Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review - "George Miller has done it again with a prequel that finds new ways to surprise"

(Image: © Warner Bros.)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

This action franchise set in sun-blasted sandscapes is evergreen. A special place in Valhalla awaits George Miller.

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

“Do you have it in you to make it epic?” asks crazed antagonist Dementus (Chris Hemsworth buried under a prosthetic nose, riotous beard, and pejazzled codpiece) of heroine Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) as their fury roads intersect in a blaze of flames. No need to ask such a question of director George Miller, whose prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road not only soups up the iconic War Rig but supersizes the story, mythology, scorching desert-scapes, and, yes, action set pieces in an attempt to dwarf that 2015 masterpiece.

Fury Road, the fourth instalment in Miller’s franchise (which dates back to 1979’s DIY Ozploitation classic Mad Max), had a lean-machine plot threading its outrageous vehicular mayhem. This fifth outing goes deeper and wider to give us the coming-of-rage origin story of Fury Road’s Furiosa.

It begins with her as a young child (played by Alyla Browne), snatched from Edenic hideaway The Green Place and delivered to warlord Dementus. The maggot-infested meat of this prequel’s story is how Little D, as he names her, grows into the warrior queen we know from the last movie: Charlize Theron’s shaven-skulled, one-armed Imperator, who leads the ‘breeder’ wives in fleeing the Citadel ruled by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who sadly died in 2020 and is replaced in Furiosa by Lachy Hulme)

The journey includes Furiosa’s revved-up, hatred-fuelled rampage of revenge against Dementus, and takes in Gastown, the Bullet Farm, and the Citadel, three fortresses that rise up amid the dust and dirt of the post-apocalyptic Wasteland.

Taylor-Joy is up to the task, her smaller build highlighted by the army of outsized leather-clad men who make up Dementus’ Congress of Destruction, but selling it with steely silence, fierce eyes, and rageful spirit. Hemsworth, too, is a whole lot of fun, finding just enough depth to keep the vicious villainy the right side of cartoony, despite a vivid streak of camp. The sight of Big D. riding a chariot behind a trio of motorbikes like Ben-Hur making his way to a fetish club is a hoot, while snatches of dialogue are joyously juicy. “Adorable!” he cries upon first seeing Immortan Joe’s horror-show get-up. A taste of Furiosa’s tears, meanwhile, has him declaring, “Sorrow is… zesty.”


(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

That’s also an apt description of the set pieces, which at times threaten to get repetitive (how many times can a speeding vehicle be swarmed in one film, let alone franchise?) but always, somehow, find new ways to surprise, with Miller’s resourcefulness again earning that ‘visionary’ tag so often applied to him. As in Fury Road, in-camera thrills and spills take glorious precedence, even if at times they’re augmented by CGI. And when wave after wave of marauders die historic, their demises are painted in vivid hues – DoP Simon Duggan brings us days of blistering orange and nights of clear, endless blue in place of the original movies’ lo-fi, lived-in lensing.

The apex of the action is the ‘Stowaway to Nowhere’ sequence that forms the centerpiece of the film. Lasting 15 minutes of screen-time, it took 78 days and hundreds of stunt workers to capture, a gruelling endeavour worth every bead of sweat, every drop of gasoline. In it, the new, improved War Rig (“Bigger, faster, stronger, further!”) is again besieged by all manner of colourful characters wielding outlandish weaponry as they cling to kamikaze vehicles. Miller, at his most inventive, catapults the attackers at the speeding War Rig from every angle (yes, that’s a motorbike dangling from a swooping parachute), and treats long-time MM devotees to several of his signature crash zooms into the clenched faces of drivers. 

It’s an astonishing scene, rivalling Fury Road’s Pole Cats sequence as the finest in the series. The car-nage of Mad Max 2, some of the best in action cinema, can’t compete with this. And it’s made more impressive still by Miller’s dedication to accelerating character development as he pumps the nitro: the attacks and counter-attacks establish just how enterprising Furiosa is while cementing her bond of trust with War Rig driver Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke, commanding), who’s a pocket of optimism in a world of fire and bones.

Is Furiosa as magnificent as Fury Road? No, though not because it’s the first Mad Max movie without Max, whose absence barely registers. At 140 minutes minus credits, it’s a touch unwieldy, while its lament for the inevitability of war and the emptiness of revenge feels hollow given the giddy excitement it stirs from just these things. But what can’t be disputed is that Miller, the Mad genius, has done it again, once more refusing to simply repeat himself and instead choosing to kick up dust rather than gather it as he forges a new path through the Wasteland in often spectacular fashion. Oh, what a day. What a lovely day. 

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is in UK cinemas and US theaters on May 24. 

Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.