(director/writer: George Miller; screenwriters: Nick Lathouris; cinematographer: Simon Duggan; editors: Margaret Sixel, Eliot Knapman; music: Tom Holkenborg; cast: Anya Taylor-Joy (Furiosa), Alyla Browne (Young Furiosa), Charlee Fraser (Mother), Chris Hemsworth (Dr. Dementus), Tom Burke (Praetorian Jack), George Shevstov (History Man), Lachy Hulme (Immortan Joe/Rizzdale Pell), Angus Sampson (Organic Mechanic), Daniel Webber (War Boy), Nathan Jones (Rictus Erectus), Josh Helman (Scrotus), Gordon D. Kleut (The Octoboss); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Doug Mitchell, George Miller; A Warner Bros. Release; 2Angus Sampson, Alyla Browne, Daniel Webber, Nathan Jones, Gordon D. Kleut024-Australia)

“It’s so beautifully demented, you could possibly fall madly in love with it without realizing you’re under its spell.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A mind-blowing action pic–the prequel fifth version of the franchise, from the Mad Max franchise started 45 years ago in 1979 as Mad Max. It’s wickedly directed by the elderly Aussie former emergency-room doctor George Miller (“The Madness of Max”/”Happy Feet Two”) and co-written by him and Nick Lathouris. It turns as a vengeance, scorched earth film, set a few years from now.

It’s a fiery desert war pic about the future world being doomed and the emergence of a new World Order. It looms as a nutty and grim dystopian tale, whose CGI images never look real enough to give it the power to be realistically magical. Yet it’s so beautifully demented, you could possibly fall madly in love with it without realizing you’re under its spell. 

Alya Brown wonderfully plays Furiosa as a 10-year-old child. Charlee Fraser plays her machete-wielding mother, who chases after her when she’s snatched by a ragged biker gang and is killed by them. At the halfway point Anya Taylor-Joy, in a fine performance, seamlessly takes over as the 25-year-old Furiosa.

In the superior Fury Road of 2015, set over a 3 day period, Furiosa was first played by the one armed, kick-ass, angry rig driver Charlize Theron. In this version, “Furiosa” takes place over a 15 year period. It tells the origin story of Imperator Furiosa in five chapters (with pretentious titles like “The Pole of Inaccessibility”).

The young Furiosa is kidnapped in a forest near the sanctuary at the Green Place of Many Mothers by a biker gang whose leader is the evil lunatic prophet, Dr. Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), a Wasteland warlord. He wears a white messiah cape with a teddy bear strapped to his back (he’s that kind of a strange biblical dude).

In the desert, the bikers come to the Citadel, a fortress ruled by Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) and his warriors. The young Furioso escapes from her cage to hide among the Citadel women kept as sex slaves, as the two gang leaders are on a collision power trip to fight it out.

It features a cast of thousands, playing such support roles as depraved hooligan bikers with rotten teeth (prancing about as if they could mistakenly be in a wonky Marlon Brando biker pic), who are looking to rumble while armed with rusty weapons and driving rusty tanker trucks. On IMAX these fight scenes jump out as over-the-top computer-driven stuff.

Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke) plays Furiosa’s mentor and romantic interest (he’s like Mad Max without being Max-who was played by Mel Gibson as the highway patrol cop in the original).

The future is depicted as hopelessly bleak, as the world no longer looks like it once did. Futile wars rage, out of control gangs patrol the vast Wasteland and cyberpunks cruelly run things.

The blockbuster, even with its star power and expensive CGIs, provides only passable entertainment. It doesn’t grab us in the same tense and powerful way as it did in the other Mad Max films.

It played at the Cannes Film Festival.