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Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome(1985)
Bartertown is a city on the edge of a desert that has managed to retain some technology if no civilization. Max has his supplies stolen and must seek shelter there in a post apocalypse world where all machines have begun to break down and barbarians hold what is left. He becomes involved in a power struggle in this third Mad Max film where he must first survive the town, survive the desert and then rescue the innocent children he has discovered.
For more about Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray release, see Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on June 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence, Adam Cockburn, Frank Thring, Angelo Rossitto
Directors: George Miller, George Ogilvie
» See full cast & crew
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, June 2, 2013
The third entry in the Max Max series departed from the essential chase format established by its two predecessors. Although the film was a success, and the titular arena where "two men enter, one man leaves!" has become a catchphrase, opinion remains divided over whether Thunderdome is up to the level of the first two installments. Even its most ardent fans (and that includes me) have to admit that Thunderdome doesn't provide the adrenaline rush of The Road Warrior. It goes quiet for a long stretch during the middle when Max discovers a society of lost children living in the wilderness, and only picks up steam (literally) near the end, with a wild chase involving a train. Some viewers blamed the change on studio involvement, since Thunderdome was the first of the series to be co-financed by Warner Bros. But it seems more likely that writer-director George Miller and co-writer Terry Hayes (Vertical Limit) realized that they couldn't do the same thing a third time. Miller has repeatedly said that he considered Road Warrior a chance to redo Mad Max properly, with a better budget, more time and the benefit of experience. In the process, he added an overlay of mythology that elevated the story into legend. After losing his family and defeating the Humungus, Max couldn't just race down the road a third time as if nothing had happened. He had to be a changed man with a different adventure. The first step was to be more specific about the state of the world. In the first two films, society had collapsed, but the details were vague. In Thunderdome, there are explicit accounts of a nuclear war. The old world is gone forever. What role can Max play in the new one?
As if to let us know at the outset that this Max is different, Miller opens Thunderdome with the former Road Warrior (Mel Gibson) driving a vehicle hauled by camels. No longer fueled by "the precious juice" of gasoline, the former speed demon is now a desert wanderer—and in the very first scene of the film, he's knocked to the ground by an airplane pilot named Jedediah, who, in an ironic bit of casting is played by the same actor (Bruce Spence) as the Gyro Captain in Road Warrior. He's a better-equipped version with a faster vehicle and works with his son, Jedediah, Jr. (Adam Cockburn). Though the relationship is played for comic relief, the theme of cooperation between generations is central to the film. If the first two Mad Max films were about predators picking over the carcass of a dying society, Thunderdome is about those trying to rebuild it after annihilation. In the course of his wanderings, Max encounters two very different examples. The first is Bartertown, which Max calls a "sleaze-pit". It's a parody of capitalism ruled by "Aunty" (Tina Turner, in an imposing chain-metal costume that weighed so much she could barely move). More of an extortion racket than a true economy, Bartertown succeeds because it offers itself as the only alternative to chaos. Aunty's simplistic "law" provides a basic peacekeeping mechanism by requiring disputes to be settled through gladiatorial combat in the arena known as Thunderdome. Her private army, headed by Ironbar (Angry Anderson), enforces her will. And she has one commodity that no one else can offer: electricity generated by methane gas from a vast underground pig farm overseen by a technologically adept little person named Master (Angelo Rossitto). But Aunty's control of Bartertown is threatened by Master, who has his own one-man private army in the person of Blaster (Paul Larsson), a helmeted giant of enormous strength who obeys Master's every command. In a secret deal, Aunty hires Max—jokingly referred to by the master of ceremonies, Dr. Dealgood (Edwin Hodgeman) as "The Man with No Name"—to kill Blaster in a Thunderdome confrontation. The result is one of the film's most original and best-known sequences, in large part because it's unlike anything from the first two installments. Thunderdome shifts gears radically in its middle portion, when Max chances upon a second and entirely different example of reconstituted society in a hidden oasis in the barren wasteland. This one consists entirely of children, survivors of a crashed airliner that was fleeing what the kids refer to as the "Pocky-clypse". The plane's captain, Walker, and the surviving adults eventually set off in search of other survivors but never returned. Left to their own devices, the children, led by the eldest, Savannah Nix (Helen Buday) and Slake (Tom Jennings), have created their own social order, language and history out of fragments of memory and random objects that survived the crash. They await the return of Captain Walker, who they believe will save them, like a messiah, by leading them to "Tomorrow-morrow Land"—and they mistake Max for Captain Walker. The inspiration that children are able to give Max should be familiar to anyone who remembers the Feral Kid from Road Warrior. But the exhausted wanderer of Thunderdome does everything he can to resist the savior's role that these children are so eager for him to assume. When he refused Pappagallo's invitation to join in the fight against the Humungus, Max still believed he could live on his own forever, cruising the wasteland behind the wheel. Now, he's just weary. He's seen what's out there and believes the children are already in the best place for them. Only when a rebellious group led by Savannah slips away in secret to search for Tomorrow-morrow Land does Max find himself forced into action. His rescue mission inevitably leads him back to Bartertown and his old enemy, Aunty. Miller has been criticized for ending Thunderdome with a chase sequence, as if the conclusion were tacked on solely to satisfy the expectations of Mad Max fans. In fact, the elaborate escape in the train engine that powers Bartertown's Underworld is an essential part of the story. Aunty and her operatives have gone to great lengths to present their new city as a paragon of civilization, but when their power source is threatened, they reveal their true nature. As they climb into vehicles and roar across the desert, they become indistinguishable from the forces of the Humungus, and although the train sequence isn't as long as the tanker chase in Road Warrior, it contains many visual reminders of that operatic demolition derby, with chief henchman Ironbar performing actions that mimic the Humungus' top warrior, Wez. With a few differences, Max ends up in much the same place as he did in Road Warrior: bidding adieu to the founders of a new society who will always remember him. He glimpses the promised land, but never reaches it.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray, Video Quality
There has been some question as to whether Warner's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is based on a new transfer or an older transfer done for the DVD released in 2003. I can't say (and I no longer have my DVD for comparison), but the Blu-ray is quite good. In scene after scene, fine detail is apparent that I haven't been able to make out since the film was in theaters. A particularly noteworthy example is Savannah Nix's recitation of history shortly after Max awakens among the children; she points to objects and paintings on walls that are barely illuminated but are now fully visible. Additional fine detail can also be seen in the livestock pens of Underworld and the night scenes of Bartertown. The image has deep blacks and very good shadow detail in scene after scene. There's a visible grain pattern that appears to be undisturbed by digital tampering, although light video noise is also evident in some scenes. The film's color palette appears to be about right, with a strong contrast between the yellow and reddish sands of the desert and the cool blues and greens of the children's oasis. Bartertown and especially Underworld are full of dirty browns and reds. If anyone who still has the DVD observes a shift in palette or color temperature such as occurred with Road Warrior, please send me a PM. At a healthy average bitrate of 29.63 Mbps, the Blu-ray easily handles the challenging action scenes and complex environments, without noticeable compression issues.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Thunderdome received a 70mm release with 6-track sound, which was presumably the basis for the 5.1 mix created for DVD and presented here in DTS-HD MA 5.1. It's an impressive and active mix, especially for a film from 1985. The rush of desert winds fills the room, as does the roar of the spectators surrounding Thunderdome and the chant of the children reacting to their leaders. Bartertown is alive with the bustle of activity, much of it probably illicit. One doesn't have to smell Underworld (fortunately), but the squeals of its main inhabitants are piercing. Special mention must be made of Maurice Jarre's score, which is one of my personal favorites. Unlike scores that are meant to dominate a film's soundtrack, Jarre's was written to blend into Thunderdome's, at times becoming almost indistinguishable from sound effects. For example, his theme for Bartertown is dominated by percussion that sounds like mallets on steel; it could easily be mistaken for construction in progress. If you listen to the soundtrack album, you may be surprised at just how much music the film contains. Once you know the themes, you can pick them out as a kind of sonic subtext. They are clearer in this presentation of the film than in any other I have heard. The dialogue benefits greatly from the lossless treatment. Max, as usual, says little, and many of Bartertown's inhabitants speak in exaggeratedly theatrical tones. But the children in the wasteland can be hard to understand, because they speak quickly, use words and expressions of their own invention, and often have a heavy accent. When I saw the film theatrically, I could barely understand a word, and subsequent presentations on laserdisc and DVD did little to improve the situation. With the Blu-ray's soundtrack, I was able to understand most of it.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Other than the theatrical trailer (480i; 1.78:1, enhanced; 1:29), the disc contains no extras. Neither did the 2003 DVD. It's unfortunate that neither of the music videos for "One of the Living" or "We Don't Need Another Hero" was included, presumably because of rights issues.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome may not offer the non-stop rush of Mad Max or The Road Warrior, but it's a thought-provoking film with a rich visual texture that has grown with age and reveals additional layers on subsequent viewings. Writer-director Miller could have taken the safe path by staging another chase film, but instead he tried to ask serious questions about what a man like Max might do next, and the results branch out in interesting directions while remaining true to the franchise. The film is dedicated to Miller's long-time partner, Byron Kennedy, who died in a tragic helicopter crash while scouting locations for the film. (Miller's grief over the loss is reportedly why he turned over some of the directing duties to colleague George Ogilvie.) It's an honorable legacy. Highly recommended.
Blu-ray bundles with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1 bundle)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Mad Max Trilogy Heading to Blu-ray - February 25, 2013
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced that it will release on Blu-ray The Mad Max Trilogy. The must-own collection, which will be available in limited premium tin packaging, will be available for purchase online and in stores across the nation on June ...
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray Screenshots
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