Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Easily the most problematic of the Mad Max movies, and as I noted in yesterday’s post, we’ll never know just how this movie would have turned out had producer Byron Kennedy lived. The conventional wisdom for BEYOND THUNDERDOME is that the first half rocks, and the second half wimps out on us. At least, that’s what I thought when I saw it the first time, but now I find it makes the movie all the more interesting: the Big Fight between Max and Blaster occurs scarcely half an hour in, after which Miller and Ogilvie take the film in a very different direction. In many ways, Thunderdome is a contrast between two radically different approaches to post-apocalyptic realities; both the inhabitants of Bartertown and the kids at Crack in the Earth are trying to eke order out of the chaos, each utilizing a different kind of myth (wild west vs. awaiting-of-god-from-the-sky). There’s a great series of essays on this dynamic here; I don’t agree with all of it, but I do think that this is a movie that works on many different levels—easily the most layered of the three films. The fight at the end, for example, comes in for a lot of grief because of its slapstick quality, but it seems pretty clear this was entirely deliberate: the chase is, in essence, a conscious parody of the Giant Chase at the end of the previous movie (though the device of the old railroad was sheer genius). And the final flight through a shattered Sydney is frankly one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in cinema—not to mention one of the most underrated.

One of the most brilliant things about the Mad Max movies is the way we chart the course of civilization’s collapse:  in the first movie, it’s a society in which the rot has set in deep, in the second movie, we’re post-apocalyptic, and mechanized gangs now fight for the gasoline that will keep them competitive, and in the third, there’s virtually no gas left and everything is going low-tech/steampunk.  BEYOND THUNDERDOME thus opens with Max-as-camel-jockey (and what an opening as we swoop in upon him), and—while we do see an awful lot of pig shit—we don’t see much in the way of cars or engines, except of course during that last chase . . . love the way Auntie Tina signals green-light:

One Response to “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”

  1. David J. Williams » Blog Archive » Mad Max 4: Fury Road Says:

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