Mad Max Revisited (3): Beyond Thunderdome
1. Max’s family was dead to begin with.
And so OK the last time we saw the dude he was the road warrior, the guardian of the roads, but, as far as we can tell at this exact moment, there ain’t no more fucking roads, there ain’t even no more fucking Max, what there is is there’s what may or may not be a car what ain’t even running, and pulled by camels, and with cloth strung up wagon-style, like we needed a reminder of the lawlessness associated with the desert, and up above is a plane, and in the plane is the fucker in the yellow long johns! But he’s got a better outfit now, depending on your feelings re: white and khaki hunting getups, and a kid, I mean he’s made a son, and they drop down in and hijack this vehicle and ride it off into the distance, jettisoning the driver to the sand.
Of course the driver’s Max. I was going to wait to tell you, but come on.
2. So, Max heads to Barter Town to barter for his things because Max has got some skills and Tina Turner sure could use them! Max is meant to leave his weapons and therefore unloads his trusted sawed-off, two or three pistols, a portable Geiger counter, and a crossbow, while biting a spatula or flyswatter with his mouth like a bit.
Max is then brought up to audition for Tina, and is thrown by the blind Asian dude playing the saxophone, like how his wife used to do, and then these fuckers try to jump him, but Max jumps the fuckers, because, as we’ve said, Max is a pile of nerves and muscles whose sole purpose is survival and movement, long past the idea of an end-game, long past much in terms of ideas. And then he gets roped, but it turns out his flyswatter spatula is also a knife, and he cuts the rope, and kicks Ironbar out the window. Ironbar roped him. Ironbar is a dude about five feet tall with dragons for sleeves and a shaved head and a kabuki mask on an iron bar strapped to his back the height of a grown ass man. Anyway, that’s Ironbar. He’s a scrappy little fuck of a dick.
3. So, Tina Turner’s here, which is why there’s so much saxophone all the goddam time, you guys, and her name is Auntie, and she done founded Barter Town which is run on pig shit gas from Underworld which is under Barter Town and run by a midget named Master riding atop a strongman called Blaster. He’s a dick too, Master is, in the manner of the oppressed who are smarter than their oppressors, and resent the position in which they find themselves, and who assume that they in fact should be the ones on top. Anyway, Tina wants Max to fight Blaster in the Thunderdome, wherein two men enter but in a startling twist only one man leaves.
Max wants to survey the shit and he goes down to Underworld to shovel pig shit and get the lay of the land, and they’ve got his ride down there which is, shock of shocks, rigged to blow, and they’re all, “Disarm it,” and Max is all, “What’ll you give me?” and Master’s all, “Give? Fuck you I run this shit,” and then they turn all the power off and make Tina Turner say that Master Blaster rules Barter Town in front of everyone via the power of the Public Address system, a system, as we all well know, of boundless power and authority. And so anyway now Tina is pissed, and Max, later, finds provocation to fight Blaster in the Thunderdome.
4. The Thunderdome!!!! It’s a dome made of steel with a bunch of weapons stuck up on the ceiling and everyone is attached to bungees and they kill each other. Max knows the secret which is that Blaster hates loud noises, and Max has a whistle, so, I mean, Game Set Match, dudes. It obviously isn’t that simple until it is with violence being wrought in mostly furtive spurts until Max sticks the whistle in his mouth and smacks Blaster in the face over and over again until has face comes off because his face is a metal diving helmet, and underneath that face is another face, a face with few teeth and something resembling Down Syndrome, and Max, he won’t kill this dude, because Max has Morals, which we’ve learned by now, underneath it all, it all being all the fucking hair this guy has grown lately, though no beard, apparently he can shave but a haircut is just beyond him, get the fuck out with this. Anyway, Max won’t kill him, and Tina is Not Having This, so Ironbar puts some arrows in Blaster, and Master cries and cries, and Max was all, “This was not the deal,” and everyone was all, “WHAT DEAL,” and Tina was all, “I MAKE THE RULES,” and the crowd was, “2 MEN ENTER 1 MAN LEAVES,” and so Tina is all “WHEEL OF JUSTICE BITCHES I MAKE THE RULES,” and so they sentence Max to The Wheel, which is a Wheel of Fortune for your sentence, which is a statement pronounced on your life, and the Wheel lands on GULAG.
5. So obviously they tie Max backwards to a horse with a glass jar of water on a stick out the other way and put a big Pinata head on his head and send him off into the sand because obviously that’s what a fucking GULAG is you guys.
6. So here’s the second act, because for some reason Beyond Thunderdome follows a real traditional three-act structure, as opposed to one inciting act of violence that propels us to something resembling not a conclusion but a crystallized moment. Anyway, Max’s monkey is sent out by a guy Max befriended in Underworld while surveying the shit and also shoveling it, and Max’s horse falls and is swallowed by the sand spilling the water and Max crawls up the hill AND LO! THERE’S HIS MONKEY! WITH A WATER SKIN FULL OF WATER!
7. Max stumbles around and is found by this teenager who whistles and some kids come running and they pull him down all passed out and they mutter mutterings of a broken language resembling ours.
8. Enter the Lost Boys and Girls. Once upon a time there was a mushroom cloud and this guy Captain Walker took everyone he could in a plane that then crashed because it was assaulted by a gang and the gang was named Turbulence because the best gangs have names and anyway the survivors found this valley beyond the sand with a lake or a river and trees and wildlife and they built homes in the rocks and with wood and built a life for themselves.
But people missed cities and they missed videos and they missed life as they knew it so some people left leaving mostly the kids in order to head out for the life they remembered and they said, “We’ll be back,” and the kids were left to raise themselves on the stories they were told that they remembered as best they could because maybe if they forgot the stories and if maybe things weren’t as they were, then they wouldn’t be rescued, they wouldn’t get to go home, they wouldn’t ever see anyone else but they people they saw every day ever again forever, they would remain abandoned, here, alone, together, forever.
9. This is the context in which they find Max Rockatansky, whose family was dead to begin with, and give his hair a cut, thank the fucking Lord.
10. “Captain Walker!” they say “Lead us to home!” And Max is all, “You fucking kids have water, and wildlife, and shelter, and peace, and you want to leave that for what is out there with guns and knives and dicks and society? A society of Mine and Mine? GTFO,” says Max in which GTFO amounts to No Stay Here This Place Is Great.
11. But they don’t, stay, they go, and Max stops them and lays down the law because he was a father once who saw children die.
12. But they don’t stay. They go.
Max is woken by a kid shaking him saying, “They ran and ran,” and Max sets out to find them, and does, and then, in the night, they see the lights.
They ain’t ever seen lights before. “What is that?” they ask Max. “That?” says Max, “That’s fucking Barter Town.”
THUS COMMENCES THE THIRD ACT, IN WHICH THE SECOND ACT RETURNS TO THE FIRST FOR A FORM OR RECKONING OR PROGRESS.
13. They sneak in to Barter Town through Underworld and they free Master and knock out Ironbar and a shitty mechanic escapes to bring the whole of Barter Town down upon them via wrath and a posse. Posses! The justice of the mob of indignant assholes agitating to assign blame to a lynchable object! And anyway it turns out Master lives on top of a train, so they get that train a-rolling on down the tracks, and out into the desert, that endless dusty void.
14. Enter the train! Pursued by cars! That’s right! A car chase! It only took until the middle of the third act, but by fucking God, there will be a fucking car chase! Cars v. Train! FIGHT!
Anyway cars chase the train and the train chases the tracks, to where, we don’t yet know, but it keeps riding them rails, being assailed on all sides by what amounts to a lynch mob intent on killing Max and also children to get back the only guy who can keep the lights on, a midget named Master who found a tweed suit. There’s a sweet scene involving some kids learning French on a phonograph but you’re not here for cuteness. You’re here for Max, and for all that lies beyond Thunderdome, beyond the idea of pitting two things against each other until only one lives.
15. Earlier, in the Thunderdome, Tina Turner says, “Remember where you are.” She says, “This is the Thunderdome.” She says, “And death is listening.”
16. Anyway they escape and there’s a bridge and the cars can’t cross it and Ironbar gets knocked into what we assume is a gorge because he survived a car crash and a bash to the head and a tossing out a tower, and the Pig Killer, Max’s friend, got a spear through his leg, and Max says this’ll hurt and says, “On 3,” then says, “1,” and the Pig Killer says, “What happened to 3,” but what happened to 3 was that then, suddenly, the track has an end, and at that end is a kid, with two guns, pointed at your heads, claiming that, “This is a robbery.”
17. “GTFO!” you want to shout at the screen, and you do, and then they do, because: enter the lynch mob, pursued by the performance of their duties, and the kid runs to a car and pulls down the trunk which Max pulls open revealing a wooden rope ladder down into a treasure trove of ill-gotten goods, and our old friend, the man in the yellow long johns. He and Max either do or do not recognize each other. “You’re in luck,” says Max.” I am?” says the man in the yellow long johns. “You are,” says Max. “I’m going to let you save your life.”
18. So they’re all in the plane trying to go, but they can’t, because it’s not a dad and a kid and a pile of stolen goods, it’s a dad and a kid and supplies and a midget and a freed indentured worker and like a dozen kids aged 5-18. So they ditch some shit, and pull up to a cliff edge, and turn around, and a car swings in, and it’s this kid who painted is face with raccoon eyes, and slept beneath a painting of his own face! This fucker! This fucker is hauled onto the plane too! “It won’t work,” says yellow long johns. “Why not?” says Max. “Not enough runway,” he says, pointing to the runway, which is full of cars. “Leave that to me,” says Max.
19. Obviously Max gets in the car and rams through the cars to make a path for the plane to leave. Obviously Max does this. Max does this because, as near as I can tell, he stays alive until there’s something worth living for, and then he takes what he can upon himself so that hope can, somewhere, stay alive. He keeps doing this, over, and over, and over, and over. Max’s whole life is a picture of a sunny day where the two people who gave him something to live for had their lives run down by a bunch of folks pissed at Max for living while others died. Everyone he ever loved died because he was alive is a way a body living alone with its guilt and its grief could take to seeing their life.
20. And it works.
21. The kids gather in a building in what was once Sydney. Master helps them rig lights which they keep lit for anyone who comes looking for a home. They keep them lit because they saw a light, and they saw a hope, and they saw a thing that they could learn to live for, and they tell their story, every day, so that they never, not once, forget what brought them to this moment, this one, right here. Right now. Forever.
22. And so that’s what lies beyond Thunderdome. Is the rest of your fucking life, forever and ever, amen.