REVIEW: Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
How does this sound – a post-nuclear future where barbarians and scavengers roam the wasteland and Tina Turner is a power-hungry dominatrix. Wait, what!? This is the epic, final chapter of a legendary trilogy and it has to finish strongly. Doesn’t it feel a little absurd to throw Tina Turner into the mix now? Actually, go ahead and blow the budget on Tina, what better way to celebrate the madness of it all. At first glance, the synopsis and movie stills seem to suggest this is the key to the transition between the trilogy and the upcoming ‘Fury Road’; deserts filled with lost children, crazy matriarchs calling the shots and a hard-faced brute who may just be the hero.
Looks can be deceiving though, and the film begins with Max Rockatansky (still the coolest name ever) bullied out of his vehicle and seeing his camels stolen away. Max ventures into Bartertown to track down the thief, but soon becomes embroiled in a power struggle between Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and her rival Master Blaster. To recover his stolen goods, Max strikes a deal with Aunty Entity – he will fight to the death and destroy Master Blaster. When Max backs out of the deal, he is exiled to death by desert, but is rescued by a tribe of lost children who worship him as their saviour. As always, Max just can’t help himself and undertakes the mission to steer the kids past the dangers of Bartertown, to a better life, whilst retrieving his beloved motor in the process.
Mel Gibson offers nothing new really, in fact he has regressed if anything. He started the film as powerfully as he ended the last, but soon retreated to the safety of cheesy, mediocrity and stayed there right until the bitter end. As I mentioned, Tina Turner is quite a bizarre inclusion, but if you ignore the cultural significance surrounding the woman, she’s actually rather impressive as the lead villain. She is nothing like the genuinely horrifying villains of the previous films, which is a shame. But she does get herself a sweet soundtrack deal, so I don’t imagine she’s too concerned with the fear factor.
The film starts with the exciting prospect of a vicious battle in Bartertown and the thrilling Thunderdome arena. Unfortunately, any hope of this soon fades and we are left watching Max Rockatansky babysitting a tribe of children for a good portion of the film. Not so cool anymore. Surely the ending saves it, right? Not quite, as Max drives a big truck full of fleeing citizens, fighting off a barrage of attacks from lunatics, sound familiar? The concluding film in the trilogy carries over all the same elements which were so successful in ‘Road Warrior’ – interesting setting, a desperate situation and unusual characters – but it all just seems a lot less impressive this time around. It’s as though Hollywood got hold of this one, took the film under its wing and just censored all of the fun out of it.
All in all, a disappointing and rather dull end to a pretty good trilogy. ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ promised so much, but delivered arguably the worst of the three films. Where are the explosions? And the thrilling action? And the violence? Even the first film had an excess of violence, if not much else. Let’s just hope Tom Hardy – yes, the Hardy embargo is lifted – brings a fresh and dangerous edge to the franchise to compensate for this anti-climax.
DIRECTOR: GEORGE MILLER
STARRING: MEL GIBSON, TINA TURNER