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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga – Too Much and Not Enough

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga kicked off the Summer Blockbuster season with a whimper over Memorial Day weekend. Does it portend a down summer at the box office? Only time will tell, but Director George Miller, who has made a career of smashing cars in the desert presented us with a film that did not match the intensity of its predecessor. While it had moments of greatness, and is overall pretty likable, the overall film missed out on several opportunities while still being too long.

Furiosa was somehow too much while also being not enough.

It was too much on the one hand by being too long. Coming in at two and a half hours, this film wasted the first hour by getting too lost in the exposition. Certainly, there were things that we learned in that first hour that were important, and things were shown to us that affected moments later in the film. But the first hour was inefficient at best and unnecessary at worst. I was thinking about earlier incarnations of the series like The Road Warrior (an hour and a half running time) and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (an hour and forty-five minutes), and I couldn’t help but think how this film would have been a lot more entertaining without all the back story and if it picked up when we first see Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) as an adult.

The first hour wasn’t without its entertainment value. Chris Hemsworth as Dementus is great with his obsession for wanting to know where the land of abundance is that Furiosa came from. Miller showed Dementus and his team as a band of pirates sailing along the desert instead of on the high seas. They plundered and tortured like a merry band of scallywags in a manner that would have brought pride to Blackbeard himself. We then see that he has eyes on bigger prizes like the Citadel and Gastown, and he’s willing to play the long game to acquire them.

Meanwhile, young Furiosa leaves his clutches to join Immortan Joe (Lachly Hulme) in the Citadel, but she unwittingly draws the eye of Joe’s horny son, Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones). This pushes her out of the inner circle and towards Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), who teaches her how to drive the war rig so she can eventually try to find her way back home.

Lost in the exposition

This is all too much plot and not enough story. As I like to tell screenwriters when I evaluate their screenplays, the plot is what happens, and the story is why we care. We spent the first hour of this script getting detail after detail, but we never got any reason to care about what was happening. This is an inherent problem with prequels because we know that Furiosa isn’t ever going to find her home. However, we do know from Mad Max: Fury Road that she wants to steal the brides and bring them to safety. Other than the last shot of the movie, we never get any of what motivates her towards that in this film.

That’s my big takeaway from Furiosa. The plot is all about her and what she wants. She would have been a much more effective hero with that as her outer goal, but also the problem of seeing the mistreatment of the brides and wanting to rescue them. Giving her that more altruistic need would have made the audience care about her a lot more and would have made the film a lot stronger, especially in the first half.

Once we get to the second half of the film, and Miller gets into his sweet spot of blowing stuff up, the movie gets a lot more entertaining. It’s a ride movie and it’s a popcorn movie, and it’s worth seeing in the theater if you haven’t seen it yet. But don’t worry too much about getting there late.

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