Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Director George Miller shares company with Steven Spielberg in bringing matinee action to the theatre. His “Mad Max” films are iconic, having a rightful place in pop culture precisely because the films conjure a space for us to imagine the unthinkable (nuclear war) with a sense of eccentricity, dark whimsy, and Surrealism, along with terrifying and crazy irrationality. We may not like Miller’s darkness, but the ideas presented have a kind of brute and manic poetry in keeping with HR Giger and Hieronymus Bosch.

Here he continues the story of Furiosa, last portrayed to great effect by Charlize Theron. Now “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” stars Anya Taylor-Joy in a prequel and the actor makes it all her own.

Furiosa is shown as a feral youngster in a wild land where existence is cheap. Green lands are rare as jewels. Water is treated as Manna from Heaven.

Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) kidnaps the young child, and she is shuttled around the outback to various locations. Dementus gets into a battle of wills with cult leader Immortan (Lachy Hulme). The two rivals do battle across the huge expanses of desert. This is both primitive and madcap with a kind of hyperactive whimsy. The effect is rather like various dreams. Events and conditions don’t appear to make sense but yet somehow they do. This is life itself without natural water or any green lands.

The histrionic nomads race about in huge machines, phallic and chromium. The men puff out their chests bisected by metal and leather, resembling great sable humanoid reptiles or fleshy dinosaur birds. At times, these testosterone tainted men are adorned with vertebrae or mammal bones and crowned by feathers. These outrageous beings are hybrids of the uncanny and the human. This is an expression of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle in the apocalypse.

As the battle continues, the motorized vehicles get larger and larger and more and more shining as raven clad bandits fall from the sky to take what they can, creating a Rube Goldberg arena of war with water and gas as the only valid currency.

Furiosa lands in a strange oasis where the only purpose is to give birth to perpetuate the human species. Then she is scuttled away yet again, evolving into a mystic with obscure powers. Meanwhile, anarchy is the order of the day in which hectic white humans spray themselves with powdered meth amphetamine, becoming indistinguishable from the huge gargantuan trucks that they drive.

We see Mad Max (Tom Burke) stone faced and silent with his oft-recognizable stubble taking Furiosa under his grim wings.

Anya Taylor-Joy possesses a steel verve in this role that serves her to great effect. In George Miller films, a single stare says it all.

In a Mad Max film, it is best to approach the rhythm and the motion of the imagery presented rather than the narrative story.

This is a place where people scramble about like industrialized carpenter ants and trucks are the new suits of armor, bejeweled and exploding like deathly bird of paradise flowers. In parcels of man-made soil, aging octogenarians feed the plants with their own molting bodies, hopefully giving the vegetable world one last fighting chance.

Such macabre mayhem may not be for everyone, and it is well in the boundaries of other Mad Max chapters. Still, like David Cronenberg, David Lynch and John Waters, George Miller keeps his fevered phantasmagoria fresh, and he has well earned his place with the few unapologetic auteurs of the cinema.

Write Ian at ianfree11@yahoo.com

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