Revisiting Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, the third film in the original Mad Max trilogy, I wish it had been called Within Thunderdome or perhaps Inside Thunderdome. I would have been perfectly content never to leave Thunderdome at all, maybe watch a few more flying bungee chainsaw and giant mallet fights. I would be nice to stay within the City Limits of Barter Town, get the inside dope on that methane production outfit below ground. Do we really need to see what's "beyond"? We've seen the wasteland before. Can't we just stick around town?
Once Max beats and unmasks Blaster of Master-Blaster fame (above), does the bidding of Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and is sent out to die in the desert, the movie, like the dying horse Max rides upon, kind of grinds to a halt. Though it's diverting to see how a community of children survivors fares in the wasteland, hear the stories they tell themselves about the Old World ("skyscrapers, v-v-v-videeos!"), I got the feeling this time that it served the purpose not of broadening the world of the wasteland so much as softening the character of Max. "We don't need another hero," Tina Turner croons on the soundtrack. By the end, a more blandly heroic Max is exactly what we get.
But Beyond Thunderdome does have its share of charms. The Master-Blaster dichotomy is a creative handling of what could have been just an everyday movie thug. Tina Turner is a fine frenemy for Max, one you root for and root against, at least for her superior fashion sense. In terms of excitement, the end chase pales in comparison to the one in Road Warrior, as if someone remembered at the last second, "Oh shit, this is a Mad Max movie...there must be a chase!" All in all, Thunderdome provides a solid counterpoint to the previous two films. Whereas The Road Warrior could stand on its own outside the series, Thunderdome needs the previous film as a reference point (otherwise, Bruce Spence's helio-pilot character and his son don't make much sense). As Aunty Entity might say, "Ain't we a pair, Raggedy Man. Ain't we a pair."