FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA. Dynamic, movement-driven, expressive cinema

“Furiosa” is pulsating and vital cinema, but an hour too long.

Jan Tracz

17 May 2024


We have lived to see the times when George Miller decided to become John Ford and created a spiritual sequel to “Stagecoach.” “Furiosa” is pulsating and vital cinema, but an hour too long.

George Miller has fallen victim to his previous success. The last “Mad Max” had an elusive affect that significantly influenced the reception of its apocalyptic pilgrimage into a lost Eden. At that time, this simple (yet polished) film appealed to practically every group of viewers. Not only young fans of apocalyptic settings but also the older generation of parents raised on Mel Gibson’s “Mad Max” appreciated the deepened simplicity of “Fury Road.” Such a phenomenon in this century was rare. And it may never happen again.

This is dynamic, movement-driven, expressive cinema, racing as fast as the final episodes of unsuccessful series. This means that we could even describe the plot in one sentence: Furiosa becomes Furiosa, and the coming-of-age story mixes with an explosive blend. And that’s all you need to know: in terms of entertainment, it’s top-tier. Only the very beginning spoils the whole effect: the first hour (which drags mercilessly) could be reduced to about ten minutes, and the new “Mad Max” would not only not lose anything but would gain. Moreover, the initial sequences are overly accelerated and not visually polished, resembling an unfinished product or a student film. This spoils the effect in comparison to the rest and doesn’t deepen our immersion.


During the screening, Denis Villeneuve’s words come to mind, insisting that image, not dialogue, is the central element of perfect cinema. Miller seems to meticulously adhere to this (for some, controversial) principle. Spectacle is found at every turn, as Miller doesn’t waste time explaining the presented world or engaging in deeper philosophical discussions. The director moves faster than Max Verstappen and breaks the classic patterns of action filmmaking. He does what he wants, but he has the right to—it’s George Miller after all. The middle scene of defending a certain truck, reminiscent of what we watched in Ford’s “Stagecoach” decades ago, deserves special attention. It’s one of the best action sequences of the 21st century, lasting about fifteen minutes! Even just for that, it’s worth going to the cinema for Miller’s fireworks display.

Moreover, the silent Furiosa with Anya Taylor-Joy’s heavenly eyes and perpetually contemplative gaze seems somewhat out of place in this post-apocalyptic world. The actress has only a few lines in the film: the rest is her acrobatics, lots of running, and kicking the bad guys’ asses. The chaos, dirt, stench, and all kinds of grotesque corners do not mesh with the unblemished figure of the heroine from the Green Place of Many Mothers; an arcadia that plays an even bigger role in the previous film. The heroine will have much to learn before she can call the Australian desert her second, if not her first, home.

No wonder her oppressor, the childish and uncompromising Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), appears as a contradiction that has invaded her carefree micro-world. Dementus is the fifth horseman of the apocalypse who will use all available means to achieve his not-entirely-thought-out goals. He has no problem with killing without any scruples, playing the inept boss of all bosses, or juggling his inflated ego. We know well that it is this ego that will eventually bring him down. There’s no other option. Moreover, his character somewhat corresponds with the pseudo-dialogues mentioned earlier. Hemsworth, with his fancy accent, talks more than he should, affecting the reception of his antagonist. With each subsequent scene, he irritates us more and more, and that’s exactly how he’s supposed to be. Miller skillfully plays with the actor’s presence (reminiscent of what Hemsworth did in “Avengers: Endgame”), managing to extract a range of emotions from the actor that we haven’t seen much of before. Most of his lines come across as complete gibberish, but this grotesque “villain” still commands respect from the audience. He operates with force, and that’s no joke. Although Dementus himself, somewhat ironically, operates with humor on the level of Polish comedy skits. And he constantly walks around with a plush bear attached to him. We constantly want to look at this plush toy. It’s a strange play with the viewer, but it works, and that’s what matters. The film pulsates and hypnotizes at the least expected moments. Even in those not inherently full of destruction.


The best part of the latest “Mad Max” is the way the script outlines its cinematic prophecy. As we can guess, with his film, Miller controls the story and, through a semantic puzzle, introduces many meanings to previously dryly presented facts. Thus, we increasingly understand the dialectic here, that is, what the film tries to depict and show us. Numerous action sequences serve as a pretext to help us understand Furiosa’s name; her anger intensifies from act to act, and the final release of deeply hidden violence borders on genre gore. Even Dementus’ name is explained through significant plot events: he’s a guy who not only forgets (his forgetfulness plays a key role here) but also combines his thoughtless bravado with bravura thoughtlessness. His name is classic foreshadowing that seals his fate from the very beginning.

The audiovisual revelry, reminiscent of the dynamics from Ford’s “Stagecoach,” is a well-thought-out bullseye for which Miller deserves all the Cannes laurels. The stakes differ from what we saw in “Fury Road,” but the ride is just as intense, and the engines still roar just as loudly. We’ve simply seen it all before. Maybe that’s why this time it’s harder to feel the puppy-like excitement akin to receiving a new toy? In the end, it doesn’t matter, because a new “Mad Max” is always some kind of celebration. Even if this premiere resembles more of a belated name day than a milestone birthday.

Jan Tracz

Jan Tracz

A journalist with four years of experience in the cultural industry (film, music, literature, politics). Writer for respected Polish and English sites and magazines, interviewed most famous stars, writers, actors, talents, directors and musicians (incl. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lasse Hallström, Matthew Lewis, David Thomson, Richard Dyer, Rachel Shenton, Tom Wlaschiha, Lena Olin, Jenna Elfman, Lennie James, Yannick Bisson, Ximena Lamadrid, Malcolm Storry, Alexandra Savior). Current Film Studies MA student at King's College London.

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