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Film Review: Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome
In 1985, George Miller and George Ogilvie released Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome, the third film in the Mad Max series. Starring Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence, Adam Cockburn, Frank Thring, Angelo Rossitto, Paul Larsson, Angry Anderson, Robert Grubb, Helen Buday, Tom Jennings, Edwin Hodgeman, and Rod Zuanic, the film grossed $36.2 million at the box office.
Quite some time after the first two films, Max finds himself in the middle of a power struggle over who controls the society of Bartertown. On one side, there’s Aunty Entity, who founded the town and the duo Master Blaster who controls its energy supply. Following a deal Max makes with Entity where he must fight Blaster in the Thunderdome, he eventually finds a society of children, survivors of a plane crash, living in a hidden valley.
Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome is an odd film due to how tight and well done the first third of the film is, only to fall to pieces at the halfway mark. It turns into a much different film than what had been presented previously, not just in the film, but throughout the series as a whole. As a whole, the series had presented audiences with grittily semi-realistic post-apocalyptic scenarios Max had gotten himself into, such as fighting biker gangs over the scarcity of oil. In the first part of the film, Max finds himself in Bartertown, caught up in the power struggle, eventually fighting in the titular Thunderdome. The post-apocalyptic vibe with the scarcity of oil continues to be real, seen when he decides to try and use a chainsaw as a weapon, only for it to run out of gas. Furthermore, it continues the motif of how lonely the wasteland is, seen in how Bartertown is one of the last civilized trading hubs in existence, as well as all the harsh characters the film had been throwing at the viewers.
However, between the first and second act, the film becomes more of an adventure film with younger kids and religious undertones. It’s a radical shift and feels nothing like what Mad Max had been doing at all in any way prior. It helps the title of the film make sense as he literally goes beyond Thunderdome, but there had to have been a better way to make the film keep the same feeling. Further, while the film does go back to Bartertown, it just doesn’t have the same aura to it as it did earlier.
The cult the group of kids forms around a downed jet airliner also makes sense, due to the realistic idea of an isolated tribe creating and exploring its own mythos after the apocalypse. When it comes after a locale like Bartertown and the atmosphere that came with it though, the whole cult aspect of the film continues to feel like a very different movie.
Nevertheless, the film does present some really good characters through the aforementioned power struggle. Aunty Entity is the only villain up until this point who actually had any hope of justifying her actions. Following the apocalyptic war, she went from a nobody and rose to the top to become the leader of Bartertown. In her villainous rule of the town, it’s shown the reason she keeps such an iron first is she’s genuinely trying to restore order and civilization to a broken down world. She also has no interest in perpetrating senseless violence, only indulging in villainous acts in order to preserve power and authority. Her pragmatism keeps her from killing Max at the end too.
Then there’s Master Blaster, who are actually two people acting in cohesion. Master is the shortest person in Barterown, but he’s also the smartest while Blaster is mentally handicapped and serves as Master’s muscle. As the caretaker of the methane conversion plant providing the city with electricity and fuel, Master is possibly one of the few people left alive with such a knowledge of mechanical engineering. His ability to practically shut down Bartertown by not allowing it to have the fuel it needs to run is perfect in providing the conflict between him and Aunty. Moreover, he’s shown as having hidden depths in how he made Blaster his enforcer, as he’s giving a mentally disabled person some semblance of safety in a cutthroat world such as Bartertown.
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- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture (Tina Turner)
Golden Globe Awards
- Best Original Song - Motion Picture (Song: "We Don't Need Another Hero")
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Film Saturn Awards
- Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (As a part of "Mad Max Anthology")
- Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (For the Mad Max Trilogy Collection)
- Best Science Fiction Film
- Best Director
- Best Writing
- Best Costumes
Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards
- Best Sound Editing - Sound Effects