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Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Reviewed by Tom Ender

“Two men enter. One man leaves.”

At the time of this writing Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the last Mad Max movie in the post-apocalyptic saga of the former cop turned “renegade.” As in Mad Max and Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome stars Mel Gibson in the title role of Max.

The movie starts with Max being robbed of his vehicle and camel team by a father/son team of aviators (Bruce Spence / Adam Cockburn) and left in the desert with small likelihood of survival. However, survival is Max’s stock in trade and he comes upon an “oasis” called Bartertown in the middle of the wasteland, a sort of post-apocalyptic city built around a trading post.

Max, who is on the trail of the thieves who robbed him, finds that his stolen vehicle and camels have turned up and are being traded in Bartertown. After proving that he is not someone to be pushed around, he is granted an interview with one of the powers within Bartertown: Aunty Entity (Tina Turner). After passing her "audition" she proposes a deal to him. If he eliminates a person posing a problem for her, she will see he gets his stolen material returned and has justice served upon the thieves.

As might be expected, the other power within Bartertown: Master/Blaster (Angelo Rossitto / Paul Larsson), isn’t going to just roll over and die. Master/Blaster is a duo of characters: a brainy dwarf and a masked giant. Together they control the energy production for Bartertown, producing methane from pig excrement.

Master has come into possession of Max’s vehicle and is having a bomb attached to its undercarriage disarmed. Max challenges Master on the ownership of the vehicle and a conflict ensues. This brings on Bartertown’s interesting post-apocalyptic solution to the problem of such violence prone conflicts. Instead of having incidents escalate to wars, they have the two people in conflict settle their dispute in a personal “gladiatorial” style of combat within the Thunderdome: a sort of cage match.

I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so all I’ll say about the Thunderdome sequence is that it results in Max being exiled from Bartertown in a way that looks as though it will end his life, again back in the desert. However, after his mount is sucked into a sandy sinkhole and he loses consciousness, a young huntress comes upon him and drags him to her settlement – a sort of Neverland (ala Peter Pan) of "lost" boys and girls. They take him in, thinking he is their “promised messiah,” and nurse him back to health. Eventually, he leads a set of these young people against the stronghold of Bartertown.

There are some great action sequences in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and plenty of other appealing aspects too. Post-apocalyptic movies were more common during the cold war era as the possibility of a collapse of civilization after a nuclear holocaust seemed a very real possibility. The genre seems less flush with new offerings lately.

Although a fourth Mad Max movie (Mad Max IV: Fury Road) was (originally read: is currently) listed by the Internet Movie Data Base as being in production, that listing no longer exists (originally read: its status is nebulous). In 2003 Mel Gibson was still reported to be planning on reprising his role of Max from the first three movies, but there is not much recent information available about this possibility. However, if you are looking for a good Action/SF film available today, with some insight into human nature and what is required to produce the stability that can lead to civilization, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome may suit your desires admirably.

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