Cannes 2024: Furiosa is a mind-blowing epic, a crazy new chapter in the Mad Max saga

Cannes 2024: Furiosa is a mind-blowing epic, a crazy new chapter in the Mad Max saga

We didn't dare dream of it, yet George Miller creates a new masterpiece in his chrome saga. Without Max the Crazy in the credits, but with unstoppable fury.

Do you have it in you to make it epic?”asked Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) to Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) in the trailer for the new George Miller, fifth installment of the saga Mad Max (but the first without Max). By sitting in front of this Furiosa as desired as it was feared, we wanted to return the question to the film itself. “Do you have what it takes to become legendary?” Will you be “epic” enough? Can you keep the promise to Mad Max: Fury Road, fourth miraculous episode, which resurrected the Max Rockatansky myth in 2015 and annihilated everything in its path, the jaws of spectators as well as the competition in the action cinema department – ​​in the cinema department, in short.

If we doubted Furiosait's because of these trailers dabbling in their somewhat ugly digital effects, and which were all the less salivating as they seemed to contradict what Fury Road had ended up symbolizing: a resistance of “hard-core” cinema, linked by its kinetic purity to the silent era and the grandeur of original cinema, an antidote to contemporary epileptic blockbusters on green screens.

Filming Furiosa was trying for Anya Taylor-Joy, watching it too

Furiosa would he disappoint? Be a new cold shower way Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (the unloved third opus from 1985)? Don't panic: it only takes a few seconds to be reassured. The film jumps into your throat from the start and won't let you go until two and a half hours later. George Miller is in full possession of his means. At the peak of his virtuosity storyteller, master of his kingdom, this Wasteland of sand, chrome and blood that he explores here in every corner. It doesn't seem like anything to say like that, but how many filmmakers of his age (79 years old) manage to pull off such sovereign, massive, monumental, incarnate films, without an ounce of that artistic withering that often strikes the greats? aging masters?

It is therefore a question of telling theorigin story of Furiosa, Imperator of her state, rebellious warrior who stole the show from Mad Max played by Tom Hardy in Fury Road – Charlize Theron gave way to two actresses, Alyla Browne (who plays the child character) and Anya Taylor-Joy. It is the story of the character's original trauma, of how she was torn from her nurturing Green Land, then of her long vengeful crusade against Dementus, the madcap and megalomaniac leader of a band of barbarian bikers, an odyssey during which we will wonder about the meaning of revenge and the taste of tears. The film is as much an extension of the previous part as its antithesis.

Extension, because it accentuates, with its unreal colors, its “exaggerated” American nights, its more manga feeling than ever, the feeling of being in front of a kind of live anime. But an antithesis too, because where Fury Road rushed like an arrow, from point A to point B and back, between Beep-Beep and Coyote And The Fantastic Ride, Furiosa is a long-term, abundant, chaptered, disproportionate, mythological story. There are extravagant bits of bravura (a new and insane variation on the final chase of Mad Max 2, where a Warbringer is attacked by rampaging bikers – total madness) but also pauses, breathing, time passing, sideways and even a few talking scenes. It's a saga, really, as the subtitle says. A saga told by the History Man (an old man whose name appeared at the end of the previous film, and who we can safely assume is a sort of projection of George Miller himself), and whose echo spreads through the Wasteland, this world without books or the Internet but where fables, myths, constitute glimmers of hope in the midst of fury and chaos.

George Miller has written another Fury Road prequel centering on Max and Tom Hardy

This is all very well and good, you will tell us, but how do you make a Mad Max without Mad Max? A truly Mad Max”beyond” : beyond his totem face and supreme incarnation? Anya Taylor-Joy, an eminently graphic actress, clenches her jaw and frowns in Theron's wheel, determined to elevate her character to the rank of modern icon, a post-apocalyptic Ellen Ripley. She does the job valiantly. Chris Hemsworth is excellent as a crazy biker, “acclaimed lord of the motorized sphere” (that's how he introduces himself), finding the ideal mix of creepy brutality and ludicrous ridiculousness. There's even a sort of new mini-Max, named Praetorian Jack (played by Tom Burke, the Orson Welles of Mank), who inherited his leather and his cool from Mel Gibson. Immortan Joe is there, colossal as can be (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who died in 2020, was replaced by Lachy Hulmes). The War Boys are out, in their hundreds.

But the real star of the film, deep down, is this world. This Wasteland that Miller glimpsed in a panicked flash, on the long dark highways of the seventies, and that he no longer wants to leave. Furiosa is a masterpiece of world-building, not far fromAvatar 2 (in the promises it keeps, in the pleasure it offers), where the filmmaker has fun refining his vision, “enhancing” his universe. We visit Petroville and the Bullet Farm (these places mentioned in Fury Road but remained lost in the distance), we linger in the corridors and corners of the Citadel of Immortan Joe. Each new character name, each new beat-up car, each rusty nail, has clearly been chosen and weighed with maniacal care. Miller exults that the Wasteland is a never-ending reservoir of stories.

The themes and motifs are those of always (lost children, myths that console, hope on the horizon), the influences too (comics, westerns, silent cinema, samurai films, revenge), reformulated in a form sovereign and overwhelming. Watching this film, the way it grows as it is shown, the way it carries you away like a torrent, you have the impression of being the reader of an old grimoire found in the sands of the outback Australian – a collection of immemorial, brutal, very violent stories from a distant stone age that also looks a lot like our imminent future. Too happy with this miraculous discovery, we walk through it hallucinated, almost incredulous, with our hair standing on end and our eyes bloodshot.

Furiosa: a Max Mad sagaby George Miller, with Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke… In theaters May 22.

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