steering wheel in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Jasin Boland / Warner Bros. Pictures

Throughout the first half of Furiosa, things only happen to Anya Taylor-Joy’s young warrior. A newcomer to the wasteland, it takes Furiosa many years to become the kind of capable road warrior she is when she’s introduced in Fury Road. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that Furiosa‘s first real, extended Fury Road-esque action sequence only comes after its biggest time jump when its protagonist is given the chance to prove herself on Praetorian Jack’s war rig. By the time of Fury Road, Furiosa has already learned how to take control of her own life — and it’s her ingrained, personal level of agency that allows both her and a similarly capable Max (Tom Hardy) to communicate mostly through their explosive actions in that film.

At the end of Furiosa, she finally achieves that agency. She steals a vehicle from Immortan Joe’s sons and ably carves her way through Dementus’ few remaining foot soldiers before catching up with her unsuspecting tormentor. As she beats him and demands that he return her former life to her, Dementus argues that they’re the same. “You crawled out of a pitiless grave, deeper than Hell,” he remarks. “Only one thing will do that for you. Not hope — hate.” Moments later, he tells her that they’ll both do anything to “wash away the cranky black sorrow,” but while he insists that there’s nothing she can do to balance the scales of her misery, Furiosa finds another way.

Hope over hate

FURIOSA : A MAD MAX SAGA | OFFICIAL TRAILER #2

She doesn’t kill him. Instead, she traps him in the Citadel and turns him into a fruit-bearing tree. She plants a literal seed of hope in him and lets it grow. Five years later, it bears the fruit she needs to not only convince herself that there’s a better life worth fighting for, but also Immortan Joe’s seemingly doomed wives. When Furiosa subsequently ends with a montage of Joe’s wives preparing to leave the Citadel, the journey they all take in Fury Road somehow seems even richer and more desperate than before — and their victory all the more hard-fought.

Furiosa may, therefore, not have been the prequel that many Fury Road fans were expecting, but it’s one that more than earns its connections to that film. It may not be as rip-roaring or outright thrilling as Fury Road, but it’s just as carefully and exuberantly made and even more emotionally compelling. It’s a prequel comprised of unexpectedly bold, subversive decisions, and it complements Fury Road so well that, together, the two form a double feature that is as satisfying as a great novel. It’s an epic in every sense of the word.

Furiosa is now playing in theaters nationwide. Mad Max: Fury Road is available to stream on Max.

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Alex Welch
Alex is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
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