MAX IS FINALLY back, Cutting hits way through the saccharine fallout-ridden movies of a Steven Spielberg summer, Mad Max has adventure and wry humor that puts Indiana Jones in the back seat. He is truly a welcome respite in these dog days of moviedom, when the only other adventurer on the screen is the barely articulate, militantly mad Stallone.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the third movie in the series featuring Mel Gibson as the ever-infuriated Max, pursuing his private vendetta against the forces of evil in the Australian outback. It is the second film in the series that portrays the post-apocalyptic world. Evil, like everything else, has needed time to recover. In The Road Warrior punk-styled roadsters with homicidal tendencies had organized into tribes. In Beyond Thunderdome, evil graduates to cities.
Max is more relaxed. Apparently he has gotten over the death of his family (which was killed by bikers in the original Mad Max) and has become the model of well adjustment for the post-nuclear generation.
Also, Mel Gibson has come into his own as an actor since the earlier Max films, possessing enough confidence to call this last piece of his work "shit." He has also had enough voice lessons in American English, and gained enough U.S. exposure that a Casey Kasem-like voice does not have to be dubbed over his harsh Australian drawl (as was done in the first Made Max). In any case, there is now a layer of wit stacked over The Concept of Hero as Road Warrior.
Tina Turner's first role since the Acid Queen in Tommy shouldn't frighten anyone away. As Auntie Entity, the self-styled empress of the "slimepit" Bartertown, she performs with a perfect pre-apocalyptic charm, which gives way only when she must express and contain the rage of a town whose people have only very recently lost everything they ever had.
FANS OF CULT MOVIES will find much that has been borrowed, including the most famous line from Buckaroo Banzai. Indeed, though the Mad Max films have been elevated to popular status, Mad Max III has retained much of what makes some cult films, "cult classics." The bizarre side of life and death are captured better in the wonderfully absurd characters of this film--e.g. the hunchbacked gameshow host-executioner--than they could possibly be in a "serious" film. In other words, Mad Max films, though violent and bizarre, are a lot of fun.
The main problem with this film is that it peaks early. Max becomes the deciding piece in a bizarre power struggle between Auntie, who controls the surface of Bartertown, and Master Blaster, a two person unit that controls the energy supply of the city below ground. This confrontation is resolved early on in a fight to the death in an arena called Thunderdome. The rest of the film is hence "Beyond Thunderdome.
After Thunderdome, Max takes a brief holiday in what seems like Walt Disney's version of Lord of the Flies. A tribe of deserted children enact with Durkheimian accuracy the ritual of their history for Max, then declare him to be their messiah. Max finds this scene to be quite annoying, as does the audience. Max states himself what the focus of a Mad Max movie should be when he declares that he is not a childrens' messiah, but rather, "the guy who keeps Mr. Death in his pocket." (Would that the directors had kept to that focus).
Max soon gets back to his forte of high speed demolition, however. Fans of the Road Warrior will find nothing new here, which is just fine. And though the end of the film is a bit of a cop out, it can't spoil what is surely one the best treats of the summer