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  • Nate Lemann


Updated: Jul 16

In a glorious return to the world of Mad Max, George Miller sets his sights on crafting a new kind of thriller in the wasteland, full of intense power struggles and a more deliberately paced quest for righteous vengeance.

By Nate Lemann

Anya Taylor-Joy as "Furiosa"
Anya Taylor-Joy as "Furiosa"

To release the collective breath we all must've been holding in since this prequel was announced: YES - This is an amazing cinematic achievement! If anyone could've stuck the difficult landing the monumental expectations had come to create, George Miller was the man to do it. Miller is in a class of his own, creating an almost primal style to storytelling that is unmatched in its unique visual language and myth-making narrative muscle. Even in the most grotesque and loathsome moments, you feel something singular onscreen. It was foolish for us to think the man would deliver anything less than a masterpiece because that it what this is.

With that said, on what level a masterpiece is this? While this film is larger and bolder in scope, Fury Road still has the upper leg on this entry but its like saying, "I love both pizza and burgers but I just prefer pizza more." First off, the leap in quality from Thunderdome to Fury Road was so breathtaking, it was like watching a knuckleball pitcher add a 100mph heater to his repertoire; a leveling-up none saw coming. While there are advancements since the 2015 entry, it doesn't feel as fresh or exhilarating in its evolution. The other major factor that makes Fury Road sit on its well deserved pedestal is the story framework: while simple in concept ("its a movie-length chase" is how the film was marketed in 2015), it is a narrative supercharger that pumps an innate tension and adrenaline in from minute one and doesn't let up until the credits roll.

That all being said, Miller is chasing after a different beast altogether here: the revenge epic. While their are many references to choose from, the one that kept springing to mind was the Count of Monte Cristo, in both its time sprawling narrative and the romanticism of her quest for glorious vengeance. Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy pick up where Charlize Theron left off when she rode up to glory in the Citadel. Both actresses (Browne playing the younger version of the character) are able to match Theron's steely intensity and cool-under pressure facade (though, I will say I still prefer Theron in this role; she brought an innate hyper-intelligence and control to the character that I just don't think you see fully formed until the end here; she was also more open and inviting, while Taylor-Joy is all hard-boiled rage in this one). Furiosa is kidnapped from her home in the Green Place as young child and while I won't spoil the early chase scene to start this movie, the stakes are set high from the get-go as the safety of both Furiosa and the Green Place are at peril.

The man to blame for her predicament is non-other than Dr. Dementus, played by the never-better Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth is let off the leash in this film and provides something no other Mad Max villain has before: wit, humor, and charm. Hemsworth and Miller have crafted a marvel of a character that is as close to Heath Ledger's Joker as any mainstream blockbuster antagonist has been able to render. This is isn't a personification of evil like the Immortan Joe. No, this is a mad-dog who recklessly and maniacally swats for power and glory in the wasteland. It almost seems like he doesn't much care if he achieves any of his specific goals so long as carnage is on the menu. He is chaos incarnate, like Furiosa is vengeance personified. He counters well to his adversaries in the film who try to act like they have some semblance of control (of this world or their plans to escape it), and Dementus comes in like the mother of all monkey-wrenches and blows the whole damn thing up. He is the perfect foil and Miller's choice to bring Hemsworth on is inspired (obviously, Thor will be his most remembered role, but as the hours since seeing the film have passed, I think this should be considered the apex of his career). I love, love, love their epic final showdown (the character comes fully formed in that moment, though not to say he was lacking until then) and what Miller decides to do with this character is a marvel of mythic storytelling.

Through complex plot machinations, Furiosa eventually becomes a valued warrior to Immortan Joe but still has eyes on vengeance...and home. The set pieces in this are spectacular and while they may feel similar to Fury Road, they are head and shoulders above anything else Hollywood has tried to offer us in the last nine years. I really do love the war rig sequences so much as they offer Miller a chance to create some of the most elaborate, dynamic, and beautiful carnage every put to film.

The rest of the cast is spot-on (love the return of many faces from Fury Road, even giving Warboy Josh Helman a new and very different role to sink his gnarly teeth into). Tom Burke is the real highlight as he displays steely action star resolve and swagger I wish we got more of (maybe a Praetorian Jack prequel next??). Charlee Fraser is also star waiting to burst here as Furiosa's glorious momma bear.

This will likely give Dune 2 a run for its money in all the below the line Oscar categories as the craftsmanship is no less awe-inspiring as it was nine year ago. So many shots from this film can be hung in the Louvre they are so breathtaking. The score by Junkie XL is more mournful than his propulsive Fury Road composition but epic in an entirely different way.

This is a film I have feeling will grow in estimation with each new viewing (as Fury Road did for me, as well). May we all just take a minute to rejoice that we have a voice as singular and powerful as George Miller and that is something to truly celebrate here.


FINAL RATING: 5/5 Stars (Masterpiece)

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Hi! I'm Nate and I love to talk all things movies. I'll be posting new reviews, recent rewatches, and much more on this site. So come on and let's talk movies! 

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