The third entry into the Mad Max series is a highly inventive mixture of post-apocalyptic grimness, cage fighting and a dose of ‘Lord of the Flies’ thrown in for good measure. Mel Gibson returns again to the role that brought him International attention. His work here is effective in the sense that hes never upstaged by whats going on around him. The ingeniously plotted affair is a bit less action oriented than the previous outing ‘The Road Warrior’, some have complained that the action flags too often. In return for these lapses there are plenty of interesting, grotesque characters and off-kilter settings to achieve a high level of excitement and atmosphere.
Max (Gibson) gets involved with the rulers of an outpost known as Bardertown. Tina Turner shows up in what amounts to an extended cameo as the woman fighting for control of the town. Her power struggle with a wrestler- sized dunce controlled by a dwarf leads to backroom dealing that sees Max fights for his life in a dome cage match involving bungee cords, battle axes and gravity defying leaps. It a spectacularly choreographed and meticulously edited sequence that is the highpoint of the film. Unfortunate that is also the picture’s central weakness, it peaks too early. When the narrative shifts into the rescue of a group of children living in the wasteland; it feels like the film is meandering. Gibson’s character here is toned down too, he not quite as furious.
On the plus side Cinematographer Dean Semler once again captures the beautiful vast horizons of the blessed outback and gives them a hauntingly beautiful quality. In addition the screenplay credited to director George Miller and Terry Hayes is rich in humor and quirkiness. ‘Thunderdome’ is a come down from the chaotic brilliance of ‘The Road Warrior’, but it’s still a fine and fitting conclusion to the ‘Mad Max’ series.
Director: George Miller, George Ogilvie
Stars: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Tina Turner
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