After forty-five years, it’s amazing that Aussie filmmaker George Miller can still derive compelling ideas from the car-crazy world of Mad Max that he created so long ago. I’d never seen anything like the scrappy stunt work and go-for-broke attitude of Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2) when it opened here in 1981. 

With success came more money and a broader canvas, which Miller was only too happy to fill in several follow-up features. But the last entry, Mad Max: Fury Road was so intense I couldn’t actually enjoy it; the visceral, tangibly believable action sequences made me physically uncomfortable. I’m happy to report that Miller has dialed it back (from 11) in his terrific new prequel, Furiosa: A Mad Max Story.

We meet Furiosa as a girl (Alyla Browne) who undergoes a baptism of fire, being kidnaped and plotting her escape while supposedly unconscious on the back end of a motorcycle. This daring episode will prepare her for a life of almost constant movement from one place to another in the vast desert where the saga unfolds. Anya Taylor Joy steps in to continue the heroine’s journey as an adult and her steely stare is one of this film’s major assets.

A bearded Chris Hemsworth scores points as a Messianic madman named Dr. Dementus who barks commands through an old-fashioned radio microphone. But it’s Tom Burke, who has the looks and bearing of an old-fashioned hero, who teams up with Furiosa to fight the good fight. Furiosa pauses to take a breath every now and then but it’s essentially one long chase that offers endless and ingenious variations on a theme. I was blissfully unaware of the time passing and was surprised to see that almost two and a half hours had gone by.

Like the other recent entries in this series there are credits for CGI in the closing crawl but it looks as if an awful lot of what we see is being performed right in front of our eyes. I couldn’t invest in the elaborate stunts of Fall Guy but I bought into Furiosa’s eye-popping visuals one hundred per cent. Kudos to George Miller for staying the course and to his formidable team of collaborators for not getting lost in the weeds. They have delivered a prize package of entertainment well worth seeing on a big theater screen.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024