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Mad Max Retrospective: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Beyond Thunderdome THUMBWith my recent review of the Blu-ray for Mad Max from Scream Factory and its relatively convenient timing, I’ve had the itch to keep going writing about the series over here on Why So Blu.  No, this won’t be a review of the Blu-ray that has been out forever (Fun Fact: It was the fifth Blu-ray to be put in my collection).  This will just be a piece minus all the tech specs and recommendation.  We started with Mad Max and will go on through Mad Max: Fury Road and at the end rank the films (Where you can tell me how wrong, stupid, unqualified or dumb I am).  Those familiar know I do this kind of thing for my Naptown Nerd blog, but I thought since this one started over here at Why So Blu that I would just see the whole thing out here.  We’ve now come to the infamous THUNDERDOME portion of the retrospective.  Fun fact: When a Why So Blu writer refuses a Blu-ray title, Brian White then says angrily “Who run Blu-raytown? WHO run Blu-raytown?”

Mel Gibson on the Set of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Every time you have a series of films; serial or maybe just a director’s filmography, us geeks have to put things in some sort of descending order of quality.  So, always, something has to be last.  And since its last its sometimes unfairly labeled “worst” instead of kinder terms like “least favorite”.  No matter if there’s twenty films or just two, there’s always a bottom.  Because of such a tradition, I feel by being constantly put in last place, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome has earned itself a little bit of a bad rap over the years.  This isn’t a bad movie at all.  Its good and importantly pretty highly entertaining as well.  All three films in this series are more than worth anyone’s time and its hard to find (At least back in the day) three films in a series that bolster such a good quality to them.

Beyond Thunderdome 3

While the third film definitely feels very much a part of the world given to us in the previous film, it really sets itself apart and is its own wholly unique story.  Like The Road Warrior, you can go into Thunderdome pretty much clean and find yourself enjoying it throughly.  Its fifteen years following it and aside from the character of Max Rockatansky, there’s no references or integral plot points hanging over from the last film.  As a follow up though, this one does a terrific job of continuing to open up the doors to this wasteland world.  We get new environments and types of people, but its done in a simplistic manner and never feels like they are trying to cram in too much on the viewer.

Beyond Thunderdome 2

I’ve always saw Beyond Thunderdome as the closest thing to a Steven Spielberg-helmed Mad Max movie as we’d get.  No, Spielberg was never on the docket for a film in the post apocalyptic desert wasteland, but I feel like there’s some inspiration from his work on display here.  The film steps down from the R rating of the first two, to a more friendly PG-13.  Once the story gets away from Bartertown, it becomes much more obvious that the film is trying its best to make a more “all audiences” version of our favorite drifter.  Its a more whimsical adventure type of film as well, involving children as an important part of the plot.  Okay, if not Spielberg-directed, maybe more like a Spielberg-produced film.  Its got that feel like a Goonies or Gremlins type of Amblin adventure.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, its just a direction they chose.  What matters more is if they did well going in that direction.

Beyond Thunderdome 1

The film has some nice unique action and characters to it, filling its own identity.  The design of Bartertown is quite good and something I feel would provide plenty of inspiration for other films in years to come.  The fight between Max and Blaster is also rather awesome.  And how crazy is it when Blaster is revealed to have Down’s Syndrome or something of that ilk?  All this ends up being a slow build (in disguise) to getting to that sweet sweet desert road car chase that this series is all about.  While this is a tighter more concise bout, it still works and has all the enjoyment of any good chase in this series.

Beyond Thunderdome 5

If The Road Warrior was the one that inspired film and creators, then Beyond Thunderdome was the Mad Max film that had the biggest pop culture impact.  The film starred pop icon Tina Turner as Aunty Entity.  Turner is quite enjoyable here in the role and I find her look to be pretty iconic in that of the realm of science fiction/cult movies.  She also provided two songs for the soundtrack of the film.  The word “Thunderdome” has also been used to describe epic battles and matches.  Its slogan “Two men enter, one man leaves” is one that EVERYONE knows and makes wisecracks about where ever it could fit into conversation.  Above, I also mentioned Master/Blaster’s line of “Who run Bartertown?”  That question also is something that is pretty common still in everyday reference making.  People may have seen and/or know Mad Max as what we see in the second film, but its Thunderdome where they get all their lingo and bring up (maybe some people without knowing) constantly.

Beyond Thunderdome 6

I won’t shy away from admitting that I quite like Beyond Thunderdome.  The film also boasts a fantastic poster.  It was the last poster from legendary artist Richard Amsel, I believe.  While the film has a lot of cool stuff, it does hit a snag a drag for a bit when the children are introduced.  Honestly, that portion does help build their characters and add stakes and more emotion to the final chase.  Oh and it goes without saying that Mel is terrific once again as post apocalyptic wanderer Max Rockatansky.  No, the film is no masterpiece, but its still a good piece of the kind of popcorn entertainment we all enjoy.  Yeah, a majority may put it third in their placements, but its a STRONG third if you ask me.

Beyond-Thunderdome-poster

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Mad Max Retrospective: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)”


  1. Cash

    Yeah, underrated, best paced film of the original trilogy

  2. Brian White

    Awesome! I pride myself in being old enough at the time this was released to be aware of the film, even saw it, because I knew who Tina Turner was too!