After watching “Mad Max: Fury Road” yesterday I was jonesing for more Max, so I popped in “Beyond Thunderdome” (I had just seen “Road Warrior” a few days ago), and I enjoyed it a surprising amount. Part of this was surely still being on the Fury Road High, but I think the bigger part came from finally “getting” it. I had never liked “Thunderdome” much before, although I had very much enjoyed the first third of it. When the attention shifts from Bartertown to the Lost Boys and Girls, I’d previously felt let down and irritated. I wanted more post-apoc mayhem and raiders, not kids! And so I’ve always felt toward “Thunderdome”.
Until last night.
Last night it hit me, the formula for all the Mad Max movies, and once the formula clicked in my head I was okay with the Lost Boys and Girls (LBaG) from “Thunderdome”. The formula is very simple: Max encounters post-apoc bad guys (who often wear black), setting up the threat; later Max encounters idealized good guys (who often wear white and have blond hair) who need his aid; Max resists helping; good guys are threatened by the bad guys; Max helps; good guys prevail. Max goes on alone.
Once I realized this formula, shortly after Max arriving in the valley of the LBaG in my rewatch of “Thunderdome”, I knew what to expect from then on and was actually pleased. Usually I hate formula and knowing what to expect, but somehow this was different. This was making sense of the previously annoying and bewildering plot turn of “Thunderdome”, where it went from awesome post-apoc villainy and action to . . . babysitting. No one wants to see Mad Max babysit. But once I realized the kids were the George Miller Idealized Good Guys (GMIGG) and were about to be thrown into conflict with Tina Turner’s Bartertown Baddies (TTBB), I was okay with it. I could enjoy the surreally perfect valley of the LBaG, just as I enjoyed the surreally idealized good folk in “Road Warrior” and the angelic beauties of “Fury Road” . . . and I could especially enjoy it knowing they were about to be thrown into the ring with TTBB.
Which they are, quite soon, even if the plot gets a little wonky at that point.
Max helps, there’s adventure, vehicular mayhem, and the ending is (no spoilers) typical Max. The ending’s tone isn’t quite as grim as Road Warrior, and I kind of wish it was, but it’s about the same content-wise. Anyway, typical Max.
There’s a couple of plot issues that I couldn’t resolve, though. Why did they need Master? The kids didn’t set out originally to find him, so why did Max suddenly decide they needed him? That whole thing seemed to come out of nowhere. Yes yes, I can see how Master would be helpful in rebuilding the fallen society, but this was never addressed that I can remember. It was never set up as a goal by Max or the kids: “Hey, there’s a guy that has the knowin’? Let’s go get him!” None of that.
That aside, it was a pretty decent movie. What I love most about it, other than the post-apoc mayhem, is the style. It’s done in a brilliant 80s high-adventure style, comparable to Speilberg or Lucas, and it’s marvelously done, with tight zooms, epic panoramas and tension in every frame. The first third of it feels like the Jabba’s Palace portion of “Return of the Jedi”.
All in all, I quite enjoyed my return to “Thunderdome”. How long will this enjoyment last? Once the Fury Road High has died down and I rewatch the movie someday, will I still dig it? Time will tell.