Film Review: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)


The third in the series is also the weakest, a fact first signaled by the PG-13 rating, a ridiculous attempt to make the hard-edged action franchise more family-friendly. The script is uneven and disjointed. The first section, where Mel Gibson meets Tina Turner and fights in her Thunderdome arena, is all right. But when Max refuses to kill his opponent, a mentally handicapped brute, the story goes flacid and never recovers.

The second section features Max’s encounter with a bunch of desert children who think he’s their messiah — not a bad idea, but does it belong in a Mad Max movie? The final act is an unveiled rehash of the climactic chase from The Road Warrior. It’s a pretty cool chase, but it doesn’t compare with its predecessor.

Maybe the movie is just too ambitious to bring its disparate elements together, or maybe its commercial design prevents it from cutting loose and giving us the balls-to-the-wall action we’ve come to expect. It’s a watered down shadow of its predecessors, but if you adjust your expectations, you can still enjoy parts this messy movie. Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago) delivers a one-of-a-kind score that marries exotic instruments, a rock band, a boys’ choir, and a ninety-piece orchestra complete with an organ and six grand pianos. The final cue, in which the pianos and percussion pound relentlessly while Max and the children escape from Turner and her mohawked minions, is one of my favorites from the decade. Turner also provides two terrific songs to the soundtrack, “One of the Living,” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”

Rating: 3/5 ★★★☆☆ 


About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (

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