Furiosa hits the mark

I was entirely unsure what to expect when heading into my first viewing of the Australian action film ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’, but I can say I was thoroughly entertained by the experience.

This prequel, based on the ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ supporting character Imperator Furiosa who sets the events of the 2015 car chase blockbuster into motion, shows how the young road warrior came to be so highly revered in the post apocalyptic wasteland.

A part of me was afraid that this origin story would try too hard to be like the highly successful ‘Fury Road’, with its stunts, action sequences and its overall story structure, but it was far from that.

Furiosa is not just an origin story. It is an epic tale of revenge, retribution, love and hope. It’s an action film that manages to balance its high octane with its heartwarming sequences and intense, but interesting world building.

Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor Joy nailed it as the younger iterations of the character, and this might be the greatest performance of Chris Hemsworth’s career to date.

The story begins 45 years after Australia and the world falls to resource shortages, chaos and anarchy and the desert becomes a lawless wasteland where gasoline, water, fresh produce and bullets are highly sought after and guarded commodities. This is about 20 years before she encounters Max in ‘Fury Road’.

In the midst of this desolate, harsh existence, an oasis exists. The Green Place of Many Mothers is a land with trees and crops and water. It is run, guarded and farmed by the Vuvalini, a woman-only militia hell bent on keeping their paradise a secret from outsiders who would quickly loot and destroy it if they ever found it.

This is where we meet Furiosa as a child.

She is intelligent, resourceful and loyal to her clan. When she is taken from her home by men from a nearby settlement, her fierce mother pursues them, going to great lengths to bring her daughter back and eliminate anyone who could live to share the location of their home.

Since this is a prequel, we already know what Furiosa’s fate is and it makes the viewing that much more heartbreaking.

We have seen her character in ‘Mad Max’ at a later stage of her life.

She is the only female war boy in tyrant Immortan Joe’s Citadel. She has a shaved head, black engine oil smeared on her forehead, she is missing the bottom half of her left arm and she’s spent her life yearning to go back to the land she was forcibly taken from as a child.

The fact that we know this is irrelevant though, since director George Miller weaves multiple other stories through it, keeping you engaged, for the most part — some of it felt a bit slow, especially in the middle.

This movie works because when you hold the two films up side by side, they are compliments of each other and executed so well. And that is before you consider it in the context of the entire series.

This is Miller’s fifth film in this universe, and the first not to feature Max Rockatansky as the lead.

Mel Gibson successfully carried the franchise from the 80s, but it was the epic Fury Road (partially shot in the Namib Desert) with Tom Hardy as Max, that really showed the potential this franchise has to deliver.

Furiosa builds on that momentum.

The world becoming more vivid makes it more intriguing.

Miller paints a very bleak and extreme image of what humanity could very easily devolve into, should resources become scarce.

The world these characters live in appears far fetched, so different to what we actually know, but when you see young Furiosa’s journey, feel her longing, feel her desperate desire to right the wrongs of the past; you understand that it is a very human and very relatable story.

I think that’s a key message in dystopian fantasy and action. It’s an analysis of human nature. It pushes us to the worst possible scenarios and asks us what we will become, how we will treat each other.

A writer is not a mage, merely an observer. And the way humanity is depicted in this franchise is truly fascinating.

– Anne Hambuda is a poet, writer and social commentator. Follow her online or email her annehambuda@gmail.com

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