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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (Christian Movie Review)

About the Film 

The power of post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories is that they often strip away the mask of civilization and expose the rot of sinful human nature festering beneath. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is the fifth entry in George Miller’s influential Mad Max franchise, which began in 1979. It is a prequel to the critically acclaimed 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road. Unrelentingly grim and saturated with nihilistic violence, Furiosa is a difficult but engaging work of visual storytelling that is bolstered by impressive technical filmmaking, exhilarating action, and some sweeping biblical themes.   

The story is set decades after an apocalyptic event in a wasteland now ruled by ruthless warlords and gangs. Furiosa, a young child from a hidden oasis settlement, is kidnapped and must try to find her way home without losing her life (and soul) along the way. Paradoxically, Furiosa is both incredibly simple and surprisingly vast—even biblical—in scope. On the surface, it is a revenge story that unfolds through a parade of action scenes. On a deeper level, it is an intriguing exploration of sin and human nature in a post-Eden world.    

The film’s greatest strength is its visuals, as much of the storytelling is communicated visually rather than verbally. Furiosa, played in her older years by Anya-Taylor Joy, has only roughly 30 lines of dialogue. Other characters are somewhat more verbose. Chris Hemsworth, who—uncharacteristically—plays a villain, effectively balances being campy and silly with remaining unhinged and menacing. Yet it is primarily the visuals that carry the load of worldbuilding and character development.    

The frequent sequences of high-adrenaline action offer impressive displays of technical filmmaking. As car convoys journeying at breakneck speed through sweeping desert vistas are assaulted by swarms of biker gangs, the cinematography, sound design, musical score, and tactile physical effects reach a level not often experienced in Hollywood. From a purely technical perspective, there is plenty to commend.   

But as impressive as these scenes look and feel, the action is somewhat meaningless. It’s a stunning spectacle, but it also feels like an empty one at times. As cars and bikes race through the desert wasteland, explosions erupt, and scores of nameless characters die on behalf of their unsympathetic warlord leaders, audiences may wonder, “Is there a point to any of this?”  

The answer depends on the viewer. For some, it will be “no.” For others, the simple entertainment value of the thrilling spectacle is justification enough. In some ways, Furiosa is more effective thematically than narratively (see the “beneath the surface” section below).   

The wasteland is a grim, nightmarish world of senseless death and carnal desire. Like The Godfather or the more recent John Wick series, the narrative tension lies in watching the protagonist navigate such a violent, broken world. Will she transcend the chaos to find purpose and meaning? Will she become enmeshed in the mire? In this way, nihilism is the point. The action won’t endear audiences to any of the competing factions in the senseless conflicts. Instead, the purpose is to see whether Furiosa can retain her hopeful worldview in such a seemingly hopeless world.  

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is not a film all Christian viewers will enjoy. With a lengthy 2.5-hour runtime and an R-rating, it is a challenging film regarding both content and tone. The intentionally unsettling worldbuilding will understandably keep some viewers from making the journey into the wasteland. For those who do, there is plenty of technical excellence to appreciate. Moreover, there are some intriguing biblical themes to be found amid the violent spectacle. The wasteland in the Mad Max universe is a godless, mechanical world in which sinful human nature flourishes without hope, and Furiosa exposes that world for the hellish existence it is.   

On the Surface

For Consideration

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

Expulsion from Paradise into a Broken World       

Furiosa may be a primarily spectacle-driven action flick, but it also contains an intriguing amount of biblical imagery. In fact, the film functions as an extended metaphor for the human origin story found in Genesis: humanity is expelled from the garden paradise of Eden into a hostile world of violence and sin and must make a pilgrimage back home.    

The story opens with Furiosa taking fruit from a tree, which is her last action before being captured and taken away from her home (called the “Green Place” or the “place of abundance”). She leaves Eden behind and spends the rest of the story attempting to regain what she lost.   

She is driven forward by her memory of her mother, who represents the peaceful, idyllic former life to which she yearns to return. Given the film’s religious underpinning, it is likely not coincidental that her mother is executed by crucifixion, although not before giving Furiosa a tree seed and telling her to “follow the stars” and find her way home (Christian viewers can likely think of other famous travelers who followed the stars to find their hope fulfilled).    

The wasteland is a godless place where the worship of machines and material things has replaced belief of any divine being. Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) gleefully exclaims that his gang will “dance to Darwin.” In this ugly Darwinian world, survival and power are all that matter. Dementus tells Furiosa that the key to surviving the wasteland is “Not hope. Hate. No shame in hate. It’s one of the great forces of nature.” Thus, Furiosa is torn between the hopelessness of the wasteland, represented by Dementus, and the lingering hope and memory of her former life.   

Furiosa is a prequel, so Furiosa’s tale is not told in full, but it does receive some satisfying thematic closure. She accepts that while she cannot return to her old life, she can keep searching for that lost paradise and cling to the beauty and purpose of that place. Her resolve is demonstrated symbolically by planting that tree seed and, in a visceral way (which I won’t spoil here), allowing life and beauty to grow once again even in that fallen and broken world.

  

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