Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Reviews
It does seem that Miller took a leaf out of the Lucas book of ideas for this film. A much more toned down Mad Max film with very little blood and road vehicle based death and carnage, but an abundance of children in a kind of tribal Lord of the Flies meets 'The Lost Boys' in a 'Peter Pan-esque' type of way. Not too dissimilar to the way 'Return of the Jedi' went all cute and cuddly towards the end with a large tribe of teddy bears.
Although the change of pace was risky and in my view...not the best decision ever, you gotta give kudos to the writers for being brave enough to go in another direction. The film doesn't really offer much action and adventure at any point to be brutally honest, my opinion. The first half set in 'Bartertown' is a complete bust really as all we get is a seedy dirty dusty desert town inhabited by lots of marauder types and weirdo's yet nothing really happens!
The bad guys aren't really bad at all, just a bit naughty I guess, the plot isn't really of any interest and goes nowhere and the only action is a rather limp fight between Max and a huge helmet wearing foot soldier/bodyguard called 'Blaster'. We also find out the leader of this wasteland dump is errrm...Tina Turner, terrific.
Of course we all knew this before the film came out but it was definitely a sign of the franchise hitting the rocks. After this average kick off things progress towards the desert where Max finds this tribe of kids and where the franchise U-turns harshly, think of an early version of 'Hook' and you might get an idea of what I'm talking about. Its not as cringeworthy and terrible as that Spielberg film but lets be honest its pretty crappy frankly. From here on Max babysits these kids until the plot leads them back to Bartertown for...hmmm not much really, plot is absent without leave.
The sets costumes and makeup for the kids and their homes are nicely done, doesn't look tacky or too childish, luckily it all still fits OK within the Mad Max universe. Of course we do still get some lovely location visuals with some beautifully stunning vast orange and tan coloured Aussie outback shots. These landscapes really are the core of this franchise and give it such depth and scope, it just looks awesome basically.
After observing nothing much in the form of excitement we do eventually get a reasonably solid yet watered down vehicle chase sequence at the end. Its not as intense as you would expect and barely serves up enough thrills to raise a smile, the violence level is at a complete zero here folks, bloodless. I'm not saying that automatically means the movie will be poor but come on...its Mad Max, lets see some claret spillage.
As I said it was brave to go into new territory with Max but maybe this particular idea wasn't the best way. There isn't really anything very memorable anywhere in the film, the title sounds daft and although the Tina Turner theme song is a good tune its all very Bond-like and too glossy. You half expect Turner to start bellowing out her power ballad midway through the film to a montage of Gibson's tanned buttocks...well maybe.
It's been years since the events of The Road Warrior, and the world has finally and fully become a wasteland thanks to nuclear fallout. Max finds himself stranded in the middle of this barren field of nothingness, but things begin to look up when he stumbles into the shady Bartertown run by Aunty Entity- a ruthless overlord played with campy villainy by Tina Turner.
Thanks to the fact that he isn't completely morally bankrupt yet, Max gets banished from Bartertown but soin finds himself in a paradise that has escapred the nuclear nightmare. Whiel here, he becoems a savior of sorts to a pack of feral kids, and ultimately takes them under his wing to settle the score with Aunty Entity.
All in all, this is a fun and action packed filmed that is pretty enjoyable, has some great sets, and some decent action. It is more slick than the first two, but not quite as gritty, and also seems a bit too campy and cheesy. It's well done though, and it does get a mild pass from me, even thoguh the action and chases aren't as brilliant as they were in the previous films.
Considering that the first two films in this trilogy are prime examples of some of the best action films ever made, Beyond Thunderdome is a bit of a letdown. Though the cast gives great performances here and Tina Turner is better than Mel Gibson actually this time around, this film lacks something that makes a Mad Max film so special. This third entry in the trilogy is average to say the least and the lack great ideas for this film is apparent. However this is a good film, but definitely not as terrfic and awesome as the first two. Beyond Thunderdome is a film that does have impressive visuals and good action, but it lacks the wicked car chases of the firs two.
The simplicity was what let the first two films be so damn good, especially the second act. They were basic. A lone guy out on his own trying to maintain himself, yet he allows a certain moral code to prevail. With Thunderdome we get that political undertone which always kills a movie that isn't set in Washington (Phantom Menace anyone?) The idea that these kids are sitting around waiting for their great savior isn't much of a plot point and certainly has no place in a Mad Max movie. What's the formula for a Max movie? Car chase-crash-plot point-crash-crash-conundrum-repeat. They complicated the formula to mixed results. And why in the hell is Tina Turner in this?
Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome definitely belongs in the third category, though it is not an abject failure like the other examples. There are interesting ideas in it, and on a technical level it is the most accomplished of the trilogy films. But each of its successes belies an equal and opposite failure, making it a frustrating experience for fans and only a reluctant success in its own right.
The first interesting idea which the film attempts to address is the nature of how post-apocalyptic society would function. There are hundreds of films about humans descending into chaos in a crisis, from The Dark Knight to The Thing and everything in between. But there are very few non-dystopian works which address in detail how society might be rebuilt or restructured.
Bartertown is an intriguing vision because it appears so radically different on the surface but actually runs in a scarily similar way to our own society. When Max first enters, everything seems orderly and civilised, at least compared to the highways and deserts of his past. There is peaceful trading, a reliable energy supply, and conflicts are resolved through one-on-one gladiatorial combat in the Thunderdome. In fact, the real power lies with those who control the energy, the brutal criminal underclass run by the methane magnate-cum-mobster known as Master. And for all its claimed civility, there is still something macabre and degenerate about the Thunderdome; the weapons may be more advanced, but the crowd are still tribal, baying for blood and taking animalistic pleasure in the carnage.
There is great potential within these ideas, and in the hands of George Miller you would expect the same combination of substance and subtlety which drove the first two films. Unfortunately, Miller is not behind the camera for any of the scenes between Max's arrival in Bartertown and the clash in the Thunderdome. Miller lost interest in the project after his producer and close friend Byron Kennedy died in a helicopter crash. He eventually agreed to direct the action sequences, while TV director George Ogilvie took the rest.
The result is a film which is pulling in different directions, with a visual style which is steadily less original. Although certain sections of Mad Max 2 felt similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark, you still felt it was directed by an individual who wasn't just interested in copying Hollywood for commercial reasons. Mad Max 3, on the other hand, is strikingly similar to Temple of Doom; you almost expect someone to shout 'Kali mar!' and pull out Mel Gibson's heart. There is more dialogue in this instalment, and considering the sheer volume of characters there needs to be. But for every great section, like Edwin Hodgeman's speech before the fight, there are three or four which seem laboured, over-long or -- most damningly -- ponderous.
The film often trips over Steven Spielberg territory because of its emphasis on children and its increasingly goofy sensibility. Although the film predates the insufferable Hook by six whole years, you can see hints of that film in the middle third, where Max is rescued by the tribe of children who believe him to be their saviour. (There is, oddly enough, an in-joke here which refers to Ken Russell's Tommy: the tribe's saviour is called Captain Walker, who shares his name with Tommy's father, and both films starred Tina Turner).
Again, there is something inherently interesting about a post-apocalyptic society involving children. The script does address issues of how history is remembered, and puts forward the idea that the 'promised land' of many religions is nothing more than a skewed memory of the past combined with ignorance about the outside world. That in itself is a shocking and radical idea, but it and others like it get lost in the manner of storytelling. The middle of the film does feel like a rip-off of Peter Pan and neither Miller nor Ogilvie completely mesh it together with the events in Bartertown. In any case, the fact that a new generation would live on is no great surprise, since that was explained in the closing narration of Mad Max 2.
When it comes to the action sequences, with Miller behind the camera, we get all the excitement and frenetic energy which made the first two films such a joy to watch. The Thunderdome fight is really great, being a highly original take on the classic duel. Roger Ebert went so far as to praise it as "one of the great creative action scenes in the movies.". It is well-paced, well-shot and the performances are very good, particularly from Gibson. Elsewhere in the film he can seem lost, but when his life is threatened he still exudes the same frightening charisma that he had before.
The problem, however, is that the action sequences are no longer seamless continuations of the plot. For all the inventiveness of the Thunderdome sequence or the thrills of the train chase, they feel like set-pieces, like components of an edgier, spikier film trying to escape from a mainstream vehicle. That said, even the train chase is not as exciting as the climax of previous films because of the goofy direction in which the series had moved. In Mad Max 1 and 2, you genuinely thought that people would get hurt; when there were head-on collisions between vehicles, people really died. Here, the head-on collision results in Ironbar's hair being caught on a pole, forcing him to jump over obstacles like hurdles; and when Max pulls a spear out of the driver's leg, it's treated like a comedy sequence and so packs much less of a punch.
The best way to describe Mad Max 3 is an enjoyable disappointment. Despite its very obvious flaws, and its all-too-close resemblance to Spielberg, it is a perfectly decent action movie which attempts to address a lot of complicated issues. It is the most ambitious of the Max films, in attempting to broaden out the universe beyond a solitary loner and focus on the future of the human race. But it is never genuinely successful in this task, and in acquiring a greater scope it sacrifices much of the nihilistic intensity and tension from before. For all its moments of genius, and its remarkable action, the film is neither coherent enough nor dark enough to hold together in a completely satisfying way. As a passing amusement it's fine, but it won't be so fondly remembered.
Too bad it drags right after the great thunderdome fight to the death, in the middle, which is most part of the movie, thanks to those stupid 'lord of the flies' kids who believe Max is some kind of Peter Pan messiah.
Then, it sort of redeems itself in the third act, with another exciting highway battle that mimics the second installment's finale.
To follow up a movie as epic as Road Warrior, you need something pretty amazing, and while there are some flaws in this final chapter of the Mad Max trilogy, it is still full of imagination and some cool scenes.
Gibson is back as Max, with an opening sequence involving the same characters from the end claiming to have never seen the Road Warrior again, seeing him again and stealing his vehicle.
Max then walks to a place known as Bartertown, to find a new means of transportation. There he meets the town chief, Auntie Entity, played by Tina Turner.
She offers Max the chance to leave with plenty of supplies if he eliminates the other leader of Bartertown. This is Master-Blaster, a person made up of two people, one is the brains, the other is the brawn. He lives in the depths of Bartertown, controlling the electricity.
To get the job done, Max must fight Blaster in Thunderdome.
Dr. Dealgood: [giving instructions to Mad Max and Blaster prior to their battle] Thunderdome's simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can. I know you won't break the rules, because there aren't any.
This is the highlight of the movie, and sadly not seen long enough to justify its use in the title.
After the events transpire there, Max eventually winds up in the desert, where he encounters a group of lost boys and things carry on fro there.
Director George Miller returns, but only to direct the action scenes, which is apparent, because his style is so distinct, that compare to the rest of the film, has plenty more energy.
This whole film seems like it could have functioned without Max, a series that could have easily ended after the first sequel, but it is still very entertaining.
All of the crazy characters, neat post-apocalyptic set design, awesome action sequences including Thunderdome and a much delayed car chase, as opposed to the other films of this series - these things all add up to a lot of fun.
A fine conclusion to this series down under.
Jedediah the Pilot: We're not gonna make it.
Max: We haven't got any choice.
Jedediah the Pilot: between them and us, there isn't enough runway.
Max: There will be.