Review: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

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Maybe it would have been better if Max had stopped himself before the thunderdome!

Written By: Terry Hayes & George Miller
Directed By: George Miller & George Ogilvie

I’m not one to bash the studio system or Hollywood all that often. I recognize that they are fans of formula movies, but that doesn’t mean that they produce bad movies all the time. However in the case of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome I can’t help but bemoan the studio involvement. Throughout the film the feeling of studio tampering always lingers and sometimes smacks you right in the face. Why they couldn’t just leave George Miller alone and allow him to complete his trilogy his way I don’t know, but they didn’t leave him alone and the movie suffers because of that.

The film begins and ends with the most obvious example of studio tampering, Tina Turner singing. I have no problems with Ms. Turner as a vocal artist, but I do have problems with inserting her style of song and voice into a post-apocalyptic tale. Her character actually isn’t that bad, but the songs that play over the opening and closing credits are bad and do not in any way fit the landscape of the Mad Max universe.

That brings us to the overall look of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and it was far too polished and professional for my liking. Mad Max and Mad Max 2 were boosted by their minimalistic nature, minimalism is sorely lacking from this entry in the trilogy. There are too many extras, too many costumes and the camera is way too fancy. This is supposed to be a small and claustrophobic universe, but Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is large and open, it just doesn’t feel like Mad Max. Although in a hypocritical moment for moi, my favorite shot of the entire film is that of the bombed out city at the end.

That’s not to say that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is without its charms. There are flashes of Miller’s well known super charged action style, but even those lack the same type of energy found in the first two films in the series. The one standard in the Mad Max series that doesn’t waver in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is Mel Gibson as Max. He knows this character and you can tell in the deadpan way that he plays Max, infusing him with dry humor and the right note of hero buried within.

It would have been nice to see Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome without George Ogilvie attached to the project and without big studio involvement. There are flashes of the movie that could have been and that makes Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome a curious entity worth a look by Mad Max fans. For the rest of you, this is just another case of the studio messing with something best left alone and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a film you can leave all alone.

Rating:

**1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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