Furiosa Review: This Thrilling Epic On The Fury Road Is George Miller's Magnum Opus

When George Miller released "Mad Max: Fury Road" in 2015 (our review here), he completely revolutionized action films forever. The long-awaited fourth installment of his post-apocalyptic Ozploitation franchise, "Fury Road" was over three decades in the making, but before Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron ever pressed their boot leather to the gas pedal of a war rig — there was Miller's script for "Furiosa." Almost entirely written before production began on "Fury Road," Miller outlined a thrilling epic about the life of Imperator Furiosa before she crossed paths with "Mad" Max Rockatansky.

Now, Miller has brought that story to the big screen, a prequel to "Fury Road" and an immersive dive into the life story of one of cinema's greatest characters of the last 20 years. Thanks to the extensive behind-the-scenes oral history of "Fury Road," we know that Miller is a meticulous director who storyboards out his films within an inch of their life. It was already jaw-dropping to see how he formulated what is ostensibly a high-octane, two-hour chase scene, but "Furiosa" is a true-to-form epic evoking classics like "Ben-Hur" while injecting the action with pure adrenaline. Tracking the 15-year saga of the titular character (Anya Taylor-Joy as an adult/Alyla Browne as a child) after she was taken by a Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), "Furiosa" examines what it took for her to survive the Wasteland and the Citadel run by Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) in her never-ending quest to make it back home to the tribe of the Many Mothers, feeding directly into the events of "Fury Road."

"Fury Road" is considered an untouchable masterpiece, and yet "Furiosa" is somehow bigger, more imaginative, and yes, better, than what came before. George Miller has given us a scorching, rip-roaring, and downright breathtaking odyssey that serves as his finest work yet.

Planting the seeds of Furiosa's righteous anger

It's obvious from the film's earliest moments that even as a child, Furiosa was raised to survive the Wasteland, showcasing survival skills, self-defense, and resourcefulness. But alas, she is kidnapped by a Biker Horde while trying to protect her home and taken to their commune as evidence of a place of lush riches beyond the desert. In a series so defined by sweat, sand, rust, metal, and motor oil, it's jarring to see the land of the Many Mothers (aka Vuvalini) in such direct juxtaposition. There's such a drastic visual shift compared to everything else we've seen in the world of "Mad Max," that it's impossible not to be haunted by its memory. The audience knows where Furiosa will end up as we've already seen "Fury Road," and the film is enhanced by the events of "Furiosa," adding depth to the already gripping lore.

As Furiosa is thrust into the Wasteland, the knowledge of the Eden she was plucked from hangs over every decision she makes and every bit of righteous anger she unleashes on those who have taken her from it. Rather than function like the chase movie of "Fury Road," there's a simmering ferocity embedded in Furiosa's revenge epic, burning hotter with every passing moment before transcending beyond fire and settling into ice-cold vengeance. Furiosa brings a stillness and sense of control in this world of thundering engines, explosions, and sacrificial War Boys, her true power is not with strength, but silence. Both Browne and Taylor-Joy are marvels to behold with their grounded stoicism amidst a society littered with over-exaggerated characters — a majority of whom are men — with their eyes alone expressing more than any monologue from a corrupt warlord.

Chris Hemsworth was born to play Dementus

Opposite Furiosa is the corrupt warlord Dementus, played with charismatic, villainous perfection by Chris Hemsworth. He's a threatening physical presence and controls an army that would do anything for him, but his greatest strength is that he's effortlessly charming. He lulls all he meets into a false sense of safety because he's affable and enchanting. If he wasn't such a narcissistic prick hell-bent on domination in a post-apocalyptic nightmare desert, he'd certainly have a thriving career as a cult leader or a game show host. It's a fantastic turn for a man known by most for saving the world as Marvel's Thor, but this is his Billy Lee in "Bad Times at the El Royale" cranked up to 11 and recreationally mainlining speedballs.

The "Mad Max" franchise has a formidable rogue's gallery of villains but Dementus is the sum of all of those that came before's parts. The ruthlessness of Toecutter, the twisted control of Immortan Joe, and even the flamboyance of Aunty Entity are all present in Dementus, who after being cloaked in red smoke with his twisted mustache looks like a hunky Yosemite Sam. Hemsworth's dashing good looks all but guaranteed a career as a leading man, but "Furiosa" makes the argument that he should be thriving as a premiere character actor. There are some deeply unsettling themes coursing through the film, but Dementus' ridiculous antics bring much-needed levity without ever sacrificing the truly redoubtable threat he presents.

Dementus and Furiosa feel like the Joker and Batman of "Mad Max," with colorful chaos facing off against a phlegmatic, unyielding force.

The action demands to be witnessed

Furiosa's journey is undoubtedly the beating heart of the film, but this wouldn't be a "Mad Max" movie without eyeball-melting action. Every second is a visual feast and the high-voltage action set pieces are presented with such extreme dynamics that they tap into the same primal, evolutionary excitement that had citizens cheering for bloodshed in packed coliseums. It's vicious, it's glorious, and there is not a creative mind alive that thinks the way George Miller does. Just when you think you know what to expect or how a massive battle on the Fury Road will play out, he'll introduce an element like bombers using parachutes and oversized fans to hang glide.

Miller is fluent in the universal language of "this kicks ass," conducting a symphony of flamethrowers, explosives, burnt rubber, twisted metal, blood, sweat, and gasoline. Bullets double as percussive instruments, engines roar like a choir, and both Anya Taylor-Joy and Tom Burke, who plays War Rig leader Praetorian Jack, share the first chair position. "Furiosa" will undoubtedly go down as one of — if not the — greatest prequel films ever made. Not only does it stand on its own as a masterful action-adventure blockbuster, but it also exemplifies Miller's thesis as a whole: that survival "in extremis" reveals the true essence of a person. "Fury Road" is an even better movie because of "Furiosa," and George Miller has gifted the world with his magnum opus. Witness him.

/News Rating: 10 out of 10