Anya Taylor-Joy Is The Reason Mad Max Is Failing And It’s Not Her Fault

By Joshua Tyler | Updated

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action movies of all time. It’s driven by eye-popping stunt sequences, and it’s anchored by Charlize Theron, who has, over the course of her career, proven she can sell the idea of herself as a legitimate threat in a fight scene on screen.

For the prequel, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, writer/director George Miller cast Anya Taylor-Joy to play a younger version of  Charlize Theron’s Furiosa character from Fury Road, and in the process, may have killed the Mad Max franchise.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga underperformed at the box office and while the movie received overall very positive reviews and reactions, it’s not quite to the level of universal praise and love Mad Max: Fury Road earned.

Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Some of it is likely because Furiosa is a different kind of movie. It’s more character-driven than stunt-driven, and while it does contain some amazing Mad Max-style chases and explosions, the most exciting action scenes in the movie are old clips from the previous film shown after the credits.

There was probably no way to match Fury Road in the action chase scene realm, which is likely why George Miller focused his prequel more on the life of Furiosa overall than on one amazing, endless chase.

It works, mostly, but it would have worked a lot better and had a much easier time finding a big audience if Miller hadn’t cast Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa.

Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa
Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa

Anya is a good actress and she’s done excellent work. While she’s beautiful, she also has an extremely unique look, the kind of look George Miller may have thought would be a natural fit for his post-apocalyptic world of weirdos.

All of that is correct and true but it ignores the question of her physical stature. Anya Taylor-Joy is a very very very tiny woman. She’s too tiny to convincingly play any kind of action hero, let alone one that can easily beat up the actor best known for playing Thor in the Avengers movies.

Chris Hemsworth's massive muscles ripple in Furisoa: A Mad Max Saga
Chris Hemsworth’s massive muscles ripple in Furisoa: A Mad Max Saga

This is especially evident in the movie’s penultimate moment, which happens not in an action scene but in a one-on-one confrontation between Furiosa and her tormenter Dementus. Dementus is played brilliantly by the notably large Chris Hemsworth. In this scene, he’s on his knees in front of Furiosa and totally at her mercy. George Miller filmed this as a wide-angle shot from the side. 

Miller’s intention in this choice is likely to show how small Furiosa is in comparison to Dementus, perhaps as a symbol of the massive disadvantages she had to overcome to reach this point.

Dementus kneels before Furiosa
Dementus kneels before Furiosa

Except the scene looks laughable. Hemsworth appears as if he’s kneeling in front of a small child. Though, as an audience, we know that we are supposed to believe Furiosa has won and the game is over, it doesn’t look like it. Hemsworth is on his knees and Taylor-Joy is standing straight and tall at her full height. Yet even on his knees, Hemsworth feels far bigger and far more dangerous than his foe.

It’s not that Anya Taylor-Joy is exactly short. She’s listed at 5’8″ tall. That’s shorter only a little than Charlize Theron at 5’10”. Yet I have no doubt that Charlize’s physicality would have totally and utterly sold this scene.

Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa

Charlize isn’t just taller; she’s obviously stronger and heavier. Anya Taylor-Joy’s arms are the size of Chris Hemsworth’s shoelaces. Standing there in front of him, it looks as if all he has to do to defeat her is open his mouth and swallow her whole.

It’s like watching a chihuahua stand up to a pit bull. The chihuahua is fierce, physically fit and you might admire its bravery, but once the fur starts flying at no point does it look like it will win a fight. If you watched a video in which a chihuahua did win such a confrontation, no matter how convincing the editing or CGI might be, you’d never, not even for a second, believe it was real.

Charlize Theron as Furiosa

And you never, not even for a second, believe that Anya Taylor-Joy can pull off any of the things she’s doing in Furiosa. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still cool; they are, and the movie is a lot of fun. But believable? Not really.

It’s so obvious from the posters that you don’t have to see the movie. It was obvious to everyone they marketed Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga to as well. People who’d already seen Charlize Theron in the previous Mad Max movie knew how convincing and intimidating Furiosa could be. Those same people took one look at Taylor-Joy on prequel’s poster and said, “Well, that looks ridiculous.” They then deprioritized buying a ticket to see George Miller’s movie.

None of this is Anya Taylor-Joy’s fault. She’s given little dialogue in the movie and so it’s sold almost entirely on her physical performance. She does an admirable job in the film’s quieter moments, saying everything that needs to be said with her eyes. But she doesn’t have the physical size needed to convey what she needs to, no matter how hard she might try.

Maybe if she’d gone the Natalie Portman in Thor Love And Thunder route, becoming a virtual full-time professional bodybuilder before starting filming, maybe then it could have worked. But then she wouldn’t have looked like Anya Taylor-Joy anymore, the Anya Taylor-Joy who is a very good actress with a very specific look. She is a proven performer who was hired in part for that look, even though her look does not at all work with what Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is doing.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review
Chris Hemsworth as Demenuts in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

That’s George Miller’s fault for casting her, not hers, for taking the job. Anya probably assumed Miller knew what he was doing. 

He didn’t and so Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is underperforming at the box office. The brief resurgence of the excellent Mad Max franchise may end here.  It’s been a fun ride; I’m fine with it.

Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga review

Cue the flamethrower guitar.