Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Who run Bartertown?

Mad Max: Fury Road is currently blowing away pretty much everyone who watches it (including Ed Travis and Jacob Berman), and in honor of George Miller’s new masterpiece we’re revisiting Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome! It’s the weirdest and most divisive title in the series and the perfect film to discuss as we gear up for Max’s new adventure. It’s easy to see why this film was considered a disappointment by many fans. As a PG-13 oddball in a hard-R rated series, it lacks the action of Mad Max 2, features children prominently, and takes on a poppier, more mainstream tone with music by Tina Turner. It would be 30 years before we’d finally get another Mad Max film. And yet, in recent years it has come to be better appreciated by fans. Both loved and reviled, we welcome you to the Thunderdome!

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

The Poltergeist remake is just around the corner, so we decided this would be the perfect time to revisit Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s original classic. That’s right, we’re watching Poltergeist (1982) and it’s not on Netflix Instant so our participants may need to plan ahead to watch it. It is available for digital rental at Amazon and elsewhere.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

Featured Guest

Today we’re thrilled to have as our featured guest Dan Hassler-Forest, author, educator, and all-around nice guy. Dan works as assistant professor of cultural theory, popular culture, and zombies at the University of Amsterdam, and has written or edited three books to date covering the media and themes of films and comics and where the twain meet: The Rise and Reason of Comics and Graphic Literature, Capitalist Superheroes: Caped Crusaders in the Neoliberal Age, and Transmedia (Dutch). Follow him on Twitter (@DanHF) and be sure to check out his insightful and entertaining blog, Dr. Dan’s Medicine.

Dan Hassler-Forest:

Long before I ever saw a Mad Max movie, I’d immersed myself pretty deeply in the franchise’s unique storyworld. As a movie-obsessed ten-year-old with limited access to actual films, I must have read Joan Vinge’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome novelization at least three times before finally seeing the movie on VHS. Years later, as a pretentious young cinephile, I learned to regard Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior) as the only truly great entry in the trilogy, dismissing Thunderdome as an overblown and inconsistent cash-in.

But Thunderdome has grown on me over the years, even to the point where it’s become my personal favorite in the series. In a way, it’s the polar opposite of Road Warrior’s classical formalism: Thunderdome is indeed bloated, digressive, sentimental, and often downright delirious. The tonal shift between the fully realized and truly overwhelming world of Bartertown and the kids’ colony dreaming of ‘Tomorrow-morrow-land’ is all but guaranteed to give one whiplash. But at the same time, and especially after repeat viewings, it’s this very inconsistency that gives Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome its enduring charm. It may not run like a well-oiled machine, but considering the precarious, improvised world it portrays, Thunderdome’s clunky, hybrid nature actually feels perfectly appropriate. (@DanHF)

The Team


Having not seen any Mad Max films for well over a decade, the imminent release of Fury Road and a bit of a push from the Two Cents curators got me to begin cycling through the series. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is currently on sale on VUDU, so after rewatching the first two (already in my UV library) I purchased a copy and was not disappointed.

While a noted contrast in tone from the rest of the series (as has been noted time and time again), the film is pure fun. One immediate recognition for me as a father of boys who loved Elmo as toddlers was that Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity is a very certain influence to Vanessa Williams’s Queen of Trash in Elmo in Grouchland. And, of course, the desert landscapes went on to inspire many films and parodies.

Max is essentially Peter Pan in charge of the Lost Boys throughout the second half of the film. Being a different film than the rest of the series surely doesn’t make it a bad film (Halloween 3, anyone?). So while I do prefer Dre, Pac, and Chris Tucker, this was a solid purchase and a great time for me. (@thepaintedman)


Well, shit, I have to admit that I really enjoyed this movie. It’s no Road Warrior, nothing is, but Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a big, bold, beautiful hard left turn sequel that builds off the themes and ideas of its predecessors to tell its own weird and pretty wonderful story. There’s some perfectly heinous stuff (the proto-Hook kids swinging around on ropes and beating up Bartertown toughs is a grueling sequence) and a surprising paucity of action given how much car battles had come to define this series (there are basically only two action sequences: Thunderdome and the final chase. Both are excellent, but there’s a solid hour of film separating them).

But the movie still works for me. Partly just because of the audacity and depth of this wacked out wasteland that George Miller built. But I also really engaged with the film’s thematic elements, as it explored the ways in which human beings use lies and stories to construct order out of chaos. From Aunty’s codified structure in Bartertown to the children’s tales of Captain Walker, even after the end of the world humanity will keep pushing towards the future. (@TheTrueBrendanF)


It says something about the quality of George Miller’s third excursion into the Aussie post-apocalyptic wasteland that I couldn’t be bothered to re-watch it for Two Cents.

So, from memory, all I remember is wondering what the hell Tina Turner had to do with it, the silly hairdos, some kind of gladiatorial combat involving a fat dude and a midget, an abundance of leather fetishism (as per usual), and a tribe of kids who think Mel Gibson’s some kind of messiah. Which proves children are idiots.

Miller’s attempts to expand the mythos is admirable but ends up losing what made the first two so enthralling (hint — massive amounts of retina-fucking carnage). Yet I never found Max to be a particularly engaging character, but more a symbol of grief-tinged vengeance and an embodiment of humanity’s inexplicable will to survive in a world where there’s nothing worth living for.

Of course, I’m probably totally wrong, my brain having been swiss-cheesed over time thanks to old age and copious amounts of drugs. If anything, memories of Mad Max 3 has prompted me to rush out to view the awesome-looking Fury Road because my retinas need a sound cinematic thrashing every now and then. (@jconthagrid)


I mean, all of the controversy has to come from the second half of the film, right? I can only assume everyone on planet earth who has seen Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome loves the first half. Bartertown is incredibly realized, Tina Turner is fantastic as Aunty Entity, Mel’s Max is kitted out with a bevy of clever weapons and survival tools, and don’t even get me started on The Thunderdome… it’s one of the most clever, thrilling, and visually stunning fight sequences in film history. I love the whole of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, even if the final chase sequence is too comedic and lackluster when compared to Road Warrior or Fury Road. But the real controversy comes from the Lost Boys-esque sequence in which Max bonds with a tribe of kids and the toned down, PG-13 rating this sequence seems to have brought with it. Sure, a toned down Max is a bit of a bummer. But Beyond Thunderdome tried something new, swung for the fences, and indulges in many of George Miller’s deepest fetishes which perhaps foretold the kid-focused cinema Miller would create for the next 20 years until shredding our eyeballs with the unrelentingly excellent Fury Road. (@Ed_Travis)


Unlike the prior two films, I’ve only seen Beyond Thunderdome once before. Perhaps this is because I recalled the disappointment when I did watch it. After Mad Max 2, the action is comparatively light, and the major subplot involving a tribe of children just seemed silly. The Peter Pan/Lost Boys analogy is so on-the-nose that the kids even expect Max to fly when they meet him.

More recently I’ve heard of people reanalyzing the film and that got me itching to do so myself. On the rewatch, my criticisms are still true, but I feel I may have undervalued it. Even though I’m critical of the stuff involving the kids, it’s really not so far from the similar parts of Temple Of Doom, a film I loved unreservedly. In fact, the entire film has more in common with an Indiana Jones adventure than a post-apocalyptic vehicular actioner. Is that really such a bad thing?

Besides, the Bartertown sequences are pretty great. Master-Blaster is one of the most creative and awesome characters in the Mad Max universe, and Blaster’s unmasking is a really powerful and human moment that probably doesn’t get its due. (@VforVashaw)


It is not just the way the film devolves toward the end, the cadre of children who have suddenly decided to rally around Max like he is Ernest in Ernest Goes To Camp (yeah, I said it). The movie from the jump, while still having some fun and interesting elements, still feels like someone else’s sequel. Thunderdome plays like a film made by someone who only saw clips of the last two movies, not the same man. It just feels, to me, from the jump like it is lacking, like a caricature rather than the real deal.

Yet, I cannot deny the power of nostalgia. It was adult Liam who went back and discovered the brilliance of the first two Mad Max films, but it was child Liam who watched Thunderdome on TV again and again and again. Of the movies that would play on a Saturday afternoon when I was meant to be doing my homework but instead was enjoying TV, it was one of my favorites. It played a lot. Whatever I see in it that makes me think it is bad, I still love watching it. (@liamrulz)

Our Guests

Miranda Hunt:

Haiku Beyond Thunderdome
Max fights the Blaster
Kids make new society
Aunty rules B-town (@MockAndDroll)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

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