Oh what a lovely day! George Miller is returning to the wasteland, but this time without his famed hero Max Rockatansky. Instead he’ll be focusing a newer icon in his Mad Max franchise: Furiosa. The long-rumored prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is finally reeving its engines with today’s announcement that Anya Taylor-Joy will be playing the character originated by Charlize Theron in an origin story directed, produced, and co-written by George Miller. Joining Taylor-Joy will be Chris Hemsworth and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
While Miller has previously discussed ambitions for a follow-up to Fury Road with Tom Hardy reprising his role of Max, it was clear from the previous film that Furiosa has captured the filmmaker’s heart, as well as fans of the franchise both new and old. While what’s in store for the young Furiosa remains a mystery, Miller may have planted some seeds that we might see the genesis of in the upcoming film.
As with Fury Road, Miller has assembled a cast of major names for Furiosa, suggesting plans to further explore the post-apocalyptic world that clings to life through violence, vehicles, and gasoline. Much in the same way that Fury Road wasn’t just focused on Max, and eschewed the idea of him as a lone hero, despite him being the titular character, it seems reasonable to expect that Furiosa will cast a wider focus than just on the future Imperator. The timeline of the Mad Max franchise is a bit tricky but a comic set before the events of the film, Mad Max: Fury Road – Furiosa No. 1, provides details that tell of Furiosa and her mother being stolen from their matriarchal society. While her mother died, Furiosa became one of Immortan Joe’s wives, but when he discovered she was barren Joe gave her to his Imperator who trained her to become a warrior.
It’s possible that we’ll see some of this play out in the upcoming film, with Hemsworth or Abdul-Mateen II playing Furiosa’s mentor and the Imperator who preceded her. It’s also detailed within that comic that Furiosa rose through the ranks as the only woman in Joe’s military, and eventually earned the nickname “Bag of Nails” before becoming Imperator following her mentor’s death, and ultimately losing her arm in a fight for the “glory” of Immortan Joe.
While the stories in those Fury Road prequel comics are credited to Miller, and were marketed as being canon to the film upon release, Miller didn’t actually write the comics himself. The Furiosa issue, written by Mark Sexton, with art by Tristan Jones, was heavily criticized upon release for its depiction of sexual violence enacted upon Furiosa, and later Immortan Joe’s five wives. The comic is far less progressive than the characterizations seen in Fury Road, and there is reason to question the details provided in Furiosa’s origin story. Something that’s key to Miller’s filmography is that he’s never been interested in repeating himself, even within franchises. There are tremendous leaps made in the world, story, and the action when you compare Mad Max (1979) to The Road Warrior (1981), or, to a lesser degree, Beyond Thunderdome (1985). And even more so when you compare that original trilogy to Fury Road. So there’s no reason to suspect that Furiosa will be covering the same ground, if any, depicted in the comic.
Miller’s wasteland is built upon myths and idea of stories passed down through generations. Details change, like how Max’s origin story in the flashbacks he has in Fury Road don’t match the events of Mad Max (1979). Just because that comic told a story of Furiosa’s origins, doesn’t mean the story was true, or that the details weren’t changed in the telling. Ultimately, the only details about Furiosa’s history that seem reliable at this point was that Furiosa was taken from the Green Place, and that she served under Immortan Joe for a time before her redemption in Fury Road. Miller isn’t tied down to much, giving him an edge that very few creators who venture into prequel territory have. And just because Furiosa is a prequel, doesn’t mean it can’t also be progressive and make great leaps in the same way the forward moving Mad Max films did.
An interesting aspect to consider with the Furiosa spin-off is the predictive nature of Fury Road. Miller’s Mad Max franchise has always been deeply tuned into the end result of human wastefulness and excess, but Fury Road’s depiction of Immortan Joe, a bloated, heavily made-up leader, clad in empty symbols of status, protected by a misuse of justice and a cult like tribe of young men, surrounded by a family of enablers, and forced to wear a mask due to breathing difficulties, hits really close to home for Americans. And the parallels between Joe and our current political situation have grown even closer over the years. Even as a prequel, it doesn’t seem implausible to believe Furiosa to be forward-thinking in regards to looking at the world of today. What that means may not be entirely clear for those of us who lack the genius of Miller, but we shouldn’t expect to see an Immortan Joe origin story coupled with Furiosa’s, or for the character to even play a significant part in the film. We know how men like that are built and how they cling to power. What’s more interesting is that Immortan Joe is a symptom of a larger world gone bad, an issue contained to a small space in a much larger world.
Given how much our world has to reckon with in order to avoid becoming a wasteland itself, there’s little doubt that Miller will tackle themes that are both illuminating about the past, and predictive of where we might be headed. We know that Furiosa’s path ultimately leads to Fury Road, but as we have seen with Max, Miller’s post-apocalyptic heroes are just necessary tire treads for what’s already in motion, and even when they fall away there’s no stopping the momentum of other characters, the world at large, and the multitude of possibilities that exist with Miller’s foot on the gas.