The 79-year-old director George Miller is helming movies like very few others his age. He kicked off the Mad Max series 45 years ago. After three movies starring Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky, he rebooted the series in 2015 with Mad Max: Fury Road. This reboot featured Tom Hardy taking over the titular role with Charlize Theron stealing the show as a new character named Imperator Furiosa. Now, Miller returns to his post-apocalyptic world with Furiosa, a prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road that goes into the origins of this fan-favorite character.

Furiosa is a gorgeous, well-crafted action movie with a few issues. Most importantly, it features a director at the top of his game. The original Mad Max trilogy had its share of fans, but nobody was truly prepared for how revolutionary Mad Max: Fury Road was. An action blockbuster doesn’t tend earn 10 Oscar nods, after all. Making a prequel spin-off was always going to be a risk, and while I didn’t love this movie like Fury Road, there’s some phenomenal work here all across the board.

This is a very different movie from Fury Road. While that film can best be described as a two-hour car chase with occasional bits of dialogue, Furiosa is more methodical in its pacing. It aims to tell a richer, more intricate origin story for this character. Sometimes, it works; other times, not so much. The pacing during the first hour is a weak spot in the film. We’re focused on a young version of the character, played superbly by Alyla Browne. Although parts of it are very necessary to drive home Furiosa’s motivation, as well as the villain, she is a passive character for a while, and there is a long stretch where she is barely in the film at all. It feels strange that a movie titled Furiosa could spend so much time uninvested in its lead character.

After the first hour, we see an older version of the character portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy. This is where Furiosa truly picks up. The film works best when it’s doing what Fury Road did best: crazy car chases and explosions. This movie has a lot of those, and they’re incredibly impressive. Nobody shoots action quite like Miller. He’s always doing something dynamic with the camera, there is a perfect mixture of practical stuntwork and visual effects, and the movie has no shortage of jaw-dropping moments that will blow you away.

Taylor-Joy is giving a performance for the ages here. She’s been fantastic in many projects like The Menu, The Northman, and Last Night In Soho. Furiosa, however, may be her best work. She perfectly captures the character’s fierceness and dedication to her goal of revenge. Another shining aspect is that for most of the film, she doesn’t say very much. She’s communicating a lot of pain solely through her eyes, and it’s magnificent to watch her perform.

Another shining element is Chris Hemsworth’s performance as Dementus. He has played funny heroes for years, so seeing him play against type as this over-the-top baddie is wild fun. His voice and accent are unrecognizable, and he’s chewing up the scenery in ways that only Mad Max characters do. The film features another character named Praetorian Jack, played by Tom Burke. The role was originally going to be played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, but he needed to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. Unfortunately, I believe Abdul-Mateen would have done a better job. Burke is fine in the role, but the character was lacking for me, and there isn’t much to get as invested in him as other characters in the film.

There are also a few narrative issues. Furiosa has the strongest motivation for doing what she does, but everything else surrounding the villains and their goals feels a bit muddled. While Fury Road had a deceptively simple story, Furiosa is going for a lot more. It pays off in many ways, as this is a grander, more epic story packed in its scale and following the evolution of a character over the years. But there are a few ideas that could have been more streamlined, especially since this film can occasionally be a bit overlong.

But Miller is firing on all cylinders here. He constructs beautiful action set pieces and he knows how to impress. They’re genuinely mind-blowing, and for the first Mad Max movie not to focus on the titular character, it’s far better than it has any right to be. Although a few moments can run on too long, the screenplay is strong and the pure adrenaline you get during much of Furiosa is worth the price of a ticket alone.

SCORE: 7/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.

Disclosure: ComingSoon attended a press screening for our Furiosa review.

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