Calling Charlize Theron the absolute best female action star of the era at this time feels a bit dicey, but saying that she’s the most prominent is by far and large accurate since she’s her boots on the ground and has been ready to go for a while as she’s taken to leading roles in a big way. But if you’re going to cite one source or another for creating a character like Imperator Furiosa, then Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies is by far and large one of the best to cite. To say there were no female action heroes back in Ripley’s time is kind of accurate since women in action movies weren’t always as tough and tended to rely heavily on the men quite often. Today though that idea has been flipped on its ear since Theron and several others have taken charge in a big way and have made it clear that they’re not damsels in distress (which is a relief since the trope is kind of annoying) but are able to get in there and scrap with the men and in some cases outdo them as they take on their own roles and carve their own path. For a while, there have been strong women coming up in the action genre, but at this time Theron has made a big case for being the most noticeable and definitely one of the toughest to ever take on the role. But seriously, I still think Ripley is just a bit tougher for what she had to go through.
To be quite honest it doesn’t feel as though Furiosa was given quite enough to do in Mad Max: Fury Road, but one has to remember that it wasn’t just her story, and it wasn’t only her that managed to bring people back. We wanted to see Tom Hardy as Max, and we wanted to see what he would do with the character and how he would play it. Despite the history that Mel Gibson now has, unfortunately, he did make this character in his own image and it was bound to take someone that would have the kind of acting ability that could make it work in a different way that people would accept. Furiosa was a pleasant bonus to this since the character wasn’t a wilting flower in any sense of the word, but a hardened piece of steel that was sharpened to a fine point and would slice anyone that threatened her or the women in her care to pieces if she needed to. It is a shame that with the Furiosa spinoff that’s to come that she won’t come back, but she did help to invent the character simply by playing her, so the next actress has a lot to live up to when she takes on the role.
When comparing Ellen Ripley and Furiosa though, it’s easy to state that Furiosa is stronger and more capable simply because she has to be due to the world in which she’s come up. There’s no time for weakness or self-pity and there’s no chance that she’d get it anyway since the world in which this story takes place is rather cruel and unforgiving and doesn’t often deal well with weakness. Furiosa has to be tough as nails if only because this is how she can rise from being seen as ‘just a woman’ to being seen as someone that no one should dare mess with. Lest that line be called out for sexism, men in this world have to be just as tough if not tougher since the women have to be hardened and the men are expected to be harder. They’re expected to be chiseled from stone and utterly heartless in a way that describes their surroundings and aren’t looked upon kindly if they’re not. Ripley, on the other hand, comes from a world where initially she’s just an employee and has no need to be hardened or even that tough. But where Furiosa knew what she was dealing with, Ripley had to learn the hard way that not only was one of her crew members under orders to bring something on board that would be dangerous to the lot of them but that it was elusive and dangerous enough to wipe out her entire crew, save for Ash, who ended up being dismantled. But by the time Ripley dies in the third movie, I’d definitely pit her against Furiosa for sheer toughness and will.
To hear Charlize Theron state that Ripley was her inspiration though is pretty cool since one would imagine that she’s already become fairly used to her spot in the action genre, which admittedly is well-deserved. How far she’ll go is hard to say, but with The Immortals currently entertaining the fans, it’s likely that she’ll stick around for a while.