Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) Movie Review
It's Mad Max, but it isn't, yet still is.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a 1985 film by Georgie Miller which stars Mel Gibson, Tina Turner (yes, the singer), and Bruce Spence. This is the third movie in the Mad Max series, and the last official movie in the series for thirty years.
Compared to the previous two Mad Max movies, the budget on this one was massive! The second movie was made for just two million dollars (which was three times larger than the first) and we got an incredible experience, so this must have been a phenomenal movie with six times the budget, right? Sadly not. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a bad movie, it just wasn't what most viewers expect when we watch a Mad Max movie.
The previous two films made Mad Max a franchise built around car chases, but in Beyond Thunderdome doesn't even give Max a vehicle to drive. There was still a huge chase scene in this movie, but notice that I didn't call it a car chase. Having vehicles chasing after trains and planes just doesn't have the same effect since there isn't much opportunity for crazy stunts. Surprisingly, it does still deliver on fuelling our adrenaline enough to call it a great ride. In fact, the action and excitement delivered in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is still leagues above other movies in this era. If it wasn't for The Road Warrior's intense action, I'm positive that more people would have loved this movie for what it is.
The chase scenes may be different, but Max still acts like the Max we knew from the previous films as he continues to assist those in need, as long as it benefits him. Unfortunately, it's the other characters that are the problem. We never see any good reason why anyone needs to be saved by Max in this movie. There are two groups that he helps: a town of smelly sleezebags, and a self-sufficient settlement of youths. Would the town of pig manure loving citizens been any worse off it wasn't for his arrival? Actually, I think things actually got worse because of his involvement. The youths were perfectly fine before he arrived, too. Actually, the kids were living in paradise compared to everyone else we've seen in this franchise, so... What was the reason he needed to save them, besides from their own stupidity?
At least the acting was significantly better than the previous films. It's still not perfect, mainly because it has a singer in a very major role, and far too much of the cast is filled with kids. In all honesty, I think that if the plot replaced the group of children with a tribe filled mostly with adults, this movie wouldn't receive the negative criticism it does. It's a problem with almost every film that puts children in major roles, which is the main reason filmmakers still use adults in teenage roles. The replacement of the child tribe would have likely solved this movie's acting problem and improved the story immensely.
One thing that was better than the original two was the world. The first Mad Max movie told us almost nothing, the second finally explained the history, but Beyond Thunderdome did a great job at showing how humanity has adapted to survive. This is actually the part of the movie that most fans overlook when reviewing this movie. The action and the characters are important, but the world that the movie takes place is such a large part of the experience that it's what really makes or breaks a film. It's actually quite incredible how much thought and detail has gone into this post-apocalyptic world. It's still confined to Australia, but from what we have seen, it is truly a world on the brink of annihilation. I found the representation of a certain well known city (I don't want to spoil it) covered in sand to be amazing, yet terrifying. I'm sure making that city as it was shown must have been a major undertaking with the technology in 1985, too.
While Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome feels like a drastic shift in direction for the Mad Max franchise, it certainly wasn't a bad movie because of it. Other than the child problem, and the lack of vehicle for Max to drive, the only thing holding this movie back from being an extremely memorable experience is its predecessor. If Beyond Thunderdome came out before Road Warrior, I'm sure that there wouldn't have been a thirty-year hiatus between the third and fourth instalment. As it is, I would still recommend you to watch this movie, just don't expect the same experience as The Road Warrior.