US Release Date: 07-10-1985
Directed by: George Ogilvie and George Miller
- Mel Gibson, as
- Mad Max Rockatansky
- Tina Turner, as
- Aunty Entity
- Frank Thring, as
- The Collector
- Angelo Rossitto, as
- Paul Larsson, as
- Angry Anderson, as
- Bruce Spence, as
- Jedediah the Pilot
- Adam Cockburn, as
- Jedediah Jr.
- Robert Grubb, as
- Pig Killer
- Justine Clarke, as
- Anna Goanna
- Shane Tickner, as
- Toni Allaylis, as
- James Wingrove, as
- Tubba Tintye
- Adam Scougall, as
- Finn McCoo
- Tom Jennings as
Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the third and, so far, final installment in the Mad Max series. Where the first movie was made on the cheap with Australian money and featured a cast of unknowns, Beyond Thunderdome was produced by American Studio Warner Bros. and featured not only returning and now bona fide star Mel Gibson, but also American songstress Tina Turner, who co-starred and sang the opening and closing songs. This infusion of money and production by a major studio gives the film a slightly more polished look, but is inferior to the previous two films in every other way.
Although the timeline is again never made clear, general opinion, based on the novelization and interviews with the writers, have made it clear that the story begins some 13 years after The Road Warrior, which was set roughly 5 years after the original. Max is still wandering the wasteland on his own. After his belongings are stolen, he ends up in Bartertown, a city powered by pig shit where a battle for control is taking place between Master Blaster (a technologically savvy midget named Master carried on the shoulders of a strong, but dumb giant named Blaster) and Aunt Entity (Tina Turner in a chain mail dress slit as far up as a PG-13 rating will allow). Max gets caught up in their power struggle before finding himself in the desert where he meets up with the cast of Lord of the Flies in the more silly last half of the story.
In order, I assume, to appeal to a broader audience and to suck in the teen audience, the filmmaker's opted to make this installment rated PG-13 instead of the R rating of the first two movies. Because of this, the violence is toned way down and some campy, cartoonish humor is injected. This is particularly noticeable in the final, and only, car chase. When Aunty's main henchman drives in front of the train/truck hybrid that Max is driving, Max crashes into the back of the henchman's car, causing it to explode. Instead of dying however, he simply lands on the front of the train covered in soot. It's almost as if he's doing a Coyote impression from an old Road Runner cartoon. Later, when the same henchman dies, the camera focuses on his clenched fist. His arm tightens and flops before rising just long enough to flip its middle finger, before falling limp.
I wonder how much of the weakening of the film was caused by the death of producer Byron Kennedy, who died while location scouting for the film. He co-created the franchise with George Miller and reportedly Miller lost interest in making Thunderdome after the death of his friend, which is why George Ogilvie was brought on as director, where Miller had directed the first two. Miller gets a co-director credit because he staged the action sequences.
Although this is the worst of the three films, it does still have some entertaining moments. It starts strong and right up until the battle in the Thunderdome arena it's fairly entertaining. Once Max is tied to that horse and sent out into the desert however, it starts to lose its way. The kids are fairly annoying and from the story of their experiences seem to have been living out there for longer than the timeline would allow. The city of Bartertown also feels as though its been around longer than the thirteen years would account for.
Gibson does another fine job as Max, although the character feels a little flat this time, but more due to the writing than his performance. Turner wasn't actually as bad as I remember, but her mere presence does add a certain camp value to the proceedings. An odd bit of casting is the return of Bruce Spence, who also appeared in The Road Warrior. It's odd because he's playing a completely different character and no attempt is made to disguise his appearance.
The backstory for this installment includes stories of a nuclear holocaust, which contradicts both the previous two movies and interviews that George Miller had given before its release. Always before this movie the end of the world was described as a general decaying of society because of the scarcity of fuel. The prologue to Mad Max 2 describes it happening in exactly that manner and makes no mention of nuclear war. This doesn't really hurt the story, but is indicative of the general sloppiness in the way the movie was put together.
While the second Mad Max film felt like a natural extension of the first and actually surpassed it in quality, Beyond Thunderdome is worse in every way. It feels like a big studio trying to cash in on the success of a small franchise. If the promised fourth film ever does get made (with Tom Hardy signed on to take over the part of Max), I only hope it's a return to its R-rated roots rather than a reprise of the quality of this one.
Tina Turner and Angry Anderson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Scott, you call the second half of this movie sillier than the first half but really it's all a campy hoot. And gloriously lacking in Political Correctness. In 1980s jargon Master Blaster is a midget riding on the shoulders of an overgrown retard. The outfits the residents of Bartertown are decked out in look like rejects from an MTV hairband video circa 1985. The inclusion of Tina Turner, as well as Angry Anderson the real life lead vocalist for the Australian hard rock group Rose Tattoo, only adds to this impression.
Beyond Thunderdome is entertaining in a cheesy, spandex kind of way. There is no real tension or danger to speak of and the characters are all caricatures. In his review for Mad Max 2 Scott said this movie is where the franchise jumped the shark and I have to agree with him. This is one of those movies that if you loved it as a child and haven't seen it in years, you will probably be disappointed watching it now.
The ripped-off Lord of the Flies second half is actually the better half in my opinion because it at least introduces some sympathetic characters. I do agree that these kids seem to have been living out there for quite a long time even though the youngest children shown can't be older than 3 or 4. But this is a nitpicking detail in a silly over-the-top decrepit future movie featuring a kick-ass hero. Gibson is once again perfect as Max, a man of very few words but lots of action.
Tina Turner shows off those incredible legs and puts her vaguely-European faux accent to good use as the gleefully imperious Aunty Entity. Like many singer/movie stars before and after her she provides the theme song that's played over the end credits. “We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 1985. On a personal note that was the year I graduated from high school and this song was one of my favorites that summer.
The sight of those crazy dune buggies chasing that plane at the climax provides some stimulating visual excitement (see photo). Mel Gibson and Tina Turner provide some star power. The plot is silly and the costumes are ridiculously outrageous. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome may have been taken seriously by some in 1985 (although only by the very young) but today it is unquestionably a minor camp classic.
Tina Turner and Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
I agree with Patrick. This is an unintentional camp classic. There is little actual tension to be found. Whether Max is fighting in Thunderdome or trying to out run Aunty Entity and her minions, you never fear for Max's safety. As Scott wrote, the climactic chase scene is played more for laughs than excitement. My favorite joke is still when Max tells the man with the arrow in his leg that he will pull it out on three. He then starts to count "One.." and then yanks it out. The man who had the arrow in him asks pathetically, "What happened to two?"
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome has more humor than its predecessors but it does not all work. The middle finger in the car wreckage is juvenile. At one point, Gibson says to Turner, "I don't know anything about methane." and Turner responds, "You can shovel shit can't you?"
Turner's movie career never took off, and no doubt this role did not help. She has the film's most over-the-top lines such as, "Remember where you are - this is Thunderdome, and death is listening, and will take the first man that screams." and my favorite that Turner says to Max after he tells her he used to be a cop. " But how the world turns. One day, cock of the walk. Next, a feather duster."
Patrick wrote that this is one of those movies that you may be disappointed with if you have not watched it in a long time and I agree, I used to love this film, but now it is far too uneven. The original script was not even a Mad Max film. The screenplay was about some orphans living in the wild. Later, they decided to add the character of Max finding them and this story grew from that. Mad Max Rockatansky deserved better.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. (1985)