What Really Happened to Dementus?


Summary

  • Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
    lives up to the hype, delivering a visually stunning origin story that enriches the
    Mad Max
    universe.
  • Anya Taylor-Joy shines as Furiosa, with Chris Hemsworth’s surprising portrayal of the antagonist adding depth to the storyline.
  • The deeper themes of humanity, revenge, and hope make Furiosa a perfect companion piece to
    Fury Road
    , offering a cohesive and powerful narrative.



Spoiler Alert: Spoilers follow for Furiosa: A Mad Max SagaAfter years of anticipation, the wait is finally over. Hot off of making one of the greatest action films ever, George Miller is returning once again to Mad Max to further explore Fury Road’s breakout character, Furiosa, and her past. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga hits theaters this weekend, with Anya Taylor-Joy taking the titular role from Charlize Theron and making it her own. Happily, we can report that Miller has done it again – Furiosa is a spectacular visual achievement that handily avoids the prequel curse and actually enriches Fury Road.

Having seen Furiosa’s journey in that 2015 masterpiece, most people already have a good idea of where her origin story takes her. But there are thankfully some surprises along the way, especially involving the new antagonist, Dementus, with Chris Hemsworth playing spectacularly against type and having a ball. Even though the destination is easy to guess for the most part, Furiosa proves that it’s the journey that matters most. As such, we’re breaking down the ending of Miller’s latest and analyzing the deeper meaning behind it.



How Does Furiosa Become the Beloved Imperator?

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Having been abducted from the Green Place of Many Mothers as a child, a young Furiosa spends most of the first half hour as a captive for the warlord Dementus before he trades her to Immortan Joe as part of a political bargain. To avoid his son’s sexual advances, Furiosa spends years disguising herself as a boy until the day she’s enlisted for a War Rig supply run.


Raiders attack the rig, and Furiosa helps the driver, Praetorian Jack, fend them off, quickly striking up a friendship with him. They make a plan to escape to the Green Place, but during a stop at the Bullet Farm, Dementus and his goons arrive and take over the outpost. As they try to escape, they’re captured, and Dementus tortures Jack to death and chains up Furiosa’s broken arm. Before he can kill her, she cuts off her limb and escapes to the Citadel, warning Immortan Joe and his War Boys that Dementus finally has the means to take the stronghold.

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The two clans engage in a 40-day war, during which Furiosa, now fitted with her iconic mechanical arm, pursues Dementus and his men into the desert. She almost immediately proves as vicious as we first saw her in Fury Road, as she pursues Dementus through a sandstorm before finally isolating him. Dementus taunts her that they’re not so different, as they both lost loved ones and are on a seemingly futile journey to avenge that loss.


Nonetheless, Furiosa defeats Dementus, but the narrator explains that denizens across the Wasteland have differing accounts of how she did so. But we see the truth – she brings Dementus back to the Citadel and plants the seed her mother gave her in his chest. Years later, we see an elderly Dementus, somehow still clinging to life, with a tree growing from his chest. Furiosa picks a fruit from the tree before preparing a War Rig for departure the next morning, holding Immortan Joe’s five wives and leading directly into the events of Fury Road.

The Deeper Meaning Behind Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga


As with other installments in the Mad Max franchise, the events unfolding on screen aren’t necessarily meant to be taken at face value. Since they often have a narrator recounting Max’s adventures, they can arguably be looked at as campfire stories, with the unfolding events gravitating away from realism and more towards the mythic. The same holds true for Furiosa, even though Max only has a minor cameo, as the History Man’s voiceover bookends the film. In particular, the way he details Dementus’s fate and how legends offer differing accounts of what actually happened explicitly spells out that the truth can be taken as figurative or literal.

But in examining what Furiosa specifically explores thematically, well, it shares a lot of ground with Fury Road. Both films are primarily about the ways one struggles to hang onto one’s humanity in a world that’s descended into chaos and the fact that figures like Immortan Joe and Dementus come into power because insanity is the only way they can cope. As Max himself said in Fury Road, “If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane.” And it’s not an accident that Furiosa draws explicit parallels between its title character and Dementus; both of them lost loved ones and sought to avenge them, fueled by violence and hatred along the way.


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This means that Furiosa’s climactic confrontation with Dementus is a genuine crossroads for her and that she can either go further down the path of the Wasteland’s cruelty or rise above it. Dementus even encourages her to give in to her base instincts, asking, “Do you have it in you to make it epic?” And she does, but more importantly, it illustrates how she wants to move forward in a land almost devoid of hope. She knows there’s blood on her hands and that she’s sacrificed much of her humanity in seeking revenge; when we first met her in Fury Road, she was outright seeking redemption.


So even if the final moments we see of a now elderly Dementus, who has an almost fully-grown tree sprouting from his stomach with his body as fertilizer, is indeed meant to be taken literally, it works best on a symbolic level. Furiosa picks a newly ripe fruit from the tree, and as she narrates, it represents the hope for “uncorrupted life” to blossom from the ashes that people like Dementus and Immortan Joe have wrought on the world. Even if there’s blood on her hands, the most she can do is plant the seeds for better things to come and for one of the 2010s’ best films.

Furiosa Is a Perfect Companion Piece to Fury Road


The fact that Furiosa ends seemingly the evening before Fury Road begins illustrates how perfect of a piece the two installments are. Where Fury Road functions best as a sort of rock opera as an action film, Furiosa feels wisely restrained and contemplative. Yet, put together, they form a beautifully cohesive whole, illustrating how a world that seems beyond hope is still worth fighting for.

It would be a fool’s errand for any filmmaker to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was Fury Road, but in returning to that same universe, Miller has come as close as anyone could. More importantly, he’s made a film that stands on its own beautifully and actively enhances his masterpiece. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is playing in theaters now.



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