“Mad Max: Beyond Thumderdome” is seen by many as an unfortunate misstep in the series, and I’d have to agree it’s definitely the weakest film in it. It feels diluted, less Australian, less Miller than the other three films. The prevalence of more direct humour, appeal to children, Tina Turner, and a much more conventional plot all take away from the unique appeal of the series, and make it resemble a much more standard Hollywood film.
Miller was grieving over the death of a friend (a producer who perished while location scouting for the film, in a helicopter crash) during the production of a film, and actually handed off many directing duties to George Ogilvie. It shows, particularly in the second half of the film, which is derivative and disappointingly conventional.
The strongest element of “Beyond Thunderdome” is the worldbuilding, more in-depth than the other films (though not as appealing as that of “Fury Road” or “The Road Warrior” in my opinion). The Thunderdome itself is iconic, Bartertown is a fascinating depiction of a functional post-apocalyptic community, and some of the crashed Boeing story is interesting. The problem with the boys and the Boeing captain story is that it feels so tired, so reminiscent of similar stories (particularly Peter Pan and the Lost Boys), and is barely cohesive with the Bartertown and Thunderdome focus.
Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity in an interesting character, and I did enjoy some of the Bartertown politicking, but the pacing of the film just didn’t work. “Fury Road” managed to depict and explore complex character dynamics without grinding the film to a halt. Turner’s casting does feel like a stunt, a deliberate Hollywood-esque marketing move, and I don’t feel like the non-Australian actors easily fit into this series (I also had this problem with “Fury Road”, but the strength of the non-Australian actors, and the film not being filmed in Australia, lessened my concern).
The film feels like two very different films mashed into one: the first a reasonably good Mad Max film (if low on chase sequences, and high on Americanisation), and the second a very conventional children’s movie.
I give it two and a half Boeing parts, and a camel-drawn cart.