Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

1985 in Film – Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Release Date: July 10th
Box Office: $36,230,219

Time can also be very kind but also the cruelest of mistresses. The rosy tint of nostalgia can erase alls flaws in it’s warm glow, but then it can also shine the harshest of lights on the merest of flaws. Just watch The Polar Express.

The third Mad Max film suffers from this, but what would you expect of a film staring Tina Turner with full 80s hairdo?

That’s maybe a bit harsh but we’ll come back to this.

The first two Mad Max films were an exercise in grimy low budget thrills. The first a defining entry in to the Ozploitation genre made world famous thanks to the burgeoning VHS rental market. The second took the main character, amped up the post apocalyptic setting and mixed in a healthy dose of Shane. Both were full of blood and cars and Australian accents.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome therefore has a lot to live up to, and initially it does. The film has Max, alone and crossing the wasteland, has his current mode of transport (a camel drawn wagon, not quite the last of the V8 interceptors). Stumbling after it he find himself at Bartertown, a ramshackle collection of people and buildings controlled by two people in an uneasy truce: Aunty Entity, who lives in a tower above the city; Master Blaster who controls and runs the methane powered machinery that keeps Bartertown running. He is actually two people, the diminutive Master who is the brains and is carried on the shoulders of Blaster, his giant companion who provides the muscle.

The opening half of the film is a great extension of the world shown to us in Mad Max 2, culminating in the Thunderdome itself. A giant dome wherein issues between people are settled. As the law says, two men enter and one man leaves. The people of Thunderdome literally hang off the side of it as Max faces Blaster, both attaches to bungie cords so they can fly around the inside of the dome to lay their hands at the weapons dotted around.

Shame then that this, the highlight of the film, happens so early. After this Max is sent out into the desert and runs into a group of abandoned children, essentially the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. They stick out like a sore thumb against the blood of thunder of what a Mad Max film should be, they aren’t quite as annoying as the kid who pops up in Speed Racer but it is a miss-step that derails the film.

Tina Turner was another aspect of the film that jars. By 1985 she was in the full swing of a comeback that had seen her clear up at the Grammys. This was her first film role in ten years. It’s not that she’s bad in the film, far from it. It’s just that she’s Tina Turner. When we first meet her, it’s obvious that it’s Tina Turner.

Oh, and the music. During some of the sequences with the kids it’s positively uplifting. Uplifting and Mad Max shouldn’t really ever be said in the same sentence.

The film wouldn’t have anywhere near the level of success of the previous two films, despite it’s release being a much bigger deal. Mad Max himself would take the next couple of years off before returning as Martin Riggs in the role that would turn Mel Gibson into MEL GIBSON. Whilst the passing of time would only make the first two films more respected, the third film would be referred in an off hand way: “Oh, yeah. There was that third one. You know, with Tina Turner and the earrings.”

No better way to sum the film up if I’m honest.

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