‘Furiosa,’ ‘Planet of the Apes’ Make Mankind’s Collapse Exhilarating

Dystopian sagas bring life to summer movies, echo 'Terminator's' cautionary tales

George Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and Wes Ball’s “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” are strikingly similar, not only in their ability to entertain but in their narrative structure (revenge is the name of the game) and themes.

Here are two epic follow-ups, a prequel, and a sequel, that honor the legacy of what came before them, tell grand, unhurried odysseys (yes, the word “saga” is just right) and suggest we relish every breath and moment, as the downfall of mankind is right around the corner.

In a summer devoid of a “Terminator” sequel, these two will do. Can summer movies be state-of-the-art thrill rides and dread-inducing nightmare visions of what the day after might look like?

You betcha.


Both films are about the difficulty and necessity of escaping from a cult of personality and even share a pivotal moment, where an elderly figure assures a hostage that they must submit to being prisoners and give in to the hospitality of their captors. No thank you.

“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” is a (no joke) five-chapter odyssey in which writer, director and yes, ”mastermind” George Miller depicts the backstory of Furiosa (previously embodied by Charlize Theron, now played by Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy) and how her story connects to the lore and grime of the “Mad Max” stories.

Browne portrays Furiosa’s tortured childhood, in which she is taken as a prisoner and witness to the horrific crimes of leader and flamboyant lunatic, Dr. Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Taylor-Joy appears much later in the film, where we see how Furiosa learns survival simply by being a smart, quick study and hard worker, as well as a warrior with a ravenous appetite for revenge.

After a highly lauded premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, “Furiosa” has been hit with middling box office and some mixed notices stateside. Some complain about the length, that it lacks the wall-to-wall-to-wall action of “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) and that it neglects to develop the dozens of colorful side characters who populate each scene.


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Each “Mad Max” movie has a shared concept (a warrior must fend for themselves across a dangerous wasteland) but the films are different in tone and scale. “Furiosa” doesn’t match the unceasing propulsion of “Fury Road” but is playing the long game approach in its storytelling, similar to the first “Mad Max” (1979) and the mad as a hatter “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” (1985).

It is mythic in its five-part telling, with a mid-movie action sequence involving an airborne assault on a truck that is, unquestionably, one of the greatest action sequences I’ve ever witnessed.

Taylor-Joy and especially Browne are phenomenal here, but the jaw dropper is Hemsworth, whose intelligent work as an unhinged guru is my favorite performance he’s given thus far. Every major action and chase scene is character driven.

So is the grand finale, in which a character is asked of a potential act of violence, “Are you going to make it epic?” Yes, indeed she does.

For a movie this savagely violent, “Furiosa” is often hilarious, never more so than when the villains are all in the same room, matching one another in how vile and dopey they are collectively. “Fury Road” and “The Road Warrior” (1981) will likely share the crown as the classics in this series, but “Furiosa” is my favorite.

The best parts left in a state of action movie ecstasy.

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” portrays life post-Caesar, as the next generation of Apes is still at war with itself and now using and even weaponizing Caesar’s legacy. We meet Noa (Owen Teague), an ape who is separated from his tribe after a tragedy and is driven to seek revenge on a warlord ape who goes by Proximus Caesar (a wonderful Kevin Durand).

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes | Official Trailer

There are so many surprises that a thorough plot description would give too much away. I’ll say right away that this thundering, majestic new chapter is surprisingly complex and my favorite of the new “Planet of the Apes” films. Despite the years of production and hundreds of millions spent, neither of James Cameron’s “Avatar” films has engaged me like the prior “Apes” trilogy and now this new installment.

I missed Caesar but Noa is a tender, sympathetic new lead, though Peter Macon’s Raka nearly steals the film. There are two loathsome villains as well and the plot unspools like a sprawling western, as the pace is unhurried, and the story takes its time to develop.

It’s a long film but uses the running time to tell the story the right way.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes I "What a Wonderful Day" Official Clip

The visual effects are among the best I’ve ever seen, as the close-ups and CG motion capture interpretations of the human actors are incredible. While the action sequences are knockouts, none of it would mean anything without the emphasis on characters we’re emotionally invested in.

The final scenes are moving but also quite complex, as the film avoids concluding on a pat, feel-good note and addresses some questions about accountability and behavior. While the visual effects and John Paesano’s score are both Oscar worthy, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” overall is a massive achievement.

Is the end of the world and explorations of rotten human behavior too much for summer movie escapism? Nah.

Anyone who grew up with the bliss of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991) and has been fortunate enough to get on the rides of and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011) and “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) knows that sometimes the darkest journeys are the most rewarding.

Both Films: Four Stars (out of four)


  1. I don’t watch movies with feminism in them.

    I don’t care if a woman suffered. I don’t care if she gets revenge.

    I don’t care if she tries to lead. I don’t believe women can lead, with exceedingly few exceptions.

    I don’t believe women fan fight, either, again with exceedingly few exceptions.

    Feminism and Hollywood have fed women a diet of lies for the past 40 years. They think they can lead men.

    Only men can lead men. And men are leading men away from official channels, corporate culture, and especially corporate news and entertainment.

    We aren’t listening anymore, ladies. You’re not going to chain us, or corral us. And you’re certainly not going to get my money.

    1. Great question…and a fair one these days too. No one went to see these films because no one wants to see these little girls in these types of movies. The review above is silly and patronizing. They tricked many with the Mad Max Fury Road film into thinking it might actually feature Mad Max. He was basically a damsel in distress. Stupid. And Apes has been done to death. Let it die.

  2. Apocalyptic cinema is nothing new. They’re usually pretty entertaining, as long as they’re not telling me that CLIMATE CHANGE IS RESPONSIBLE!!!!!! I watched a movie a while back called Last Sentinel, and boy do they beat you over the head with that message every 10 minutes or so.
    Both of these flicks will end up in my blu-ray collection.

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