MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME - Content
MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME
From the July 10, 1985, Deseret News
MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME — Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence.
When last we saw "Mad" Max (Mel Gibson) he was recovering from all that wild-eyed mayhem in "The Road Warrior," battling an evil gang of gasoline thieves who were terrorizing a small band of survivors some years after a nuclear war.
As "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" begins, Max has a rather unhappy encounter with the gyro pilot (Bruce Spence) he became acquainted with in "Warrior," which leads him to Bartertown, a brawling, embattled community that resembles, in its own way, the city with the cantina in "Star Wars," or perhaps the Manhattan of "Escape from New York."
Max, with hair below his shoulders, checks into the place by showing off his best Indiana Jones gun technique when confronted by a sword-twirling freak, then unloads all his weaponry on a counter as if he is Harpo Marx taking inventory of his pocketed silverware.
Bartertown is run by villainous Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), and she strikes a deal with Max to battle her chief rival – "Master-Blaster" – in a gladiator arena dubbed "Thunderdome." "Two men enter, one man leaves," the crowd chants as "Blaster" battles Max to the death in one of the most hair-raising fights ever put on film.
. . . And all this happens in the first half-hour.
Eventually, Max finds himself exiled from Bartertown by Entity, tied to a horse and sent off into the desert. He is near death when he is rescued by a group of children who have been stranded in the wilderness during the apocalypse. The kids mistake Max for a pilot and expect him to take them back to the city.
But before long, they band together to confront Entity and her evil followers in yet another lengthy, wild, extremely harrowing climactic chase-battle, which resembles the one in "The Road Warrior," but has enough differences – and enough incredible stunt work – to stand well on its own.
"Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" somehow seems more like lively homage than brazen theft, despite being obviously influenced by other movies — Max at one point is a kind of Peter Pan, one character talks like Yoda, Dante's inferno is represented by an underground power station and there's even that line from "Buckaroo Banzai," "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are."
Producer, co-writer, co-director George Miller has a rich sense of style and uses his zooming, panning camera tricks to full effect here. Tina Turner, for example, doesn't so much turn in a performance as merely offer her presence. But Miller knows the camera loves her so she's not really required to act – all she has to do is pose and the camera embraces here, with the appropriate lighting to make her seem at once enticing and sinister.
Mel Gibson is perfect as the silent loner hero of this series, and after two films this year that did less than spectacular ("Mrs. Soffel," "The River"), the third "Mad Max" movie should again give him box office appeal.
"Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" has more humanity than did "The Road Warrior," and its characters are richer – though still not terribly rich. This one also has basks in its style and verve, and the ending is a bit more hopeful, if preachy, regarding the rebuilding of the world after a nuclear holocaust.
But what the "Mad Max" movies are really all about is violent action, and on a visceral level, "Thunderdome" delivers in a big way. The film also benefits from a bizarre sense of humor that keeps reminding us how silly it all is with satires of TV game shows and wrestling, a bar called "The Atomic Café," the latest energy source is pig dung and there's a string of great names – Ironbar, Pigkiller, Dr. Dealgood, Scrooloose, Slake and Finn McCoo.
The first third of the movie is a stunning rollercoaster ride all by itself, so much so that it seems impossible for the rest of the film to top it. Then the picture slows down for its middle third, developing the story and characters, and eventually works its way back up to an incredible climax. And doggone if it doesn't live up to its early scenes.
Rated PG-13, "Thunderdome" has some profanity, and a lot of mayhem and violence but is less bloody than "The Road Warrior," and has no sex or nudity this time out (though there are some revealing costumes).
On a scale of recent violent movies, I'd estimate the body count as being somewhere between "Rambo" and "Red Sonja."