RogerBW's Blog

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) 25 April 2023

1979 action, dir. George Miller/George Ogilvie, Mel Gibson, Tina Turner: IMDb / allmovie. We don't need another hero.

And then Byron Kennedy, George Miller's friend and partner in filmmaking, died in a helicopter crash during location scouting, and Miller lost all his enthusiasm for making another Mad Max. I think it shows here, and in particular I think Miller was less able to resist pressure from the financiers to make it a more Hollywood-friendly film. This guy barely is Max – he doesn't have a car, he has an animal-drawn caravan, and he loses that in the first scene. Mel Gibson is back, but by now he's a Big Film Star, and drinking five pints for breakfast every day (though cast and crew still found him professional on set).

I try not to castigate films for what they aren't, but there's a hint here at a much more interesting story. Aunty Entity is on top of Bartertown, more or less, but she's kept it together by oppression and dictatorship for lack of other options. What do you do when you realise that you've destroyed the path to the society you want to rebuild by implementing this kind of short-term measure to keep any society at all, but now the people regard dictatorship as the thing that has kept them going? It's only a hint, though. (Also, at the time using Tina Turner felt like stunt casting, but she actually does a pretty good job here.)

But then there's also the soundtrack. Miller didn't get Brian May (not that one) back, but instead went with Maurice Jarre – and now it is a soundtrack, not just a mood-setter. Even discounting the songs, there's lots of clangy bangy noise and diegetic music, and it's all much more obvious – and in the manner of John Williams' lazier scores, it's always very clear how you're supposed to feel at any moment.

Strangest of all, the first act (and the act boundaries are very obvious) takes place largely indoors. Max doesn't do indoors. Max does desert and road. Well, we got plenty of desert.

I get the feeling of an attempt to re-mount the second film, but bigger and louder. But the kids don't work with that (unlike many people I think they work quite well on their own, but they really belong in a different film), and all the sense of raw (most obvious in the first film, but still significant in the second) has gone. And then in the final act we get blatant comedy: tee hee he fell in the pigshit, a Han Solo reverse as Max runs down a corridor and then runs back pursued by bad guys, the comedy boings as bad guys are being knocked off the locomotive cab, Ironbar pulling himself up to dodge the trackside railings. (And Ironbar's barely a character, so the boss/sidekick dynamic is gone.) It's all nice safe cartoon violence, and there's a place for that, but it ain't Mad Max.

There are some surprisingly good moments here. But it's really not impressive overall.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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