MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, while a bit of a different beast than the previous two Mad Max films, is able to stand on equal terms with them in terms of action and spectacle as well as having deeper themes. This entry takes place several years after THE ROAD WARRIOR and has Max trekking the desert in a camel-drawn vehicle. After his vehicle and belongings are stolen by a pilot, Jedidiah (Bruce Spence, the Gyro Captain from the previous film), he makes his way to Bartertown. Bartertown is a city built in the aftermath of the apocalypse, and run with an iron fist by a strange character known as Aunty (Tina Turner). Hoping to get his stuff back, he agrees to fight in Thunderdome. After getting kicked out of Bartertown back into the desert, he meets a group of children who are surviving the apocalypse in their own way.
The best thing about the film is that it fleshes out the world established in the previous two entries, as well as bring in some new elements. The most interesting of these new additions is the Thunderdome, a caged arena where participants fight to the death with whatever weapons are available. The car chases were also creative, and had excellent stunt work, but the Thunderdome really showcases the brutality of the post-apocalypse in a way that the other action sequences couldn't (or didn't). Also, even though it made the narrative slightly unwieldy, I did like the side-by-side comparison of Bartertown with the tribe of children that Max meets. The central theme or message of this film seemed to be about how civilization recovers from apocalyptic events. Bartertown does this by regressing back to an animalistic, violent capitalism, while the young tribe remains innocent in anticipation for the return of a distant, utopian past. And all the while they hope for a better future. Thematically, this film stands head and shoulders above the previous two. Still, the way in which the narrative is drawn out makes the film a bit slow at times, which could turn off people who enjoyed the previous two for the non-stop action. Here, the bulk of the action is saved for the last 15-20 minutes, in a chase sequence that should please the action junkies in the audience.
As far as acting is concerned, it's ok but Mel Gibson is the only person who really does what I'd consider a "great" job. I also feel like Tina Turner was miscast as Aunty Entity, and a lot of her line readings felt really awkward to me. In contrast, I thought that the child actors portraying the tribe did a rather decent job. Overall, despite being a little slow at times, MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME is an entertaining post-apocalyptic movie with great action and some things to think about as well. Highly recommended, especially for fans of the series.