Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Year: 1985

Production: Kennedy Miller Production

Director: George Miller

Starring: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence, Frank Thring, Paul Larsson, Helen Buday

Screenwriter: Terry Hayes, George Miller

Novelization (1985) by Joan D. Vinge

107 minutes; Color


This Australian film, the second sequel to the post-holocaust movie Mad Max (1979), has lots of well directed actions but is more rambling and less focused than its predecessors. Max finds a community in the desert, Bartertown, with a female warlord (Tina Turner), gladiatorial games, and a great many extras being noisy, dirty and primitive. This lively stuff is really no more than a rehash of a great many filmic cliches, notably those of Italian sword-and-sandal epics. Far more interesting is a subplot set in a different part of the desert and involving a tribe of children who are now living in an oasis, having many years ago survived a plane crash in which all adults were killed. In perhaps the first attempt in cinema to achieve, albeit less complexly, something of what Russell Hoban achieved in Riddley Walker (1980), they speak a devolved language; they also have a mythology involving a messiah-figure, whom they take Mad Max to be. Their final return to the derelict ghost-city of Sydney is well done, and this whole inventive section about the children - pure sf, and ambitious sf at that - makes an otherwise routinely vivid film well worth watching.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

The third and most sumptuous of the series that began with Mad Max and Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior). Unlike the earlier films which had spare, stripped-down narratives and merely suggested the social organization of the post apocalyptic world Gibson's hero stalked, Beyond Thunderdome has a classic Hollywood storyline and a particularized vision of the ramshackle future that beckons after the bombs have been dropped. Accordingly, although Miller still borrows and refurbishes material from a variety of genres, especially the Western, with impish delight, the film lacks the demented charm of the earlier outings. In place of that, Miller and his co-director Ogilvie have opted for a plot that moves from set-piece to set-piece and the same "gee-whiz" special effects and heroics of Star Wars.

Gibson, robbed in a thrilling opening sequence by Spence's flying scavenger, arrives in Bartertown in search of his stolen possessions and immediately falls foul of its ruler, Anty Entity, played with verve by veteran soul songstress Turner. Exiled to the desert, he falls in with a tribe of children waiting for a savior to fly them to salvation and with the aid of Spence and Rossitto's dwarf scientist he does just that. Bartertown is wonderfully imagined and the set-pieces ex citing enough but the whole is decidedly less than the sum of its parts.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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