Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) Movie Review

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Today we continue the Mad Max series as we finish off the original trilogy, ending it, at least for now, on Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, or Mad Max 3, whichever your want to call it.

Set 15 years after the events of Mad Max 2, Mel Gibson returns as Max, now with long greying hair, and clothes that scream Braveheart in Highlander.  He continues his long journey of survival in the post-apocalyptic Australia that wasn’t addressed in ‘1, but was definitely addressed in ‘2.  When his camel ride gets stolen by a pilot and his son, Max follows the trail to a place known as Bartertown.  In Bartertown he meets it’s ruler, known as Aunty Entity (played by Tina Turner).  She offers him a pile of stuff in exchange of a hit.  The hit?  Master-Blaster, a little person-big person combination that…nah, they wouldn’t rival Rocket Racoon and Groot.  Since Master is the brains, Aunty wants him alive, but his arrogance is making her life unpleasant.  However if Blaster was taken away from him, he wouldn’t stand a chance against anybody, and would have to behave himself.  Max ends up fighting Blaster in Thunderdome (their gladiator arena), and when he refuses to kill Blaster, Aunty banishes Max to the harsh desert (not just the wasteland, the proper desert).  In a Lion King fashion, Max eventually finds himself in an oasis near the desert.  A watering hole full of fruit and is occupied by the Lost Boys from Peter Pan (pretty much).  They have a religion where they worship the coming and rescue of Captain Walker, based on his plane and its contents.  I won’t go into too many details beyond this, you’ll have to see it for yourself.  But I will say it does have “thankfulness” as a theme.

Compared to ‘1 and ‘2, ‘3 is quite a different experience.  It plays on my belief that director George Miller is probably more interested in expanding and exploring this imaginary wasteland he has created, rather than expanding Max as a character.  Once again he creates a film that is more episodic in nature than necessarily a continuity of what we often envision as a movie trilogy.  He also uses Max like a tour bus of this wasteland.  Putting you in the bus, experiencing him go through a tough time with interesting highlights, and then somehow come out of it.

Now to break it down.  Once again, the acting was pretty good.  Even the child actors did a good job.  But at the same time, the presence of children in this fashion screams a lot of other things – such as the Ewoks from Star Wars Episode VI: The Return Of The Jedi, Short Round from Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom, and of course, who can forget Buster Blues from Blues Brothers 2000…anyone?…He’s the little kid who sort of replaced John Belushi along with John Goodman?  Anyone?  No?  Good!  Lets forget that part.  You might also notice the actor Bruce Spence making a return.  He was a pilot in ‘2, and he is a pilot here as well.  But he’s a completely different character…something quite Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy about that 1…or simply a bad decision that creates a ton of confusion.

The characters, once again, are colourful.  But their intrigue is probably at an all-time low.  It would be worth noting that there are definitely more celebrities in this 1 – including, of course, Tina Turner, Angry Anderson (frontman of Australian Rock Band Rose Tattoo), and the legendary Angelo Rossitto as Master, who appeared in the movie Freaks, as well as the album cover for Tom Waits’ 1983 album Swordfishtrombones.  Due to the presence of the kids, I could best describe this as “A family film disguised as a Mad Max movie”, which is a very different feel to the previous instalments.  It can also be noted that this film wasn’t intended to be a Mad Max movie, but rather a film that was a Post-Apocalyptic Lord Of The Flies.  When George Miller got ahold of the project, he added Max into the picture and the rest was history.

The music is also different, and in the process, some could argue that the film aged a lot more because of it.  Keeping in mind, this was made in the mid 1980s, and rather than having full-on classical orchestras, we’re given a fair bit of ’80s pop-inspired scores, including the use of saxophone and Tina Turner singing the movie’s theme song.  It wasn’t bad, in fact it was pretty good.  But it felt like the series was taking a bit of a detour through an alleyway instead of on the straight and narrow…or trying to be hip and cool with the times.

The cinematography in Mad Max 3 is once again done by Dean Semler (who did ‘2), it was great.  Moving on.

Out of all of the Mad Max movies, the action scenes in this film are by far the worst.  The extreme violence and risky filmmaking have been toned down to a few good highlights, and more deaths happening off-screen than ‘on.  However, I think I can provide a little bit of context to this…Does anybody remember Twilight Zone: The Movie?  Well, it was made in 1982/83, while Mad Max 2 was in 1981 and ‘3 in 1985.  Anybody aware of this movie will tell you about the on-set accident that killed 1 of the film’s stars, Vic Morrow, and 2 vietnamese children.  And because of that accident, I wouldn’t be surprised if they really toned the action down for safety reasons.  Why mention this film within the context of this review?  Because George Miller was 1 of the 4 directors who worked on Twilight Zone: The Movie.

Would I recommend Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?…Yes, but only once, as it is an experience, more so than an enjoyment.  It isn’t world class, and it isn’t trash either.  It’s by far the worst Mad Max film, but it isn’t exactly something starring Paris Hilton…Also, to go from “Biker Gangs run the highway” to “Petrol equals power” to “Pig Crap equals power”…yeah, it’s not quite as hardcore.

Acting: ***1/2

Characters: ***1/2

Story: **1/2

Music: ***3/4

Cinematography: ****3/4

Action scenes: ***

Overall Rating: ***1/2

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