Nine years after the fact, it’s still astonishing to think a legacy sequel to Ozsploitation favorite Mad Max is one of the best movies ever made. Not only that, but it garnered so many Oscar nominations, and won several. But here we are, in a better cinematic world because George Miller finally got to make Mad Max: Fury Road. That movie is a miracle. With all of those plaudits, how could a follow-up ever dream to match it? In the case of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, it doesn’t. How could it? What it does do is give us a compelling, exciting adventure in a world I love being in.

Anya Taylor-Joy's Furiosa looks over her shoulder
Warner Bros.

Infamously, Miller and co-writer Nico Lathouris (credited here as “Dramaturg” as well) had so much of Fury Road planned out ahead of time, that the meat of this movie was written before they’d shot that movie. All of what happened to Imperator Furiosa in her life leading up to that fateful moment in the War Rig existed in writing. Because of that, Furiosa is more narrative focused than Fury Road, taking place over many years rather than a couple of days. It feels much more like a regular-ass movie, which, again, is not a bad thing.

The story follows Furiosa as a child (played by Alyla Browne) as fate takes her away from the idyllic Green Place of Many Mothers and puts her in the clutches of the insane biker warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Dementus—who is brutal yet charismatic leader with an enormous horde of followers—while looking for the “place of abundance” runs afoul of Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme). The two make an uneasy alliance of mutually assured destruction while the supremely capable and patient Furiosa (played by Anya Taylor-Joy in older years) gains skills and lets her anger guide her.

Warner Bros.

Along the way, Furiosa meets Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), a capable wastelander who works for Immortan Joe as a driver. It’s through this character that Furiosa sees more than her own survival, her own escape. Naturally, as we know what comes later, we know it’s not likely to last. This is an unfair place for decent people.

To say the least, this is an atypical Mad Max movie. Rather than a single adventure, it tracks a life. Instead of standing alone, it fleshes out the circumstances of the previous film. And Max isn’t even the central character. So because of that, it’s possible some people won’t vibe with Furiosa. However, the action, the bombast, and the filmmaking prowess are all still on display in full force. Miller knows this world inside and out and it’s a joy to spend time in it.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Additionally, Miller offers us various action scenes in parts of the Wasteland ecosystem we haven’t really seen before. Gastown and the Bullet Farm are real locations in Furiosa, not simply far-off ideas. Weirdly, we get a sense for how the economy of these three places work in tandem. If you ever wondered why the War Rig is so important and how the People Eater got his groove back, this is the movie for you.

The centerpiece of the movie is a 15-minute action extravaganza that reportedly took 78 days to film in which Furiosa and Jack, in the newly minted War Rig, have to fight off a horde of raiders attacking from both land and air. The sheer ability of Miller and company to give the rig its own geography is astounding. We always know where Furiosa is on the machine, and where the weapons are at her disposal. It’s exhilarating to watch.

While we watch the adventure through Anya Taylor-Joy’s seething eyes, she has, effectively, the Max Rockatansky role. And by that I mean, she doesn’t say a whole lot. ( Only 30 lines, apparently.) The actor who probably has the most lines is Hemsworth, who is absolutely killing it as Dementus. He plays the biker boss as a kind of violent wasteland messiah, attempting to recruit others to his cause. His performance is phenomenal. A just world would give him a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but I can’t claim that’s where we live.

Warner Bros.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga probably won’t revolutionize the film industry the way Mad Max: Fury Road did, but it’s a damned exciting action film with a great mix of familiar and new additions to the franchise. It even has some references to the 2015 video game Mad Max which I absolutely did not expect. I hope George Miller gets to make his proposed sequel to Fury Road, because after Furiosa, he’s proving what a wonder this unlikely franchise is.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. He hosts the weekly pop culture deep-dive podcast Laser Focus. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.