Friday’s Favorite Flix – Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the third film in the Mad Max trilogy and this week's Friday's Favorite Flix. This movie is also from Warner Bros. and directed by George Miller who directed both Mad Max and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Mel Gibson and Bruce Spence both return as Max and Jededia the Pilot, respectively. Tina Turner, who plays Aunty Entity, was added to the cast for even more star power. Other additions are Angelo Rossitto and Paul Larson as Master/Blaster. The casting for this film is superb. Each of the actors seemed made for the part, attesting to the professionalism of all involved. The sets and cinematography are also first class. From the starkness of the desert outback to the wildly extravagant sets, there is eye candy galore.
Beyond Thunderdome did not receive the same level of critical acclaim that The Road Warrior earned. While the chaotic, post-apocalyptic flavor of the film is present, there is a flow / plot that is lacking. The movie feels a little like it was thrown together with pieces missing that are needed to connect the individual parts. I was left wondering if there is more to the story that might better connect the dots. This is one film where the whole is less than the sum of the parts.
As in the first two movies, Beyond Thunderdome is set in a post-apocalyptic world that has run out of oil. As a result, lawlessness reigns and it is pretty much every one for themselves. The film opens with Max making his way across a barren landscape driving a team of camels. The camels are pulling a wagon of sorts that used to be a truck. Jededia and his son (Adam Cockburn) ambush Max from the air and steal his team of camels and his wagon. This scene feels like a nod to the Road Warrior where Jededia unsuccessfully ambushes Max. The irony is well played. Max follows his stolen rig on foot and eventually ends up in Barter Town.
Friday’s Favorite Flix are descriptions of those movies we love – We either own them or when channel surfing, we’ll stop when we find them and settle down to watch.
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Barter Town is a small city that is run by Aunty Entity. No one may enter unless they have something to barter. As Max has had his belongings stolen, he is initially denied entry. After winning a seemingly unequal fight, Max shows that he does have something with which to barter. He is brought before Aunty Entity who offers to return his camels, wagon and belongings if Max will complete a task for her. That task is to remove Master/Blaster from power by defeating him in battle in the Thunderdome.
Aunty Entity and Master/Blaster have a symbiotic relationship where Aunty controls the day to day running of the city and Master controls the methane generation facility beneath the city. The Methane is derived from fermenting pig feces, which is generated by an immense pig farm – also beneath the city. Blaster is the bodyguard for Master. As Master is a little person, he usually rides around on the shoulders of the massive Blaster. Master has begun to abuse the alliance with Aunty by imposing energy ‘embargoes’ upon the city above. The Embargoes are little more than blackmail to bolster his power within Barter Town.
Max goes to work in the refinery to learn what he can of his adversary. He then provokes Master/Blaster into a fight in public. In Barter Town all conflicts are settled in the Thunderdome, where “two enter and one leaves.” Max gains the upper hand using the intelligence gleaned during his time in the refinery. He stops short of killing Blaster when he discovers that Blaster is little more than a very large simpleton. He yells at Aunty that killing simpletons wasn’t part of the deal. Aunty responds by killing Blaster, and making Max face ‘The Wheel’. When the pointer lands on ‘Banishment’, Max is blindfolded and sent into the wastelands on the back of a horse.
When the horse gives out, Max slips his restraints and wanders off into the desert. After Max passes out, he is found by a teenager named Savannah (Helen Buday). Savanna gives him water and takes him back to an oasis where she lives with a large group of teenagers and children. The children are descendants of the survivors of a plane that crash-landed in the desert. The children have been left behind by their parents, who went to find civilization and rescue. They did not return. Left to themselves the children have formed their own society built around the belief that The plane's Captain will come and fly them all to safety in the ruined jet left rotting in the desert. They think that Max is this Captain.
Max denies that he is the Captain and urges the children to stay put. He knows that the only civilization within reach is Barter Town. Savannah and a small group of children decide Max is wrong and leave to find Tomorrow-Morrow land themselves. Max, along with some of the remaining children go after the group that left. They find them trying to save Savannah, who has fallen into a sinkhole. Max saves Savannah, but with supplies nearly exhausted, their only hope is to make for Barter Town.
They sneak into the refinery and steal a train engine that once was a truck. Their escape in the methane powered train also destroys the refinery. Aunty Entity rallies Barter Town’s forces and the chase is on. Eventually the children escape with Jededia and his son in the airplane that started this story. The ending, ironically, leaves the audience right where they started. The last scenes are of the children flying through the ruins of what once was Sydney and Max walking off into the sunset.
Beyond Thunderdome is little more than a money grab, as seen all too often in Hollywood. The film relies far too heavily on star power and leaves too much out of the plot and character development. These shortcomings are, likely, what kept this installment from gleaning the accolades of earlier films in the franchise. While the plot is thin, at least there is a plot. There is also a symmetry to the film and numerous nods to earlier films in the trilogy.
My opinion is that the movie is watchable if you are one of those viewers that can turn their logic off and just enjoy the ride. You'll also want to screen it if you're a one of those who want or need to see an entire series, once you start it. As is true of the entire franchise, there are fun action scenes, plenty of violence and stunning sets. For me, the plot holes were distracting enough to bring me out of the movie. As the third movie in the Mad Max trilogy, this film was meant to close the book on the story. I’m just fine with that.
About Brian Hill
Brian Hill is a home theater enthusiast who has an extensive background in sales. His interests include music & movies, F1 & NASCAR auto racing, hot rods (he has a '56 Nomad) and hockey — Go Sharks!
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