Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Release Date: July 10th, 1985 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: George Miller, George Ogilvie Actors: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Tina Turner, Frank Thring, Angry Anderson, Robert Grubb, George Spartels, Helen Buday, Justine Clarke
he autogyro pilot returns, now given the name Jedediah (Bruce Spence), manning a more advanced airplane, and partnered with a copilot child (Adam Cockburn). “Mad” Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), now sporting long hair, is on foot, trekking through the hot sun to the large jerry-built community called Bartertown, where he seeks information on Jedediah – who stole his camel-drawn wagon of belongings. Once in the ramshackle district, Max is brought to the leader, Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), who tests his skills as a warrior against a fleet of tattooed thugs.
Proving his talent for survival, Max is secretly hired by Aunty to strike up a duel with the hulking Blaster (Paul Larsson), a monstrous bodyguard (and mode of transportation) for the dwarfish Master (Angelo Rossitto), who runs “Underworld,” a subterraneous facility where energy through methane is generated to power Bartertown. Entity hopes to regain control of her realm by putting “Master Blaster” back in his place, as he routinely orchestrates power embargoes to force her to admit to his supremacy over the town’s loudspeakers. The barbaric society uses Thunderdome, a gladiatorial caged arena to settle disputes, and it is here that Aunty hopes Max can kill Blaster – legally and with no rules for warfare (which turns out to be the best scene in the film).
Thrusting Tina Turner into the established wasteland world of Mad Max is quite the stretch, even if she’s bedecked in chainmail, wild hair, and outlandish costuming to match the series. The visual look is still paradigmatic of postapocalyptic thrillers, utilizing primitive weaponry, bondage-like leathery ensembles, rusty armor, and general squalor. Familiarly, overgrown henchman Blaster wears a helmet to conceal his face, exactly like The Humungus from the previous film. But much of the appeal still resides in the outlandish makeup, apparel, and armaments of the rugged, persevering troopers, highlighted by chase sequences with shielded yet haphazardly culled vehicles.
The ideas have gotten sillier, however, developing not only Thunderdome (somewhat derivative of “Escape from New York”), but also a “Wheel of Fortune”-type game of chance, torture by pig molestation, and the throng of yelling children and adolescents living in an undeveloped treetop society (visually borrowing from the Ewok village of “Return of the Jedi” and elements of Tarzan and Peter Pan). The biblical arrival of Max (accompanied by the deliverance and salvation of his pint-sized army, following a million-to-one rescue in the smoldering dunes, a la “Lawrence of Arabia”) isn’t exactly awe-inspiring, either. The annoyingly indestructible, unhinged villain returns as well (played by Angry Anderson), brandishing a peculiar mannequin head from a stick strapped to his back.
Whereas the bleakness of “Mad Max 2” aided its serious and violent action, this third chapter has gained a lighter sense of playful adventure (with mirthful music, too), noticeably resembling “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” The tone is downright jovial at times. This is additionally evident from the less severe MPAA rating (for the first time in the series, PG-13), though unexpectedly, the suspense is still effective and the climactic railroad chase at the conclusion handsomely echoes the other outrageous stunts of the trilogy.
– Mike Massie