George Miller is on board for a Furiosa prequel to Fury Road, but what are the big questions this movie needs to answer for fans of the franchise?
Mad Max creator George Miller is officially on board for a Furiosa prequel to the 2015 mega-hit Fury Road, but what are the big questions that this movie needs to answer for fans of the franchise? Beginning way back in 1979 with the critically-acclaimed revenge thriller Mad Max, Happy Feet director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic series has moved through various styles, tones, and themes throughout its four installments.
Despite their differences, each of the Mad Max movies has provided a combination of social commentary and propulsive action set pieces that fans find irresistible (maybe not the campier third outing Beyond Thunderdome, but it's still beloved for its over-the-top elements). 2015’s latest installment, the long-awaited Fury Road, was no exception, with many critics calling it the best Mad Max movie yet. An intense but thoughtful chase movie, its secret weapon was breakout character Furiosa.
Played with a combination of steely verve and (well-hidden) human vulnerability by action star Charlize Theron, Furiosa was a rare disabled action hero whose missing limb didn’t define her character. As strong and intimidating a presence as the series’ title character, Furiosa won over critics thanks to strong characterization and some incredible stunts, a potent combination that provided the series with its most well-rounded and fully realized character since Max himself. But Fury Road was light on backstory, meaning the upcoming Furiosa prequel movie has a lot of questions to answer about the character, now set to be played by New Mutants standout star Anya Taylor-Joy.
Where Did Furiosa Come From?
Technically there is already a canon Furiosa prequel in the form of Fury Road’s divisive series of tie-in comics. Released in 2015, these featured an issue apiece outlining the pre-film backstories of War Boy Nux and Immortan Joe, the eponymous Max himself, and Furiosa, during their limited run. But Furiosa’s issue (heavily criticized for reasons that will become clear later) opened shortly before the action of the film, with her already in the rank of Imperator and under the employ of Immortan Joe. As such, there is thus far no film or comic explanation for where the character came from or how she survived in the wasteland before arriving in the Citadel.
It’s hard to tell how long the Citadel has been in existence and what age Furiosa is by the events of Fury Road, which means there’s no way of knowing whether she was born into Immortan Joe’s creepy cult city or arrived there during her younger years to rise through the ranks pre-the film's action. But luckily this blank slate means that the prequel film will have ample opportunity to fill in these unclear details by bringing viewers back to the character’s earlier years and hopefully giving audiences an idea of how she became the unsparing antiheroine of both the comics and Fury Road.
How Did Immortan Joe Come To Power?
Like a lot of the questions Furiosa’s prequel could delve into, the enigma of how misogynist madman/death cult leader Immortan Joe came to prominence does actually have an existing answer within the franchise lore. The prequel comics featured an issue devoted to the backstory of Immortan Joe, who was once a military veteran scavenging the wasteland with his former soldiers under his command. His raider gang eventually acquired the fortress seen in Fury Road via a brutal, bloody multi-day siege and have since set up their twisted pseudo-society, but it’s hard to say whether a Furiosa-focused prequel will delve into this lore as none of it involves the character herself. Much like the Furiosa issue of the comics doesn’t disclose her origins, the Immortan Joe issue ends before her arrival into the Citadel, meaning all this backstory may well be irrelevant to the film.
What Happened To Furiosa's Arm?
The question of what happened to Furiosa's arm may well also go unanswered by the prequel film, as Fury Road made a point of never addressing how Furiosa lost her arm and both Miller and Theron were adamant that the character not be defined by her disability. Some canny viewers noted that in the absence of a scar there’s a chance she was born without the limb, although Theron did say some years ago that “there’s a story there”, so there’s still some chance that the missing arm will play a part in the prequel film’s action. With the film retaining Miller as director viewers can be assured that the topic of disability will still be approached with tact and respect, but in any case, it’ll be intriguing to see whether the prequel opts to explain or ignore this character detail.
What Turned Furiosa Against Immortan Joe?
The prequel comics offer an answer to why Furiosa opted to betray Immortan Joe, but it’s one that the film will hopefully choose to change. Unlike Max's comic backstory, which is a relatively straightforward revenge plot, Furiosa's reason for turning on Joe is in poor taste and doesn't gel with the tone of the series (as it is presented in the comics, at least). In the comics, a graphic rape committed by Joe in the presence of Furiosa is the turning point that leads the character to betray her employer, but it’s a controversial scene that many fans felt was gratuitous and deeply unnecessary. Numerous reviewers noted that Immortan Joe’s misogyny was already obvious from the film, let alone the expanded coverage he receives in the comics, and the event could easily be alluded to rather than being portrayed in explicit detail as the comics opt for. Better yet, the prequel film could offer a new, original answer to why Furiosa turned on Joe, preferably something less predictable, less tastelessly handled, and more in keeping with the established tone of the Mad Max franchise.
How Did She Become The Imperator?
Of course, just because the prequel doesn’t need to dwell on the sexual violence of the comics, doesn’t mean it’ll be a walk in the park for Furiosa. Mad Max has always been a very violent franchise (again, except for maybe Beyond Thunderdome) and Furiosa's prequel film is unlikely to be an exception, given the fact that the character will need to rise to the rank of Imperator in the misogynistic environs of the Citadel. However, unlike the prequel comics it looks more likely that, as was the case in Fury Road, Furiosa will be the one dishing out beatings rather than vice versa. After all, the character’s ability to obtain such high rank is no small feat in a society which seems to be built on subjugating women, and Furiosa’s claim in Fury Road that she is trying to redeem herself by freeing Immortan Joe’s captives suggests that it took some seriously morally dubious—and likely very violent—means for her to get there. Only time will tell how she became the Imperator, but the odds are good that it won’t be a pretty process, thus making the already interesting character even more morally ambiguous and complex.