Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) | FURIOUS CLASSICS

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the third part of the franchise and viewed by many as the worst. It is about an ex-cop Max (Mel Gibson) who wanders through derelict lands of Australia. Upon being robbed by Jedediah (Bruce Spence), he sets out for the nearest cluster of civilisation with a view to restoring his possessions. He arrives at Bartertown where he comes to an agreement with officious Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), who established the town, that he will get rid of Blaster (Paul Larsson) – a bodyguard of an artful and prancing dwarf Master (Angelo Rossitto) who provides the place with energy. Max is about to have a duel with Blaster within “a thunderdome”, but the task is not any trifle…

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“Even though Miller succeeds in sluicing down the action engine and removing dirt from it, he still fails to scrub some rust off.”

Whilst being certainly imperfect, the movie makes amends for its textural foibles with its ravishing cinematography, ear-pleasing soundtrack and magnificent vehemence. George Miller – the creator of the first and second part and the director of this instalment – ostentatiously handles the pic by endowing it with over-the-top action sequences, fast cuts, variety of pans utilised in order to exhibit the stark, arid Australian landscapes and swift-moving camerawork enhancing the sensation of omnipresent motion as well as destruction. This time, we accompany Max in his ventures through infernal, morose Bartertown and beautifully exposed deserts on which Max barely manages to evade his death. One of the most galvanising scenes involves Max struggling in “a thunderdome” – a sort of cage in which fighters are allowed to do with their opponents whatever they crave and only one combatant is to leave the sulky stage. The moment infuses a huge portion of adrenaline into one’s veins as it is so enchantingly edited, shot and lit in such a way that it truly titillates with its kinetic energy and dander echoing through the bars of the arena.

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The ensemble differs from two predecessors with its choice of the themes i.e. the birth of new civilisation and the purpose of faith which emerge in the second part of the motion picture. The grave subjects imbue the effort with some pensiveness which slightly contradicts the usually boisterous, mindless remainder of the work, yet the ambivalence never comes to power inasmuch the actioner ceaselessly remains what it is supposed to be and never endeavours to exceed its status with some exorbitantly digressive broodings. Nevertheless, the flick conspicuously has its shortcomings. Even though Miller succeeds in sluicing down the action engine and removing dirt from it, he still fails to scrub some rust off. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome works on account of its dynamics and superb stunts, but there is no disguising the fact that Miller’s glossy and tumultuous spectacle is pauperised by needlessly diffuse narrative and latent purpose.

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Mel Gibson is neat as Max, but I have never been a great fan of his acting style. He seems to be cut out for similarly infantile movies e.g. Lethal Weapon (1987) and maybe this is why his performing here never chafes my senses. Tina Turner is sensationally powerful as Aunty Entity – she might be regarded as a real queen here forasmuch as her agility is genuinely admirable. Bruce Spence does not possess as much screen time as the two aforementioned actors, but his appearance is always welcome and propitious with his facial distinctiveness. There are some other deft members of the cast, particularly Helen Buday and Robert Grubb.

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The visual aspect of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome incessantly enthralls with its outpourings of orange and brown tints which adequately cloak Australian wastelands with a veiling of conundrum. Likewise, the cinematographer Dean Semler beauteously captures the sombreness of nocturnal sequences and dynamism of action ones. Music by Maurice Jarre is absolutely exquisite as well as versatile since one can listen to a catchy, eighties’ track seasoned with a sensory voice of Tina Turner, dissonant and rowdy soundtrack reminiscent of noises created by a blacksmith at work and some classical, orchestral tunes. All this unremittingly contextualises with the events occurring on the screen and renders the opus even more atmospherically copious.

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Despite the fact that it is an auspiciously exciting piece of filmmaking, the somewhat flawed script sporadically seems to entail damages in the entertainment machinery. And still, however major the breakages were, they never impeded my liking the content which was served in a most invigorating and sumptuous manner. Mad Max flicks prided themselves not on their cinematic values, but their muscles and incendiary sway of their impetuousness. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a highly enjoyable piece of rambunctious popcorn cinema which I found difficult not to succumb to.

6/10 stars – good.
See also: Post-apocalyptic cinema


Student of Asian Culture in Krakow at Jagiellonian University, Poland. His cinematic interests encompass practically the entire cinema, but mostly on European (Italian, French) as well as Japanese flicks, ranging from grindhouse to art-house. Notwithstanding, what titillates him in the biggest measure is watching and writing about obscure, forgotten films which have yet to be discovered by majority of cineastes. His three favourite directors are Jean-Pierre Melville, whose Le Samouraï is his favourite movie of all time, Masaki Kobayashi and Michelangelo Antonioni. He is known on the SWDB as Mickey13

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2 Responses

  1. mm Peter says:

    A great review Michal! Out of all three Mad Max movies this is definitely my least favorite. I think thats mainly due to the 2nd half which has Max in that weird Lost Boys type village. I always feel like it loses steam there. I do like the opening Bartertown/Thunderdome and final chase sections though, those are classic Mad Max craziness. I’m hoping the new film Fury Road is a return to The Road Warrior style coolness we love. Cheers

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