If you were a fan of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, then there’s plenty more where that came from on Max. We’re talking, of course, about the final installment of the trilogy that started it all, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, starring Mel Gibson and Tina Turner. Though you don’t need to watch the original Mad Max films to appreciate Fury Road, it’s worth noting that George Miller had a heavy hand in the creation, writing, and direction of every film in the franchise, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a compelling reason to not go back and watch Beyond Thunderdome in all of its glory.
Tina Turner stunned audiences as Aunty Entity, a villain with depth, in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, now streaming on Max.
Set after the events that took place in The Road Warrior, this Mad Max film takes us to a trading post called Bartertown. After getting his vehicle stolen in the Australian Desert, Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky finds himself in quite the predicament when Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity realizes that she can use him as a pawn in her game to seize control of Bartertown by subduing Master, a resourceful Dwarf who rides around on the back of his giant bodyguard named Blaster. “Master Blaster,” who runs the underground refinery that operates beneath Bartertown, has been challenging Aunty for control of the post-apocalyptic civilization, and she believes that Max is her key to reclaiming dominance over the trading post.
Max learns that Master has his stolen vehicle, and he publicly accuses him of this act of impropriety. Auntie explains to Max that conflicts in Bartertown are resolved by a fight to the death in the Thunderdome, the titular gladiatorial arena in this Mad Max film, and schedules a fight between Max and Blaster. Aunty figures that if Max can kill Blaster, then she can more easily manipulate Master now that his bodyguard is out of the picture.
But things don’t go as expected for Aunty in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome because when Max learns that Blaster is developmentally challenged, he spares his life. Aunty, now irate that Max showed mercy to Blaster, has him killed anyway and has Max exiled to the Wasteland, where he nearly dies. Max wakes up in an oasis occupied by a tribe of children who are looking for a better life.
Tina Turner provided two songs to the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome soundtrack, and won a Grammy for the opening theme, “One of the Living.”
The children’s hopes of finding the mysterious “Tomorrow-morrow Land” they’ve heard legends about are dashed when Max tells them that no such place exists, and they are eventually forced to take a trip back to Bartertown when Max runs out of supplies. From this point forward, we’re met with action sequences like those we’ve seen in the previous two Mad Max films, and they do not disappoint. Staying true to George Miller’s vision, there are plenty of heavily modified vehicles and explosions to keep you at the edge of your seat throughout the third act.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the ultimate post-apocalyptic dystopian action film, and there’s a little something for everybody in this world full of marauders and villagers. Though it’s up for debate whether this was the strongest film in the original trilogy, it came with high praise upon its original release. Roger Ebert even gave the film four out of four stars, stating that the gladiatorial scene was “one of the great creative action scenes in movies,” and later placed it on his top-10 list of films that were released in 1985.
Critics overwhelmingly agree with Roger Ebert, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome garnered an 81 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. It goes without saying that Mel Gibson brought the goods, given his familiarity with the franchise at this point in time, but Tina Turner also received a considerable amount of praise for her powerhouse performance as an antagonist who not only had an intimidating presence but also a level of depth and nuance that made her character out to be so much more than your typical “bad guy.”
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome may be a classic, but it disappointed upon release with only $36 million worldwide.
Not only did Tina Turner expertly execute her role as Auntie Entity, but her star power also allowed her to contribute to the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome soundtrack with the opening and closing songs: “One of the Living,” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome).” Both songs ended up climbing the charts, and Tina Turner won a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 28th Annual Grammy Awards for her performance of “One of the Living.”
These days, post-apocalyptic films are a dime a dozen, but back in the 80s, the Mad Max franchise was the cream of the crop. If you’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing the chaos of the wasteland, we’d strongly advise viewing Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but only after watching Mad Max and The Road Warrior first.