Picks and Pans Review: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

updated 07/22/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/22/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

There is something to get excited about in this third chapter of the Mad Max series: the powerhouse presence of Tina Turner. Even the usually unflappable Mel Gibson lifts a libidinous eyebrow when Tina swoops in for her Big Entrance. Playing a villainous character called Aunty Entity, Turner sports spike heels, an endless supply of eyeliner and costumes cut to reveal more cleavage than Stallone did in Rambo. Don't ask where she does her shopping. The film is set in the bleak near future, post-apocalypse. Never mind that everyone else runs around in rags, blistered from the fallout; Tina looks terrific. What's realism got to do with it? Turner eyes Gibson like a piece of prime beef. "One day cock of the walk," she sasses, with a pelvic thrust that's cut many a man down to size, "next day a feather duster." Turner isn't all the film has in it, but she is its sole source of fun. The rest is the usual head-bashing business of getting Max in and out of scrapes. This would be tired stuff if it weren't for two things: Gibson's strength and sexuality in the title role and Australian filmmaker George Miller's brilliant visual style. Miller is a master with the camera, as he proved in Mad Max in 1979 and its first sequel, The Road Warrior, in 1982. Co-directing (with George Ogilvie) this time, he hasn't lost his knack for casting oddballs to people his grim landscape. The niftiest is the two-headed Master Blaster, consisting of a dwarf (Angelo Rossitto) who sits on the head of a muscleman (Paul Larrson). When Max takes on this deadly combo of brain and brawn, the film is at least the equal of its predecessors. Where No. 3 falters is in the introduction of a group of stranded children, survivors of the atomic holocaust, but too young to remember more than fragments of their past life. Miller allows Max, who won over the action junkies as a nihilistic hero, to go sappy at the sight of these tykes. Miller even shamelessly rips off parts—the worst parts—of Indiana Jones and Dune to refashion Max as a messiah. Save the sentiment for Spielberg, George. It won't wash with the madness in Max. (PG-13)

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