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Yes the recent release of MAD MAX FURY ROAD got me re-visiting the world of MAD MAX. After the low budget vigilante flick that was the 1971 MAD MAX (I’ll get to it sooner than later) and the high octane Western on wheels & box office smash sequel THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981), we were treated to MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME in 1985 (WATCH IT HERE), a film that had more money to throw at the screen when compared to its predecessors but sadly one that wound up having much less balls and heart. What went wrong here? Hop on and lets find out!
MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME started production with a major set back; Byron Kennedy, producer of the MAD MAX movies and director George Miller’s good buddy died in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for this one. Word has it that grief sticken Miller didn’t give a BLEEP about the movie anymore (hence George Ogilvie was brought on to shoot everything but the action scenes which were left to Miller.) Talk a bout an awful way to jump into production. On that, the end result wasn’t a total loss. MEL GIBSON as Max once again made for an intense and magnetic presence. The lad said so much via his eyes and body language and he oozed of charisma! Watching Gibson excel so highly as Max here, I couldn’t help but think of the wonders he could have done if cast in FURY ROAD. But yeah, I know, I gotta let that go some day (cough, bring back Gibson for the next one, cough, cough).
The film itself was glaringly split into three sections; it was almost akin to watching 3 individual short films (the fact the script was at first solely about the kids and not a Mad Max film may have something to do with that). The first bit was all about Mad Max in Bartertown which made way for my favorite scene in the flick (the crazy fist-to-cuffs in the Thunderdome against Master-Blaster), the second was Mad Max meets The Lost Boys from Peter Pan (more on that below) and the third was the big closing chase scene (pimping the eye popping stunts we’d come to expect from the series); although entertaining with some stand-out action moments and even one hearty unintentional laugh (Ironbars initial ride had me in stitches), I couldn’t hep but compare it to the chase in ROAD WARRIOR and yeah, it paled in comparison. Finally, although TINA TURNER (as Aunty) wasn’t always on the mark “acting wise”, she went for it like a champ and her character grew on me (and so did that pop an eye out cleavage), the random oddball moments of humor also hit the mark, the locations were visually striking and as per the two other films, this one was filled with memorable characters like Angelo Rossitto as Master or Robert Grubb as the Pig Killer.
Alas, the first mistake they did here was try to make it more kid friendly much like they had done with CONAN THE DESTROYER a year before. They toned down the violence considerably in thisi one (went from an R rated series to PG-13) and tossed in that subplot about a bunch of kids living in isolation waiting for a savior (which they think is Max). The kiddie angle, which wound up being the middle of the movie, didn’t do much for me to be honest (Way too "mainstream family movie" type spiel – this is Mad Max yo!) I saw what they were going for, but I was more interested in Max Vs. the powers that be in Barterown; than Max the babysitter. Moreover, Maurice Jarre's heavy handed saxophone laced score grated me (somewhat distracting and out of place) we got a couple of clumsy editing cuts and George Ogilvie’s directing style for the non-action scenes was way too basic.
FANBOY NOTE: Am I gonna address the age old question of “Is Jedediah here (played by Bruce Spence) actually the same dude than in THE ROAD WARRIOR i.e.the Gyro Captain (also played by Bruce Spence)? I was sure I saw Max recognize him this time around. The fact that I even have to ask pisses me off. Nope, didn't care for the game they played. END OF FANBOY NOTE.
Hence on the whole, MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME made for an “okay” watch but taking into account the talent behind the film and the quality of the other entries in the series – this should have been more than just okay! At least we got Tina Turner’s badass “We Don't Need Another Hero” song out of it!