‘Furiosa’ is fine, but lacks power of its predecessor

“Mad Max: Fury Road” has been one of my favorite action movies of all time. The incredible visuals, the spectacular performances, the sheer scale — everything works together to make it one of the must-watch films of the past decade. Because of my admiration for the first film, George Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” has been among my most anticipated films of 2024. And while “Furiosa” delivers on so many fronts, I still left feeling underwhelmed.

The film opens on Young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) as she is gathering fruit in her bucolic homeland, The Green Place. When she sees invaders, she tries to sabotage their transportation but ends up kidnapped and delivered to Dr. Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), the leader of a murderous motorcycle gang. He takes Furiosa under his wing and teaches her the ways of the Wasteland. As his quest for power grows stronger, he uses Furiosa as a bargaining tool with Immortan Joe (Lachy Hume) and his band of War Boys. As Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) begins running bullets and gas for Immortan Joe, she develops a relationship with Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke). But never far from mind is her desire to avenge the death of her mother (Charlee Fraser).

There is so much to love about this movie. The performances are all top-notch. Browne, as young Furiosa, is a powerhouse, and it’s hard for me to imagine that she won’t become a household name following this film. Taylor-Joy is surprisingly excellent as an action hero. And this could be one of the best performances we’ve ever seen from Hemsworth, as he embodies a chaotic energy that is electrifying.

The visuals in this movie match those of its predecessor. There is a bit more reliance on digital effects than the previous movie, making it look less gritty than that one, but there is still plenty of action that looks fantastic. The costumes continue to be grotesque, reminding us that few are unscathed from this dystopian future.

But where “Fury Road” allowed the themes to simmer quietly under the surface, they are far more in your face in “Furiosa.” The film is broken into five chapters, and while each is denser than the last, I still came away from the movie feeling like I didn’t have much of a deeper understanding of the character of Furiosa than I did following the first movie. Perhaps my expectations were unattainable, but this didn’t quite hit where I had hoped.

One of Dementus’ final lines is, “Do you have it in you to make it epic?” This seems like the question Miller must have asked himself as he made this film. In some regards, absolutely, he achieves this goal. But when you have already created one of the most epic films in existence, it’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle a second time. For many, it will have accomplished that, but for me, there was a little too much dust to see the shine.

Alise Chaffins is a Morgantown writer who loves movies and sharing her opinions. She reviews a movie from a streaming service every Saturday and one newly in theaters every Sunday. Find more at MacGuffin or Meaning on Substack.