Leonard Maltin Review: "In the desolate future Mad Max comes upon Turner's cutthroat city of Bartertown, survives a battle-to-the-death in Roman-style Thunderdome arena, and is exiled to the desert, where he's rescued by tribe of wild children. Thunderous film has lots of action and stunts, and even some philosophical moments, but lacks the kinetic energy of Mad Max 2"



Roger Ebert Review: " It's not supposed to happen this way. Sequels are not supposed to be better than the movies that inspired them. The third movie in a series isn't supposed to create a world more complex, more visionary, and more entertaining than the first two. Sequels are supposed to be creative voids. But now here is Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, not only the best of the three Mad Max movies, but one of the best films of 1985…”

“…From its opening shot of a bizarre vehicle being pulled by camels through the desert,
Mad Max Three places us more firmly within its apocalyptic postnuclear world than ever before. We are some years in the future; how many, it is hard to say, but so few years that the frames and sheet metal of 1985 automobiles are still being salvaged for makeshift new vehicles of bizarre design. And yet enough years that a new society is taking shape. The bombs have fallen, the world's petroleum supplies have been destroyed, and in the deserts of Australia, mankind has found a new set of rules and started on a new game…”

“…The driver of the camels is Mad Max (Mel Gibson), former cop, now sort of a free-lance nomad. After his vehicle is stolen and he is left in the desert to die, he makes his way somehow to Bartertown, a quasi-Casablanca hammered together out of spare parts. Bartertown is where you go to buy, trade, or sell anything—or anybody. It is supervised by a Sydney Greenstreet-style fat man named the Collector (Frank Thring), and ruled by an imperious queen named Aunty Entity (Tina Turner)…”

“…And it is powered by an energy source that is, in its own way, a compelling argument against nuclear war: In chambers beneath Bartertown, countless pigs live and eat and defecate, and from their waste products, Turner's soldiers generate methane gas. This leads to some of the movie's most memorable moments, as Mad Max and others wade knee-deep in piggy-do…”

“…Tina Turner herself lives far above the masses, in a birds'-nest throne room perched high overhead. And as Mad Max first visits Turner's sky palace, I began to realize how completely the director, George Miller, had imagined this future world. It has the crowding and the variety of a movie crossroads, but it also has a riot of hairstyles and costume design, as if these desperate creatures could pause from the daily struggle for survival only long enough to invent new punk fashions. After the clothes, the hair, the crowding, the incessant activity, the spendthrift way in which Miller fills his screen with throwaway details, Bartertown becomes much more than a movie set—it's an astounding address of the imagination, a place as real as Bogart's Casablanca or Orson Welles's Xanadu or the Vienna of The Third Man. That was even before the movie introduced me to Thunderdome, the arena for Bartertown's hand-to-hand battles to the death…”

“ Thunderdome is the first really original movie idea about how to stage a fight since we got the first karate movies. The "dome" is a giant upside-down framework bowl. The spectators scurry up the sides of the bowl, and look down on the fighters. But the combatants are not limited to fighting on the floor of the arena. They are placed on harnesses with long elastic straps, so that they can leap from top to bottom and from side to side with great lethal bounds. Thunderdome is to fighting as three-dimensional chess is to a flat board. And the weapons available to the fighters are hung from the inside of the dome: Cleavers, broadaxes, sledge-hammers, the inevitable chainsaw. ”

“…It is into Thunderdome that Mad Max goes for his showdown with Aunty Entity's greatest warrior, and George Miller's most original creation, a character named Master-Blaster, who is actually two people. Blaster is a giant hulk of a man in an iron mask. Master is a dwarf who rides him like a chariot, standing in an iron harness above his shoulders. The fight between Mad Max and Master-Blaster is one of the great creative action scenes in the movies…”

“…There is a lot more in
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The descent into the pig world, for example, and the visit to a sort of postwar hippie commune, and of course the inevitable final chase scene, involving car, train, truck, cycle, and incredible stunts. This is a movie that strains at the leash of the possible, a movie of great visionary wonders. " – FOUR STARS



"This Australian film, the second sequel to the post-holocaust movie Mad Max, has lots of well directed action 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 primitave. This lively stuff is no more than a rehash of a great many filmic cliches, notably those Italian sword-and-scandal epics. Far more interesting is a sub-plot 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 the adults were killed. In perhaps the first attempt in cinema to achieve, albeit less complexly, something of what Russel Hoban achieved in Riddley Walker, they speak a developed language; they also have a mythology involving a messiah-figure, whom they take Mad Max to be. Their final return to the derilict 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 woth watching. The novelization is Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), by Joan D. Vinge. "


Commentary by Jacques Benoit:

In the science-fiction of the '80s, and the '90s for that matter, it seemed like the apocalypse had fallen out of fashion. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the gradual end of the Cold War, meant that we really no longer saw the atomic blasts that we used to see in movies of the late '50s and the '60s. Now it is more as we see in Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome -- a gradual decline into economic chaos in the world of the desert. The other possibility is that we end up in a future that is ultra-technological. A future dystopia like we see in a movie like Demolition Man. Or, we could end up with something like we get in Water World, where we have a Mad Maxian-like character. But, none of the thematic depth that the Mad Max movie provides, and rather a string of adventures strung together with a plot. They are like bad imitations of the Mad Max milieu, ant that's a tribute to how popular it really was. The milieu itself tends to lend itself to these themes when people use it properly. Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome is a movie with a message that lasts beyond the nuclear threat.

Mel Gibson made his reputation on genre movies like Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome. Who would have figured that something like Mad Max would become a box office sensation in Australia, or anywhere for that matter, but it did. Suddenly Mel found himself earning a reputation playing the man who has great loss -- the man gone mad with grief. We see it in a movie like Mad Max. We also see it in something like Lethal Weapon, where Martin Riggs is a suicidal cop who has lost his wife. It seems like a natural leap for him to do something like Hamlet. Everybody wondered what the connection was there. Why would Gibson play him? Well, it was part of his established screen persona. So, we have Mel Gibson making his reputation on genre pictures, and then going on to become a well-respected director. After seeing him in Mad Max it almost doesn't make sense.

Where, exactly, does this movie fit in terms of the series of Mad Max movies. Well, it doesn't really fit all that well in terms of plot development and a continuing story thread, but it does have a lot of the same themes that we find in some of the earlier movies -- people trying to build (or rebuild perhaps) some semblance of civilization. There is more extensive development of civilization at this point. That is about the only difference. There is a little less carnage in terms of car crashes and car chases. We go for a bit more of a balanced story line for precisely that reason. Many people prefer Road Warrior -- it has more of that carnage. This movie is more polished and more sentimental. So, again, Road Warrior is crueller. A lot of people seem to prefer that. The fact is, though, that George Miller still manages to give this movie an Australian flavour. Even though it looks glossier and more American, it still has a fairly strong Australian flavour.

With this third instalment in the Mad Max trilogy, we have George Miller back as the co-screen writer, co-director, and helping in the production of the movie. In any other circle, we would consider someone like George Miller a film auteur, but since he makes genre pictures, he is just a genre film-maker. We see here that he still has a few things to say about capitalism, but there is a lot more detailed examination of the vision of power and labour in this micro-cosmic society.

It doesn't take too long in this movie before we start to realise that it is an allegory. It is an allegory with a sense of humour -- we have pig droppings as the main fuel for the future civilisation. Trade has finally become the only law that really matters. Capitalism has finally won, it seems. "Bust a deal, face the wheel" is a kind of advance version of The Wheel of Fortune, and game show justice, really. Then there is the Thunderdome as a kind of Cold War remnant, where you have two people facing off, and where only one can survive. Luck seems to be the only factor in this form of future justice. So, this is what is finally left, and Max can't live in this sort of world. He can't kill the boy-faced man. He has to break his agreement and end up in a sort of exile as a result. Under somebody like "Auntie", Bartertown is simply a remaking of the old world order, and with it's underworld of slavery this world is all too familiar to us.

What we have in this movie that separates it, at least somewhat, from the previous two in this series is a society of innocents -- children. A group of children that has gradually become a tribe of hunter-gatherers. They have a fuzzy world tradition which is a nice way of saying that they get things wrong a lot. They don't really have a full understanding of their past. The funny thing is, it is eerie that in some ways they get it right. The hat with the wings on it flies up in the wind that comes up just at the right moment. And the fact that Walker and Mad Max do bear a striking resemblance to one another. There is the record that tells them "I'm going home. I'm going home." They have had it all this time but never realised it. The children, along with the knowledge of technology, are the real future of the human race, not a place like Bartertown.

No myth, either ancient or modern, would be complete or fun if you didn't have the traditional trickster character. There are plenty of tricksters here. In this case you have the gyro-captain. He is the one that gets Max into all of the trouble in the first place. And, on another level, Max is also a kind of trickster. He is the one that finally brings down Bartertown, crumbling to its knees. But, in another sense, you can also see Max from a different mythic point of view -- the Christian myth. In a sense, Max is the second coming of Captain Walker. He is the hero who must sacrifice himself again so that others can fly, despite the fact that he gets left behind. We have the desert treks with the similarities to the Christian myths. And, finally, myths aside, is Max's driving skills. The famed, one-great skill of the hero is what saves the day and brings this story to it's conclusion. Miller even recognised after doing the first Mad Max movie, and hearing comments that people made, that somehow these stories were registering on a mythic level. He came to acknowledge that, and I would argue that perhaps these stories work at that subconscience level for everyone in the audience, with these images that we see and don't immediately recognise why they are so familiar.


2001-2010 C.I.T.N.