If the recent UK petrol strikes had gone on a little longer, chances are we’d have seen something not too dissimilar to the events here, in George Miller’s 1981 sequel to 1979’s Mad Max. Mel Gibson reprises his role of Australian cop Max Rockatansky, but the world he lives in is now a barren, chaotic land left ravaged by a worldwide war, leaving the survivors desperate for any fuel they can find.
Max and his dog roam the landscape looking for gasoline, eventually hearing about an enormous stash not too far away, and so with the guidance of a deranged nutcase with a flying machine (“It’s my snake, I trained it and I’m gonna eat it.”), set out to find it, but alas the compound within which the gasoline is kept is not only heavily guarded, but is also being laid siege to by a ruthless gang of miscreants.
Whilst this is certainly an improvement on the original movie, there are still a lot of things here that don’t make sense. For starters, the motivation for every character is to end up with more fuel, yet all seem to expend an awful lot more than they need to in order to get any. Whole fleets of cars and motorbikes are sent out on scouting missions, showboating and jumping as they go, and even the compound uses a bus as a gate. If fuel is so very precious, why are they all so eager to waste it?
The costume design has progressed from the previous film, and now the rebel gang has an even greater passion for leather, bondage and ass-less chaps than Max himself. The depiction of a lawless, structureless society is well done – one of the gang’s cars is a cop car, suggesting that it’s not just the general population that has lost it’s mind – and Max readily eats cold dog food, straight from the tin. There’s better characters too, including a feral kid with a deadly boomerang (played by the brilliantly named Emil Minty), and there’s some decent action and chase sequences. The epic finale, with the gang attempting to seize a petrol tanker trying to travel 2,000 miles to paradise, does get a little samey after a while, but is impressive nonetheless. The arm-mounted crossbow though is probably the least threatening weapon I’ve ever seen.
Fortunately, Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome isn’t on the list, but this one is deserving of it’s place. It’s by no means the greatest dystopian future survival movie, but it’s still an enjoyable watch, and certainly has it’s moments.
Choose film 7/10
This is one of the first R-rated action films I ever saw and it still remains one of my favorites. I like it the best of the three films in the trilogy.
It's easily the best of the trilogy, part 1 is OK but Beyond Thunderdome is atrocious.
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