Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1985 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 102:27 minutes  Other Extras Cast & Crew Biographies 
Production Notes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director George Miller 
George Ogilvie

Warner Home Video
Starring Mel Gibson 
Tina Turner
Angry Anderson
Helen Buday
Frank Thring
Bruce Spence
Robert Grubb
Angelo Rossitto
Case Snapper
RRP $29.95 Music Maurice Jarre

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1) 
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English 
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Before Mel Gibson was an Academy-Award winning director, he was just another action hero, albeit one with a much more human edge and an ability to act. Like the other series that made him famous, the Mad Max franchise soon devolved into too much of a not-so-good thing. The original instalment of this series was a great example of what could be done with esoteric locations, actors with something to prove, and a minimal budget. It also had the distinct advantage of actual character development. Then came Mad Max 2, which, while an exciting film, suffered a distinct lack of character development and continuity. If not for the photography by a certain man named Dean Semler (whose other credits include the Young Guns films), it would have been an utter disappointment. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome has every sign of Hollywood getting its greasy paws on it and screwing it up beyond any sense of recognition. From the opening credits, when Tina Turner begins singing, a certain feeling of cheeziness begins emanating from the film and wafting its way into the consciousness of the viewer.

    The plot basically has no continuity from the previous two Mad Max films. We cut to a rather poorly executed shot of Jebediah the Pilot (Bruce Spence) swooping down on Max (Mel Gibson) and relieving him of his belongings. Naturally, Max is less than happy about this, and after wandering aimlessly in the desert for days, he comes to the crudely built city of Bartertown. Bartertown is basically a substitute for the fuel-refining compound in the previous instalment of the series in that it is a focal point for most of the mayhem. Unfortunately, the dialogue spoken by the denizens of this place is banal at the best of times, and it gets worse when Max encounters a tribe of nomadic children that apparently have grown up without civilization, led by the decidedly uncharismatic Savannah Nix (Helen Buday). Some sociological facts here: going by the vague chronology of the first two films, in combination with Max's appearance in this one, civilization could hardly have ended as much as twenty years ago. Human language could not possibly change enough in twenty years, or even two hundred years, to account for the retarded tone of the dialogue spoken by the nomad children in this film. It is also not nearly enough time to account for the people's sense of justice to turn into the format for a game show.

    If you enjoyed the previous two Mad Max films, then this one is worth having for the climactic car-train chase. Otherwise, I'd seriously consider waiting for the original to come out, because plot-wise, this episode is just not up to scratch. The ending is anticlimactic, and the battles just don't have the some anarchic oomph that they had in the previous episodes. Using Bruce Spence, who appeared in Mad Max 2 as an extremely irritating character, to play a completely different person who sucks as a character even more, was not a wise move. Neither was casting Tina Turner as Aunty Entity, as she basically brings the same level of depth to her character as Keanu Reeves brings to any character he's ever played. In fact, the only vaguely interesting character besides Max in this whole film would have to be Ironbar (Angry Anderson), and his dialogue seemed to have been written by monkeys. This film was quite literally a lousy way to end the series.

Transfer Quality


    It's a common fact that Mad Max films get mediocre transfers to any medium, regardless of the logistics involved. It looked hideous on VHS, it was simply and utterly pathetic on TV broadcast, and I shudder to think what it looked like on Laserdisc. Of the mediums on which Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome have been exhibited, the only one that approaches looking good, other than the original theatrical presentation, is this DVD. That is not to say that the video quality is necessarily bad. In fact, given the conditions that it was filmed under, this film looks a lot better now than one would normally expect. Unfortunately, in spite of 16x9 enhancement and painstaking care, a lot of artefacting comes into the picture. The swirling dust patterns in the desert scenes would have played hell on the MPEG compression, and this shows at the point where Max is sent into the desert. Background details during these sequences are simply lost, and as Max's horse progressively moves further and further away from the camera, it soon looks like a mere smudge of dark pixels.

    The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and as I said earlier, it is 16x9 enhanced. This aspect ratio appears rather wasted on this film, because there is little going on in the backgrounds at any given moment. There are also no real wide-angle shots in this film, which is a shame because the previous films had some of the most beautiful photography I've ever seen. Essentially, the first and second Mad Max films are the best exhibitions of wide-angle photography ever shot in Australia. The backgrounds are variably sharp, but the foreground is consistently easy to make out. Shadow detail, however, is merely acceptable at the best of times. There are conversations that take place in the dark where it would take some effort to keep track of who's speaking if not for the fact that most exchanges in this film are limited to two people. The colours in this film were mainly dull and lifeless, which perfectly fitted the premise of the film. The rare occasions where vibrant colours were found seemed out of place in the film, but they were well-rendered in any case. Other than that, the film basically seemed to be an exhibition of how many different shades of brown and grey the human eye can distinguish between.

    MPEG artefacts were happily absent from the film, although it is hard to tell if the loss of definition in backgrounds at two points of the film were actually caused by the MPEG compression, or the limitations in the photography. Film-to-video artefacts were limited to small amounts of aliasing, and some shimmer during the opening and closing credits. Film artefacts were the real giveaway to the age of the film, as well as the lack of care taken with it. They varied from being extremely heavy to non-existent. Overall, however, the film artefacts were quite heavy, even for a film of this age.


    Three audio tracks are included on this DVD. The English track is in Dolby Digital 5.1, and the French and Italian tracks are both in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding. The packaging states that the Italian track is in mono, but rest assured that it is surround encoded. Because I can't understand French or Italian, I only listened to the English dialogue. Given how cheesy the original dialogue is, I think it would sound a lot worse in French or Italian. The dialogue was mostly easy to understand, a tremendous improvement on the other two films in the series. It was occasionally obscured in scenes with a lot of ambient noise, but Mad Max fans would be used to that. Occasionally, some distortion crept into the peaks of the dialogue, but this was hard to notice without looking.

    The dialogue seemed in sync throughout the movie, although a great deal of the dialogue consisted of incoherent grunting and screaming. In this sense, Angry Anderson seemed to get the best leftovers from the script once Mel Gibson got his ever-so-wonderful lines. While the dialogue in the other two films could be described as being ordinary at the best of times, at least it was evenly distributed across the characters. Seriously, this film's dialogue is so poorly written that it will make you groan, sigh, and barf all at once.

    Why the directors chose to use Maurice Jarre in place of Brian May to compose the score music, I'll never know. His score for this part of the series is somewhat dull by comparison, but it does fit the general mood and setting of the story well enough. The music is really the only sound in this film that has any body to it at all. The surround channels were used for music and special effects, but generally, this is a frontal mix. The subwoofer got some use when it was called for, but this was rather occasional.



    A plain menu that appears to be 4:3, and is much more functional than what I am used to seeing from Warner Brothers.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with 16x9 enhancement and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. An interesting supplement to the film, but there's nothing remarkable about it.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    These are more comprehensive than the typical Warner Brothers biographies, but Frank Thring's biography has an incorrect picture in it.

Production Notes

    An interesting and comprehensive read about the making of the film.

R4 vs R1

    Information on the Region 1 version of this title is surprisingly difficult to find. Nonetheless, I managed to find some that sealed the whole argument for me.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    This film suffers horribly from the Pan & Scan treatment, as do most films that are photographed by Dean Semler. I've also said before that I only import films in order to get better formatting, so Region 4 wins hands down.


    Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is a lot like the Lethal Weapon sequels: a lousy successor to the original. But it's still entertaining enough if you're not too picky.

    The video quality may be substandard by DVD standards, but it's still worth the purchase price.

    The audio quality is very good, given the source material.

    The extras are limited, but still of some interest.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
February 5, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer