Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
June 6, 2015 11:19 PM - Subscribe

A former Australian policeman is rescued by a tribe of children when he is banished from a desert town and sent into the desert to die by the desert town's evil queen.

About 15 years after the events of Mad Max 2, nuclear war has finally destroyed what little was left of civilization. Grizzled and older, former cop Max (Mel Gibson) roams the Australian desert in a camel-drawn vehicle -- until father-and-son thieves Jebediah Sr. (Bruce Spence) and Jr. (Adam Cockburn) use their jury-rigged airplane to steal his possessions and means of transportation. Max soon winds up in Bartertown, a cesspool of post-apocalyptic capitalism powered by methane-rich pig manure and overseen by two competing overlords, Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and Master (Angelo Rossitto), a crafty midget who rides around on the back of his hulking underling, Blaster (Paul Larsson). Seeking to re-equip himself, Max strikes a deal with the haughty Aunty to kill Blaster in ritualized combat inside Thunderdome, a giant jungle gym where Bartertown's conflicts are played out in a postmodern update of blood and circuses. Although Max manages to fell the mighty Blaster, he refuses to kill him after realizing the brute is actually a developmentally delayed young man. Aunty's henchmen murder Blaster nonetheless, then punish Max for violating the law that "Two men enter, one man leaves." Lashed to the back of a hapless pack animal and sent out into a sandstorm, a near-death Max is rescued by a band of tribal children and teens. The descendants of the victims of an airplane crash, the kids inhabit a lush valley and wait for the day when Captain Walker, the plane's pilot, will return to lead them back to civilization. Some of the children, refusing to believe that Max isn't Walker and that the glorious cities of their mythology no longer exist, set off in search of civilization on their own. Max and three tribe members must then rescue their friends from Bordertown and the clutches of Aunty Entity -- a quest that ends in a lengthy desert chase sequence that echoes the first two Mad Max films. Spence also appeared in Mad Max 2 in a different role, that of the Gyro Captain. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi
posted by KathrynT (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I just saw this -- after being blown away by Fury Road, I decided I was missing a lot and chose to watch all the previous movies. It's a strange film in some ways; when I learned that Miller had directed all the action sequences and Ogilvie had directed everything else, it made more sense. I was really disappointed in the way the "feral hero children" stuff was shot, it seemed straight out of Endor. Even the soundtrack was Ewok-evocative. But to my eyes the film made up for it with the awesome Bartertown / Thunderdome / action sequence stuff.

You have to hand Miller this; even when he does something that doesn't really work, he is at least doing something new. It's not like he made the same movie over and over again.

Couple of things in this one that Fury Road calls back to:

* Scroolose is basically a proto-War Boy.
* Max rescues the idealists who are charging off into the desert and instead re-directs them to an outpost of quasi-civilization that already exists.
* The wives' pleasure dome really, really, really looks like the Thunderdome.
posted by KathrynT at 11:41 PM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Well, it isn't so much redirection as "this is our only chance to survive".

The kids are a bit hokey, but I love the way they talk, so all is forgiven.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:14 AM on June 7, 2015

This song is so important to the movie, and the marketing of the movie: Tina Turner - We Don't Need Another Hero
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:48 AM on June 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

That music they play as were looking around Bartertown the first time? Sort of a percussive thing played on pots and pans? That's going to be going through my head next time I start a new contract and get shown around an office.

"...and here's the coffee machine, and here's the copy room." *postapocalyptic clanking*
posted by Artw at 4:25 PM on June 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Let's not forget the Riddley Walker shoutout/ripoff.
posted by whuppy at 6:29 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wonder of there was some kind if formal handover of the crown for "Most quotable Mad Max movie" from this one to the next one?
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on June 8, 2015

The very ending was kinda a groaner.

'Ain't we a pair, Raggedy Man!' (Cue crazy laugh, then walks away)
posted by ian1977 at 4:42 AM on June 9, 2015

Heh. I like that bit a lot.
posted by Artw at 7:48 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

This was the first Mad Max I saw in a theater, mainly because I was a big Tina Turner fan at the time. I gather it gets highly mixed reviews from most, but I've always liked it. I guess the stuff with the kids is a tough sell for the Road Warrior fans who prefer to stick to the crazy action sequences. As a piece of post-apocalyptic myth, though, it's always worked well for me, especially as a contrast to Bartertown where "civilization" is a false front and "capitalist trade" is a rigged game meant to give the illusion of freedom.

It's one of the themes of post-disaster or post-apocalypse stories I find fascinating - would we just rebuild what we had before? (Bartertown.) Or would we chuck all that and truly invent anew from nothing? (The lost children.) [I'm reminded of a comet disaster flick from around the late 90s - Deep Impact, I think - where the last shot after the comet has nearly destroyed the world is of the US Capitol building being rebuilt. As if simply putting it all back and pretending the world hasn't changed is supposed to be comforting? I mean, I know I have moments where I'd really rather it all just get smashed and start over.]
posted by dnash at 9:27 AM on June 9, 2015

This song is so important to the movie, and the marketing of the movie: Tina Turner - We Don't Need Another Hero

The casting of Tina Turner is something that only could have happened within a pretty short time frame.

Like the casting of Coolio in Batman and Robin.
posted by The Big Foist at 2:14 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think I saw it once on the TV in the early 90s. I was obviously too influenced by the prevailing opinion, because (having just watched it again) this is an awesome movie.

1985 George Miller interview with Anne Billson about the film.

(Really, really interesting, particularly the bit about hero and tyrants, which explains a lot about Fury Road, too.)
posted by Grangousier at 4:07 PM on June 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

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