Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a Golden Globe-nominated 1985 film, the third installment in the action movie Mad Max franchise, succeeding The Road Warrior. The film was directed by George Miller and George Ogilvie, and stars Mel Gibson and Tina Turner. The original music score was composed by Maurice Jarre.
The movie provides additional back story to the original Mad Max and Mad Max 2, showing a nuclear war following the energy crisis referenced in the beginning of Mad Max 2. It was the first and only film in the franchise that was rated M by the Australian Classification Board.
Driving a camel-powered truck across the desert, Max (Mel Gibson) is attacked by the airborne bandit Jedediah (Bruce Spence), who manages to steal both his belongings and his vehicle. Max walks and finally stumbles upon the only nearby human outpost in the wasteland that remains—the seedy community of Bartertown, founded and nominally run by the ruthless Aunty Entity (Tina Turner).
In Bartertown, electricity, vehicles, functioning technology—all almost unheard of in this post-apocalyptic world—are made possible by a crude methane refinery, fueled by pig faeces, using a weathered semi tractor as the electricity generator. The refinery is located under Bartertown and is operated by the smart, diminutive Master (Angelo Rossitto), who is harnessed to his enormously strong, but dim-witted bodyguard known as Blaster (Paul Larsson). Together, "Master Blaster" hold an uneasy power-truce with Entity for control of Bartertown; however, Master is beginning to exploit his position with energy "embargoes," challenging Auntie's leadership. She is furious with him but cannot challenge him publicly, as Master is the only one with the technical know-how to operate the machinery that powers Bartertown. The controlled chaos of Bartertown is maintained by a set of inflexible laws, including one that states that no deal can be broken, for any reason. The punishment for breaking this law is equally inflexible and invoked with the simple phrase, "bust a deal, face the wheel."
Entity recognizes Max as a resourceful (if disposable) fighter, and strikes a deal with him to provoke a duel with and kill Blaster in the "Thunderdome," a gladiatorial-esque arena where conflicts are resolved, turning what is arguably a political assassination into a lawful act. Max goes to the Underworld, where he befriends a convict who was imprisoned for killing a pig in order to feed his children, and thus nicknamed Pig Killer (Robert Grubb). The rules of matches in the Thunderdome, as chanted by onlookers crowding the arena, are simple and singular—"two men enter, one man leaves." After a stunningly long and difficult match, Max defeats Blaster, but refuses to kill him when he discovers that Blaster is a man with the mind of a child. An enraged Auntie has Blaster executed and invokes their single law since Max broke his deal with her. The wheel, which serves as a judge and jury, turns out to be a large, spinning metal disc (similar to a Wheel of Fortune) with an arrow pointing to one of several consequences. Possible consequences include Death, Hard Labour, Acquittal, Gulag, Aunty's Choice, Spin Again, Forfeit Goods, Underworld, Amputation, and Life Imprisonment. When spun for Max, it lands on "Gulag." He is cast out of Bartertown and exiled to the desert wastes.
The story radically shifts gears at this point. Some time later, Max, near death due to exposure to the hostile conditions, is saved by a group of children led by Savannah Nix (Helen Buday). The children, hardened to the desert environment, are survivors (or the children of survivors) of a nearby QANTAS Boeing 747 plane crash, and have formed a sort of tribal community in the sheltered desert oasis in which they live. Clinging to their hopes of rescue, they keep their fading memories of the past civilization alive in the form of ritualistic spoken "tells" which hinge on the return of a messianic "Captain Walker" who will repair their shattered aircraft and return them to civilization. The "tell" explains that Flight Captain G.L. Walker at one point took most of the surviving adults to seek help, promising they would be back to rescue the rest, but never returned. Max's appearance and physical resemblance to Walker make the children believe that he has indeed returned to take them to "Tomorrow-Morrow Land ," or back to civilization as it once was. After nursing him back to health, they are shocked to hear Max's account of the dystopic state of the world and become angry at his insistence that they all remain living in the relative safety of the oasis, knowing that the only "civilization" within reach is Bartertown.
Some of the children decide to leave anyway, determined to find "Tomorrow-morrow land," the mythic place they believe their parents left them to find. Max goes after them.
The third act begins as Max catches up with them at the outskirts of Bartertown. They sneak in, intent on finding Master. Without Blaster to protect him, the dwarfish Master is little more than Auntie's slave. Max and the children free him (with the assistance of Pig Killer, who is also freed), but alert the guards, and a frenetic chase ensues, resulting in Bartertown's methane factory becoming damaged and causing explosions, ending at the hideout of Jedediah. Max coerces him to help them escape in Jedediah's Transavia PL-12 Airtruk, but there is not enough room for them all. Max stays behind, heroically clearing a path through the pursuing vehicles so the plane has enough runway to take off. Having earned her respect with his bravery, Aunty spares Max's life. She then departs, to presumably make good on her vow to rebuild Bartertown.
The story shifts to many years later, when the much older children are seen in the ruins of a destroyed Sydney (then "Tomorrow-Morrow Land"), lit up by thousands of fires and lights. Savannah, the leader of the children, recites a nightly "tell" of their journey.
- Mel Gibson - Max Rockatansky
- Bruce Spence - Jedediah The Pilot
- Adam Cockburn - Jedediah Jr.
- Tina Turner - Aunty Entity
- Frank Thring - The Collector
- Angelo Rossitto & Paul Larsson - Master Blaster
- Angry Anderson - Ironbar
- Robert Grubb - Pig Killer
- Edwin Hodgeman - Dr. Dealgood
- George Spartells - Blackfinger
- Helen Buday - Savannah Nix
- Tom Jennings - Slake
- Rod Zuanic - Scrooloose
- Mark Spain - Mr. Skyfish
- Mark Kounnas - Gekko
- Adam Scougall - Finn McCoo
The vehicles in the movie are greatly different from the ones seen in previous movies. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderome taking place some odd 15 to 18 years after the events of The Road Warrior shows that there is not only no more oil, but the remains of vehicles are reduced to their bare bone forms, resembling wrecks on rudimentary chassis or with makeshift custom shells.
There are only two vehicles that resemble their original forms. Those being the truck-train and Max's very own Camel Wagon that has an XB Sedan cab, very similar to the one he was driving during his time in the MFP. All the other vehicles are makeshift and custom built on various chassis ranging from Toyota to Ford.
- Main article: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (soundtrack)
- Main article: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (score)
George Miller, director of the first two Mad Max movies, lost interest in the project after his friend and producer Byron Kennedy was tragically killed in a helicopter crash while location scouting. A common misconception is that Miller later agreed to direct the action sequences, with George Ogilvie directing the rest of the film. This was debunked by Miller himself claiming that assumption was made because of ambiguous press releases. In fact the only time both Georges split up was while Ogilvie was filming the camel sequences. Otherwise they spent most of their time together on the set. There is a title card at the end that says, "For Byron."
Critical reaction to the film was generally positive, although reviewers were mixed regarding whether they considered the film the highest or lowest point of the Mad Max trilogy. Most of the criticism was focused on the children in the second half of the film, which many felt was too reminiscent of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. On the other hand, critics praised the Thunderdome scene in particular; critic Roger Ebert called the Thunderdome "the first really original movie idea about how to stage a fight since we got the first karate movies" and praised the fight between Max and Blaster as "one of the great creative action scenes in the movies."
The film's title varied depending on the territory. In several places (Argentina, Croatia, Poland, Serbia) it was simply known as Mad Max 3, most likely to avoid translation of the neologism: "Thunderdome". Some territories translated the title in parts, for example in France the film was called Mad Max: Au-delà du Dôme du Tonnerre (MM: Beyond the Dome of Thunder) and in Greece it was known as MM: Απόδραση από το βασίλειο του κεραυνού (MM: Escape from the Realm of Thunder). Whilst in other countries the concept of a Thunderdome was abandoned for a word with a close meaning, for example in Finland it was known as Mad Max: Ukkosmyrsky (MM: Thunderstorm).
Trivia & Notes
- The movie poster was painted by the renowned poster illustrator, Richard Amsel.
- Budget: AUD $12,000,000
- Both directors of this movie have twin brothers.
- The music video for 2pac's 1996 hit, "California Love" was shot at the Thunderdome set and features Mad Max inspired vehicles and attire.
- The stunt involving the train destroying a car with Ironbar Bassey on board was performed by Dennis Williams - the same stuntman who rolled the Mack truck in The Road Warrior. The stunt did not go exactly as planned from the beginning. Originally the train had to be backed up to make way for an actual train using that same railway line and the stunt was rescheduled for the next day. After crashing into the car the stunt driver sustained burns to his left arm and shoulder and was transported to a hospital via helicopter.
- Nine crew members collapsed from heat exhaustion during the five-week long shoot of the final scenes on the Lunar Plain, Coober Pedy.
- Over two dozen 4x4 vehicles were transported via train to filming locations, including the Mack train that had to be dismantled for the trip. The crew, however traveled by road.
- The most elaborate Coober Pedy "dugout" - Crocodile Harry's underground nest made its way into the movie by accident, becoming Jedediah's home.
- The Crack In The Earth was filmed in Mermaid's Cave in the Blackheath region of New South Wales. The movie's art department used that location and built a number of huts using natural materials.
- "The Telling Wall", a massive 15 x 40' wall from which Savannah Nix tells 'the tale" was built using blocks of foam over a steel scaffold. After construction, the facade was carved into realistic rock formations and covered with the drawings used in the ritualistic "Telling" sequence. After a few rains it was impossible to tell if the manufactured wall was part of the original rock formation.
- The entrance to Bartertown was filmed on a searing desert in the center of Australia (the Breakways) that used to be an inland sea several million years ago.
- Approximately 150 extras were recruited from Coober Pedy for the movie. Each day at 3 AM they lined up before the muncipial hall for make-up and wardrobe preparation. They were whisked away by a fleet of buses as the sun crawled over the Breakaways' horizon.
- Tina Turner did her own make-up. "I realized Aunty was a great part for me, because I adapted to a similar situation in real life (...) I had to build a world for myself from scratch after my divorce, so playing Entity is just a matter of stepping back into a memory. And it wasn't that painful, either, because I don't regret any part of my life!"
- The Thunderdome bungee chords did not supply enough lift for the actors to perform big leaps. A manually controlled compressed air system was used to propel the performers into the air to achieve the desired effect. The actors were shot as high as 18 feet in the air. The shot was full of bruises and abrasions that took heavy toll on all cast and crew members, including Mel Gibson who has been given just two days to master the maneuvers.
- ↑ Preuve, 1985
- ↑ Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome - Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes
- ↑ :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews :: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (xhtml)
- ↑ Prevue Magazine #60, July 1985