Directed By: George Miller, George Ogilvie
Starring: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence
Tag line: "Two men enter. One man leaves"
Trivia: The sandstorm at the end of the film was real, and a camera plane actually did fly into it for some shots"
The third entry in the Mad Max series (after Mad Max and The Road Warrior), 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome feels like two movies in one: the first good, and the second… well, not “bad”, really. Just… strange!
When his camel-train is hijacked by a pilot named Jebediah (Bruce Spence, the Gyro Captain in The Road Warrior) and his son (Jebediah Jr., played by Adam Cockburn), Max (Mel Gibson) wanders through the desert, eventually arriving at the settlement of Bartertown, a community that specializes in commerce. While there, Max is approached by Auntie Entity (Tina Turner), the self-appointed ruler of Bartertown, who wants the new arrival to help her eliminate The “Master-Blaster”, a highly intelligent little person (“Master”, played by Angelo Rossitto) and his hulking brute of a servant (“Blaster”, portrayed by Paul Larsson), both of whom have become far too cocky for their own good. But when Max has a change of heart, Auntie Entity banishes him to the desert, where, after roaming around for days, he’s miraculously rescued by a group of children, the last survivors of a plane crash that occurred years earlier. Despite the fact they live in a beautiful oasis, the kids, believing Max is the “savior” they’ve been waiting for, want him to lead them to the fabled “Tomorrow-Morrow Land”, aka civilization. Seeing as he’s the only one who knows what the world outside is like, Max refuses to do so. Unfortunately, some of the kids won’t take “no” for an answer.
The opening scene of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, where Max’s caravan is stolen, gets the movie off to a good start. I also enjoyed the early sequences set in Bartertown, a place filled with the kind of crooks and lowlifes you’d expect to find in a dystopian society. Tina Turner is effective as Aunty Entity, but the most interesting character at this point in the film is Master, a little person who happens to be an engineering genius. Arrogant at first because he’s the only one who knows how to keep the town’s power flowing (he designed a system by which pig shit is converted into electricity), Master is eventually put in his place, making him a much more sympathetic character. Throw in a kick-ass fight between Max and Master’s friend Blaster, which occurs in a caged arena known as the “Thunderdome”, and you have a first half brimming with promise.
That promise soon fades, however, when Max finds himself surrounded by dozens of kids, all living on their own. Ignoring for a moment the obvious questions (what happened to all the adults?), this entire sequence comes across as far too “cutesy” (along with asking Max to lead them to “Tomorrow-morrow land”, the children refer to their own oral history as the “Tell”). Later on, when the obligatory showdown between Max (who, while tracking some kids looking for “Tomorrow-Morrow land” on their own, ends up back at Bartertown) and Aunty Entity occurs, the children remain neatly in the background, rarely offering Max and his pals any type of assistance. So, aside from being goofy, the kids are also fairly useless, making their very existence in a film of this nature all the more inexplicable.
Even with the little urchins, this movie is worth checking out, but when compared to the series’ first two films, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome finishes a distant third.