Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
George Miller and George Ogilvie
- Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky
- Tina Turner as Aunty Entity
- Bruce Spence as Jedediah
- Angelo Rossitto as Master
- Helen Buday as Savannah Nix
- Robert Grubb as Pig Killer
The final part of the original trilogy, before the excellent Fury Road exploded onto cinema screens, Beyond Thunderdome always seems to be the film in the Mad Max canon that gets a mixed reception. While it doesn’t have the ferocity of The Road Warrior or the grim ambiance of Mad Max, it has an outlandish, outrageous and thrilling adventure that is a fun ride throughout. Seriously, Beyond Thunderdome is not as bad as I heard people say it was, people really need to go back and watch this entry in the series to reevaluate their opinion of it.
It is fifteen years since we last saw lone drifter Max. We pick up with him in the Australian desert of the post apocalypse, making his way to nowhere. His ride of camels is hijacked by Jedediah and his young son, a pair of aviator bandits who commandeer his belongings. Max continues to push on until he comes upon Bartertown. The place is a sleazy pace in which anything, including one’s life can be traded if the price is right. The town’s energy comes from the rearing of pigs and their feces which in turn makes methane. Max is brought to the attention of the town’s ruler, the flamboyant Aunty Entity. While this Amazonian runs the place, she does have an uneasy truce with Master Blaster, an amalgam of a clever dwarf connected to a mountain of brute strength. In exchange for Max’s fighting ability and a duel with Blaster in the arena known as Thunderdome so that she can tighten her hold on the town, Aunty will give Max the supplies his needs to be on his way. Agreeing to this, Max takes on Blaster in the weapon covered arena but stops from killing his opponent when he has a change of heart upon seeing who he really is. Enraged, Aunty banishes Max for betraying her and sends him deep into the deserts. After almost dying from exhaustion and dehydration, he is rescued by a tribe of children who bring him to their camp. The tribe, who crash landed on a plane years before, believes that Max is the captain of the plane brought back so that he can lead them to hope. Although he tries to deny this fact and originally has no intention of helping them out, Max soon sees that he must and leads them through the deserts. The only hitch in the plan is that they must cross through Bartertown along the way, where there is sure to be a battle on Max’s hands.
While others may say that Beyond Thunderdome is the most commercial of the three, it doesn’t stop it being enjoyable. George Miller and co-director George Ogilvie do a sterling job of bringing another dimension to the series. Yes there is still the darkness lurking around in the apocalyptic settings, but there is also humour and crazy ideas at play which make it fresh. Miller still brings plenty of action to this film, including a cart chase which ranks as spectacular in my book and the unforgettable duel inside Thunderdome, where Max must utilise his strength while being suspended on wires. Yet the focus here is adventure of mythical properties with Max becoming the unlikely saviour of the tribe and being considered the deity that will bring them hope in this time of danger. Stunning visuals and spectacular set pieces are the order of the day here and they don’t disappoint at all; the biggest highlight being Thunderdome itself which is just a master work of glorious set design. The unusual but highly effective music score works wonders to highlight this idiosyncratic world that Max has found himself in and the sense of danger that always follows him wherever he goes. And not forgetting the two songs provided by Tina Turner, the best being the classic ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’.
Essaying the role of Max once again, Mel Gibson has clearly grown into the part effectively. Max here is gruff, impatient yet deep down damaged from the pain of the past which seems to drive him in to violence. He may have more dialogue this time around, but Gibson still retains that emotional reticence that made the character of Max so iconic in the first place. Music superstar Tina Turner makes an impression, slinking across the screen like a cunning vixen in chain mail as Aunty Entity. She clearly relishes the flamboyant part and contributes a diva like aura of delicious ruthlessness and fabulous sexuality. Bruce Spence returns to the Mad Max fold only this time as another character, though he is still as deliriously crazy as he was in his other role. Angelo Rossitto is funny as Master, the diminutive leader of Bartertown caught in a power struggle with Aunty. Helen Buday is fearless and strong as Savannah, one of the older members of the tribe that Max comes to the aid of. And then we have Robert Grubb, who is suitably crazed as Pig Killer.
Outlandish and highly enjoyable, Beyond Thunderdome is an underrated third entry to the Mad Max series.