In Defense of Beyond Thunderdome (1985)


Hey guys, Jon here! Hope you’re all enjoying my blog so far, I got some cinematic universes I want to review so keep an eye out for them.

So just like the Animal Crossing article that my best friend wrote, turns out his sister wanted to write something as well. Hope you enjoy the article and let me know what you think in the comments below!

If you have been living in a cave lately, you may not know we are in a very large crisis, COVID-19. Businesses have shut down and people are forced to stay home with their hordes and hordes of toilet paper. What is there to do during a crisis such as this one? What could someone possible do stuck inside their house? Vegetate and watch movies, and there is no better movie to watch during our own apocalypse than the Mad Max series. 

For those not familiar with the wonderfully dusty and dingy world of Mad Max, it is a film series that originally starred Mel Gibson as the title character himself and later Tom Hardy in the latest film. Max acts almost as a western hero as he makes his way through the Australian outback fighting off thieves and gangs while visiting strange pop up towns and meeting the even stranger inhabitants that live there. This is all while driving around in patched together Frankenstein vehicles. 

Mad Max’s nomadic story is told through four movies, Mad Max, Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome, and Fury Road. All are beloved and enjoyed by fans, well actually all but one, Beyond Thunderdome. The third movie of this series usually finds itself at the bottom of everyone’s list because of its confusing and sometimes directionless plot.

The story follows Max (surprise, surprise) as he enters Bartertown. His goal is to get a vehicle to make it across the treacherous outback after his was stolen. Since nothing is free in Bartertown, he accepts a job from Aunty Entity, played by singer Tina Turner, who owns half of the town and wishes to completely control it. In order to do that, Max must first challenge Masterblaster within Thunderdome, another character that Aunty has a very rocky truce with.

That doesn’t sound half bad does it? On the outside, it seems like the beginning of a classic Mad Max plot, Max wants something and in order to get what he wants, he needs to do a favor for someone else. The problem with this movie does not lie there, it lies within its large second half regarding a tribe of plane wrecked children who are on the “cutesy annoyance” level of the ewoks from Star Wars. They stumble across Max, (and like how the ewoks viewed C3PO in Return of the Jedi) and they treat him as a god that will bring them to the promised land that they dubbed “Tomorrow-morrow Land”.

Yes, it is all nonsensical and It is obvious why people hate this movie, but maybe it is not as bad as everyone thinks. By far, it is definitely not the best of the series, that honor belongs to Fury Road and its ugly baby powder covered villain Immortan Joe. But maybe Beyond Thunderdome is not as horrible as everyone remembers it, maybe it is actually better than the first movie. 

“But why?” A crowd of hardcore fans cry out.

“Because, the first one is boring.” The answer is simple.

For all its many faults, many have to admit that Beyond Thunderdome does somewhat have an interesting plot and ideas behind it. The idea of the Thunderdome, where  problems are solved with weapons and spectators are excited to watch like it is a WWE fight, really describes how quickly human morals can change after a natural disaster and how it becomes an “every man for himself” kind of world.  Even the idea of the village of children who worship plane debris and its former captain is engaging, though the execution was something left to be desired. 

Even with all of the hatred this movie gets, it is still memorable and even quotable.The chant of the Thunderdome challenge, “Two men enter, one man leaves” will forever be ingrained within the heads of many people. Can the same be said about the first movie? Not really. Many people see the first movie as a better movie than Beyond Thunderdome because it acted as the gritty and depressing origins of Max. In reality, the first movie had not gained the fascinating post-apocalyptic scenery and thrilling car chases the series was known for. It is very well known that the first movie, by today’s standards, had a very small budget, so many cuts and liberties had to be taken during filming. Instead of taking place during the height of an apocalypse, it took place during the beginning. Characters were still driving around in normal cars and society was still somewhat functional and intact. 

Again, the first movie is not bad, but when compared to the other three, it is clear it had not found its footing yet. Beyond Thunderdome contains everything to make a great Mad Max movie, it just placed more focus on poorly executed plot ideas.  For a movie called Beyond Thunderdome, not much of it actually takes place within the Thunderdome (a hugely missed opportunity), and for a Mad Max movie, not many action packed car chases occur. However, that can all be forgiven since the audience is treated to a final climactic chase with many of the characters Max had met on his journey. 

If Beyond Thunderdome would have minimized the plot about the village of children and placed more of its focus on the Thunderdome itself and car chases, it would have been received much differently. It is a shame that many of the unique characters within the movie were not put to good use. 

Take Jedediah the thief pilot and his young son, who were the ones in the beginning of the movie who stole Max’s vehicle. Both are not in the movie for too long, but their backstory and dynamic are comical. A father and a son trying to survive out in the desert by stealing whatever they can get their hands on and bringing it back to their hoard of items in their hideout. Limiting their interaction with Max was a missed opportunity. It would have not only been reminiscent of the dynamic Max had with the Gyro Captain in Road Warrior, but also act as a way for the audience to dig deeper into Max’s psyche. Max was once a father himself before the death of his child, how does he feel about family now and parent-child relationships? These questions could have been explored through Jedediah and his son’s interactions with Max.

It should be noted that not every Mad Max fan sees Beyond Thunderdome as their least favorite out of the series. The movie actually did pretty well in the box office, making 36 million with a 10 million budget, and has gained a legacy for itself. The term “Thunderdome” has been absorbed into pop culture and is often used to describe something that is in a state of violent confusion and mayhem. Even the song written for the movie, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” performed by Tina Turner, charted high. In 1986, it peaked at number two on the weekly chart for billboard’s hot 100. The accompanying music video even contains Tina Turner once again playing her Aunty Entity character. Other than Fury Road, what could be better than that? Maybe it is time to take another look at Thunderdome and see what it really has to offer.

Beyond Thunderdome is directed by George Miller and George Ogilvie is Rated PG-13 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 47 minutes. Beyond Thunderdome was released on July 10, 1985.

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