reviewed by Tom-Tom
Film Critic, the late Roger Ebert began his review of “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” with the disclaimer, and I paraphrase “It’s not supposed to happen this way. The third movie in a trilogy isn’t supposed to be the best.” I didn’t agree with him that it was the best. I thought that “The Road Warrior” ie Mad Max 2 was the best because of the relentless chase, the totally cool punk hair, costumes, and vehicles of the bad guys, and that little kid with the boomerang all came together for a non-stop yet well balanced adventure. Now I have to quote Mr. Ebert. It’s not supposed to happen this way. The fourth film made thirty years, yes, count ’em thirty years after its predecessor isn’t supposed to be this good. It’s sure as hell not supposed to be the best movie of the entire series. It’s not supposed to feature one of the first actors (Hugh Keays-Byrne) from the first film in an unrecognizable Bane-like mask with Back to the Future Doc’s shock of white hair and slightly more eye makeup than he wore as Toe Cutter. It’s not supposed to have a different actor playing Max without being a reboot. All of this isn’t supposed to happen, but it does. George Miller reminding us that he is alive and well and can still make a freaking masterpiece.
Before we even see the opening screen, we here the roar of an engine, fierce and powerful. I’m not particularly car crazy. What lies under the hood of my car is generally a mystery to me save for the oil and washer fluid caps but hearing the unseen car’s engine revving up like that put a fire in my blood that never really went down until the last credits had rolled. This time, we don’t get narration from character we don’t yet know. We get it directly from the eponymous man himself. Max Rockatansky is a haunted man. Not in a whiny, self reflective way. He sees images of people he couldn’t save or left to die to save himself as real as the two headed lizard he stomps and eats whole.
Soon he’s on the run from a hoard of entirely hairless pale punks who look like they joined Voldemort’s fanatical cosplay fan club or have seen “I am Legend” a few times too many. Max, who’s never been overly lucky in escaping, is captured, shorn, tattooed with “universal donor” and “hi-octane” on his back and left in a cage to have his blood sapped at any time from the legion of the pale punks, who call themselves “War Boys.” This hoard is led by the aforementioned specter Immortan Joe, who isn’t exactly the picture of health either, to put it lightly. He wears a clear chest and back plate which make him look rather ripped. He addresses the miserable masses below him with a magnanimous gate (and a microphone). They approach with all matter of containers for the waterfall he controls but only for a short while. We see rather large women whose breasts are plugged into automatic milkers like livestock and fields of green in the high enclosure in which Joe and his closest minions dwell. All this showing renders any telling needless. Immortan Joe is in charge. He giveth and he taketh away. Joe is aided by his Imperators who are enforcers to whom he delegates important tasks. One of these is Furiosa played by the great Charlize Theron, who has demonstrated time and again, that she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty (or shaving her head, or covering her face with camouflage makeup). It’s an intense role in an intense film. She’s even more compelling a character than Max himself who doesn’t really join the fun in an active role until nearly halfway through the picture.
Imperator Furiosa is making a routine run to and from Gas Town when she makes a unexpected left towards East. As Imperator, her pale troops are entirely loyal to her and no one questions her strange orders after confirming them with her. This begins the chase which seems never to let down. Oh, it’s an intense, all in, race with different vehicles, “cat-walkers” which have a Cirque de Soleil quality about them, and even a portable electric guitarist whose ax spouts fire and is backed up with a group of mention banging away at what looks like Japanese Taiko drums. The chase is more relentless and more dangerous than anything we’ve seen up to this point in the Mad Max franchise but it never gets boring or tedious at least for me. The variety of the methods of pursuit and their vehicles, grenade spears, etc is constantly shaking things up in new and creative ways. The camera work is awesome, zooming in on drivers who themselves are shaking with the movement of the cars, dirt-bikes, there’s even a tank! The third act is often where films with this intensity become let-downs but this isn’t the case here. With renewed vigor and heightened stakes, the chase continues to an action packed conclusion which isn’t over the top and had quite an emotional pay-off for me. I’m not particularly a rock fan but I found myself tapping my hands and feet to the end credits music to the very end. I walked out of the theater pondering how long it had been since I had been this satisfied with a film I had seen in the theaters. Probably one of the best films of 2015.