Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga – Revenge Chase Falls off Fury Road

Director: George Miller
Writer: George Miller, Nick Lathouris
Main Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke
Genre: Action/Adventure
Country: US
Runtime: 2h 28m

After 26 years since the germination of an idea in George Miller’s mind, we finally have the story of Furiosa in perspective. The 2015 release Mad Max: Fury Road is now complete with its much-awaited prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. For those who have not watched Fury Road, or if it’s been a long time since you did, let me summarize it in one line: Fury Road is the escape story of Furiosa from the Citadel, the land she was brought to as a young girl.

Furiosa’s Revenge

The 2024 release was expected to narrate an account of her arrival and survival in Citadel. The story begins after years of global catastrophe when a young girl named Furiosa is captured from her homeland by some bikers. They take her to the campsite of the warlord Dementus. Furiosa’s mother gets killed in the process of rescuing her daughter from the horde of bikers. Furiosa witnesses her mother’s execution and is taken prisoner by Dementus, who later trades her with Citadel’s leader Immortal Joe in exchange for oil resources. That is when the anticipated story of Furiosa’s arrival and survival became a story about her revenge.

A Disjointed Narrative

The movie is nothing like its previous installment. It appears confused, lacks build-up, and is rushed in most parts. The film failed to establish Furiosa as a protagonist you’d root for. Despite being a revenge film, it has us invested in the land conflict for most of the part, instead of taking us through Furiosa’s survival and desperate need for vengeance. And while we are invested in the conflict, it glosses over everything through narration, taking us directly to her revenge story. It was not a desired payoff for our investment and eventually led to an emotional disconnect with the character and her cause.

Weak Antagonist takes down the story

“A weak antagonist fails to create a strong protagonist.” Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a testament to this statement. Despite Chris Hemsworth’s captivating performance, he was not close to an antagonist you would love to hate. That is partly due to his charismatic persona and lack of perceived evil. He is funny, good-looking, and keeps a teddy of his lost kids tied to himself, which adds an emotional depth to his character. Any empathy for the antagonist is the lost empathy for the protagonist.

Brutal Antagonist makes up for Story’s Pitfalls

It is famously known that for Fury Road, George Miller wanted little dialogue for the characters. This to the point that there was no screenplay and the entire story was laid out in 3500 storyboard designs. It was due to his proven brilliance and clarity of vision that Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron agreed to do the film. However, despite many challenges, delays, and conflicts, the film turned out so well that nobody questioned the characters’ backstories or their emotional narrative. What worked in the film’s favor was the antagonist’s inhumane and terrifying appearance and his shocking brutality. Fury Road was a ground-breaking film, conceived to thrill the audience with its dangerous stunts, and the film delivers exactly as it promises.

Maker’s Dillema: Furiosa’s Struggle or Franchise’s Theme

However, in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, despite some of the insane death-defying stunts, the same approach wouldn’t have worked in a story that relied heavily on its narrative. There is no way a small girl could have taken the road to avenge her mother’s killer. She is bound to endure hardships, overcome hurdles, and patiently influence the narrative over the years. However, to keep up with the road chase theme of Mad Max films, the makers couldn’t afford to spend time off-road. And so they fast-forwarded the narrative to stick to the road, creating a gap and emotional dissonance in the story.

Furiosa’s Lack of Influence

The other important narrative tool in films is dialogue. Unfortunately, Dementus is the only character we get to understand closely in the movie, largely because of the well-written dialogue for his character. In contrast, Furiosa’s character was quiet for the most part, and whatever few dialogues she had were not convincing enough to influence the story in any significant way. This eventually leads to a point where her revenge does not appear to be something she has planned but something she receives on a platter.

Mad Max Saga Without Max

The irony with franchises is that they continue to roll without their essence. The first Mad Max came out in 1979, a story about Max’s revenge. More than 40 years later, a movie from the same franchise continues the saga, but Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is not about Max. Max is not even a character in the movie. Titles are usually the fewest words a movie can be described with, and while an apt title for the film would have made more sense, it might also risk not capitalizing on the popularity of an already-hit franchise. That is where art meets commerce, and as long as one manages to keep the spirit of cinema alive, the deed is forgivable. 

Conclusion

Overall, Mad Max: Furiosa is value for money for the fans of the Mad Max franchise and for those who want to know how Furiosa ended up in the Citadel in the first place to make sense of its previous installment.

Currently in Theatres.

Pankaj Madaan

A filmmaker and a screenwriter known for his comprehensive knowledge of world cinema and insightful commentary on the Hindi film industry.

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