‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Further Cements ‘Mad Max’ As One Of The Best Movie Franchises

The best scene in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga involves a character named Pissboy.

Of course it does: the Mad Max movies are undefeated when it comes to Outback freaks and their insane names. 1979’s Mad Max gave us Toecutter, Mudguts, and Grease Rat, while 1981’s Mad Max 2 and 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome added The Toadie, Lord Humungus, The Feral Kid, Aunty Entity (RIP Tina Turner), Dr. Dealgood, and Scrooloose to the crew. Director/writer/mad genius George Miller needed to take a 30-year break before coming up with Immortan Joe, Toast the Knowing, and The People Eater (I wonder what his deal is) for 2015’s Best Picture nominee Mad Max: Fury Road. And who could forget dear Pissboy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga?

Pissboy plays a small but significant role in the aforementioned best scene in the exhilarating Fury Road prequel, which rides eternal into theaters this weekend. I won’t give away the specifics, but picture a truck. No, even bigger than what you’re imagining. The rig has hidden compartments and enough room for food, supplies (mostly gas and bullets), and stowaways. During a run on the Fury Road, the vehicle is ambushed by rogue raiders, who attack by land and air. There’s fiery explosions, deception, vegetables, small but meaningul character moments amidst all the frenetic action, and — this is the last time I bring him up, I swear — Pissboy.

If I had my notebook with me, I would have written “hell yeah” over and over again like Jack Torrance sharing his thoughts on all work and no play at his typewriter in The Shining. It’s the kind of magical movie moment that once it’s over, you can hear people in the theater shifting in their seats; everyone was so enraptured for the last 20 minutes, they forgot to move.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a different beast than Mad Max: Fury Road. It follows a more “traditional” plot structure: Furiosa (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) is out for revenge on the warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) who killed her mother (Charlee Fraser). Along the way, she teams up with War Rig driver Jack (Tom Burke, who reminds me of original Mad Max star Mel Gibson, minus… y’know). Furiosa is thrilling and funny and has multiple stunts that once again make you wonder how no one died during filming, but I still prefer Mad Max: Fury Road, a stone-cold masterpiece. Some of the CGI in Furiosa is distracting, and there’s unnecessary “fan service” to fill in the blanks between the films.

But these complaints are minor: Fury Road vs. Furiosa is like pitting Breaking Bad against Better Call Saul. They’re both great on different terms. Charlize Theron should be proud of Taylor-Joy and her younger counterpart Alyla Browne (who previously played young Tilda Swinton in Miller’s last film, Three Thousand Years of Longing) as Furiosa, and Chris Hemsworth gives the kind of goofy-yet-malicious performance that deserves Oscar buzz. Miller’s direction is as active as ever, even as he nears 80 years old, while Junkie XL’s score pulses and pounds with energy. I left the theater exhausted, but it was the good kind of exhausted, the way I feel after a workout.

In a recent interview with the Critics Choice Association, Miller was asked why the Mad Max films continue to resonate decades after the first film. “I don’t think you could come down to a fixed answer to that. But I think it’s a thing why I’m still sort of drawn to telling these kind of stories. They’re basically allegories. In the same way that the American Western you could argue is allegories. And indeed, certainly for everything from fairy stories to folklore, mythologies, even religious stories, where the story is in the eye of the beholder, wherever you are. Wherever you are in time or space,” he replied.

That’s all well and good, George, but there’s another reason why people love the Mad Max movies: they rock.

Of the five Mad Max movies, three are classics (Mad Max 2, Mad Max: Fury Road, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga); one is half-great, half-good-but-could-use-less-kids (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), and one is a strong introduction that feels somewhat slight compared to the insanity to come (Mad Max). The “worst” of the bunch (either Thunderdome or the original) is, what, a B+?

That’s a strong overall grade. If movie franchises with at least three films were The Citadel, Mad Max would be among the greenery, alongside Toy Story; Mission: Impossible; Lord of the Rings (the brilliance of the originals makes up for the middling Hobbit films); Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy; maybe Evil Dead; Rocky if the Creed movies count; and Paddington (I’m assuming Paddington in Peru will be a masterpiece).

Miller wants to return to the Wasteland, but if Furiosa is the heavy metal conclusion to the saga, the complete Mad Max franchise was anything but mediocre.