For some reason this film is much maligned by fans of the series. I suspect it is the subplot featuring the tribe of nearly feral children that Max endeavors to save. It is a very reasonable plot line, but there is a sequence when the kids and Max are escaping from Bartertown, that plays out like a better version of the Goonies. The cute rope swinging and slide escapes just seem like they are out of another film. I guess some audiences resented toning down the brutality for cute moments with kids. Whimsy feels out of place in Max’s Universe..
Those points aside, Beyond Thunderdome has a lot of things to recommend it. The concept of Bartertown alone justifies another visit to this post apocalypse world. It’s a place where you are only admitted if you have something to trade. The idea that a code could develop, no matter how twisted, seems to appeal to our need for some type of civilization. However, rules implie consequences and the application of those consequences means someone has to have power. The social structure of Bartertown is dependant on two sources of power, intellect and guile. Both of these have to be backed by force, so the culture is playing out the same pattern that brought them to this
Another great invention to justify our two hours is “Thunderdome ” itself. The simplicity of the justice system is clear but arbitrary. Two men enter, one man leaves. We know there will be an opportunity to see it in action, and although it is sometimes fanciful, it never feels like a cartoon. Even when Tina Turner as Auntie Entity is loading over the other denizens in her padded shoulders of chain mail, it still feels threatening. The secondary characters of Master/Blaster are a clever concier that drives the plot, but also starts showing us that Max has an exterior that is developing cracks. Mel Gibson is less stoic as Max in this episode, and by the time the film wraps up, his character is downright sentimental. Some may be put off by the kids living in the Crack, earlier, but I liked the way they told their battered story and built their hopes around it.
The final chase is solid but marred by the antics of the kids and some visual humor that makes characters meant to be dangerous and turns them into comic relief. It was not until “Fury Road”, twenty five years after this film that the “Road Warrior ” final chase is matched and exceeded. This may have been a slight letdown after the heights of the second film in the series, but it has it’s own moments as well.
We saw this with Art and Kathy at the Edwards Temple City fourplex. They seemed disappointed but I was delighted by the movie. There are some sentimental touches that I thought worked pretty well. The Alan Tudek doppelganger was fun, and I liked both of the Tina Turner songs used in the Titles and end credits. Fury Road plumbs the same storyline as this film, but manages to avoid stepping into the humor trap that Thunderdome falls for. Kids can work as a plot point, but turning them into T Lost Boys in an animated movie, isn’t going to cut it.