Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985): Power Plays and Safeguarding the Future

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

      “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” was enjoyable but not great. I think a big reason for this is there isn’t a clear antagonist a lot of the time, way too many child actors which changes the tone and takes a lot of the dark out, which this film has. The Feral Children even don’t fully feel like Feral Children. They speak like they had an education, these are some of the things that took me out of it, even though Rossitti’s, Turner’s and Gibson’s performances are phenomenal and the story is enjoyable for what it is.

The film was directed, produced and written by George Miller and also directed by George Ogilvie and also written by Terry Hayes.

The story involves Max’s (Mel Gibson) arrival in Bartertown searching for his stolen supplies fifteen years after the defeat of Lord Humungus. From here he is pulled into the power struggle for control of the town between Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and Master (Angelo Rossitto). He is asked to kill Master’s bodyguard Blaster (Paul Larsson) but after being asked to kill him in the ring and learning that Blaster is mentally handicapped he calls out Aunty Entity and is kicked out of Bartertown where he ends up with a tribe of Feral Kids looking for a Messiah and must stop their delusions and save Master and Blaster from Aunty Entity.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a power struggle in a post-apocalyptic town that an outsider is pulled into is a cool one. I also like that the antagonists aren’t wholly good or evil. They are each despots in their own way and both have a sympathetic aspect to them which helps drive the story.

The Power Struggle – I really liked the power struggle between Master and Aunty Entity. They are both compelling characters with Master being a small person who is best friends with a mentally handicapped man who is super strong who is his protector and helped him build the machines that provide energy to Bartertown, and there is Aunty Entity who controls the trade and is the law of the town and wrote the strange rules that govern the location and keep the populace sated in their blood lust. She wants Blaster taken out and Max almost fulfills it until he sees that Blaster was never evil nor Master wholly bad which leads to his exile as Aunty Entity takes over.

The Action – The action of course is fantastic! The most memorable action being the chase at the end where Aunt Entity’s forces are chasing Master, the Feral Children and Max who are on a train as they attempt to surround it and take it out and later when all except Max make it onto a plane and Max once again takes on the hoard giving the good characters time to escape and make a future.

The Characters – I liked the characters in “The Road Warrior” more, partially because they were just so much more compelling to see and there was more you could read into them. Here is is pretty concrete and depends too much on tropes, especially with the Feral Children not speaking like Children which took me out, besides the child actors, I did enjoy the characters.

The Collector – The Collector is the first we meet and he lets Max meet Aunty Entity after Max proves how dangerous he is. He is the one who measures and trades and is a slimy character. He is also connected to everyone in the town making him dangerous. We don’t truly see how dangerous though as Master and Aunty Entity take over once they are introduced. Frank Thring is great.

Blaster – Blaster is threatening and scary as long as you don’t see his face, but once his helmet is knocked off he is the most lovable character in the film and you see how deeply his friendship with Master runs as Master holds him when he is knocked out. He protects the kids too and has affection for Max for sparing his life. Paul Larsson is wonderful in this role.

Aunty Entity – Tina Turner owns this role and I wish she’d been given more to do than just lay down the law. She is in the final chase sequence but isn’t very smart as she unattaches the cart too early and Max rescues Master from her. She is honorable though and spares Max’s life as well as never actually killing him. She exiles him when he disobeys the laws of Thunderdome and she never kills Master as she wants to provide the energy so her people can live better. She is someone who was nothing before the apocalypse, but made the most of it to become the leader and ruler of Bartertown. She is the potential that exists in the new world, but also shows the ability of power to corrupt.

Master – Angelo Rossitto plays a character who is both bully and victim. We see him as a bully when he cuts the power before the attempt to kill Blaster by Max and later on we see him cradle Blaster and work with him in protecting the Feral children. He also salutes Max at the end for rescuing him. He is one of the brightest minds but he doesn’t do as much in his own escape as I would have liked. Gyro Captain used his machine a lot in the battle, while Master doesn’t use the Methane Factory much at all against Aunty Entity’s men.

Max – Mel Gibson is back and has “Braveheart” hair. When he arrives he is looking for the camels and supplies the Pilot stole from him but he is soon sidetracked when Aunty Entity hires him to take out Blaster. He succeeds but doesn’t kill Blaster and reveals her plan leading to his exile. From here he guides the kids out of their worship of the dead Boeing 747 pilot and through his fighting for them helps them bring about a better world, as Savannah the leader of the tribe mentions at the end. In this way his arc is similar to the arc “The Road Warrior” but with much less loss. Still great, but I hoped his character would change more. Maybe part of his point is his disconnect from others and sacrifice because he can’t live in any society? After watching more of the Franchise I’ll do an analysis of Max, might have to wait for the films after “Fury Road” though, no idea how that film and the future films will change him, if at all.

The Message – The message is safeguarding the future by dealing with the reality of people. The kids were the few good people left so Max risked everything to protect them, and with Master no longer being a bully they had a good person to guide them towards a new future. In this way he safeguards the future that the narrator and leader of the tribe expresses to us at the end. No matter how horrible the world may look, there are those worth saving who can make it better, and those people exist in each new generation.

Okay: The Ending – The action is great but their escape is too easy. The pilot who stole from Max has little to no reason to help them beyond survival and he changes from a selfish father to someone willing to risk everything for strangers. It struck me as too inconvienent and felt Spielbergian not like George Miller. Too whimsical and not enough crazy.

The Cons: The Feral Children – The Feral Children didn’t work. The idea of them worshipping a pilot who would return was cool and interesting but they didn’t talk like children. The Feral Child from “The Road Warrior” only barked, grunted and howled and it was only after he found civilization in the North that he could speak. This clashed with that, they felt fake and didn’t seem wild at all. The fact that none of them died also took me out, it just made Aunty Entity weak, especially after how the Humungus killed most of the cast from the last film.

The Pilot – He functions more as a plot device and is a different character from the Gyro Captain even though it is still Spence who played the Gyro Captain. He only exists so our heroes can make their escape. He is “The Eagles” of the Tolkienverse in this film and I wish they’d had a way to depend on their brains and working together to get out, especially since Master is supposed to be one of the most brilliant minds in this Universe.

The Tone – I really liked the dark tone that the movies have had, this one had moments of it but felt like a Spielberg film the moment we ran into the Feral Children Tribe as they were protected from all damage by virtue of them being kids and nothing bad happens to them. It took all the risk out of it and made it more of a family film, which clashed with the insanity, brothels and mortality of Bartertown.

This was a really fun film, though I have issues with how the Feral Children were handled and the tone though the power struggle and the main characters really carry the film for me. It is enjoyable and I would recommend this film, it was a lot of fun and though I don’t like it nearly as much as I liked “The Road Warrior” it is a fun different direction the series went in, even if I don’t like the direction (less death more child actors)…the world is still amazing. I am looking forward to “Fury Road.”

Final Score: 7 / 10

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): A Masterpiece of Sci. Fi., Action and Comedy Gold

guardians_poster_via_marvel

I really want to see more of James Gunn’s movies after this. I haven’t seen any of his other stuff, but it has been a while since three things (sci. fi., action and comedy) have gone so well together. Marvel Studios you have done it again, and what a spectacular way to end the “Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” at least until “Ant-Man” and “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,” later.

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” follows the story of Quill after he watches his mother die of cancer and he is kidnapped by aliens. In the future he has become an outlaw dubbing himself Star-Lord, from here he finds a device that a buyer has promised him a lot for which brings Gamora (one of the daughters of Thanos) and Rocket the Raccoon and Groot trying to capture the device. They all end up in prison where Drax’s attempt to kill Gamora allies them together to take out the main baddy Ronan who works for Thanos and wants to destroy Xandar, home of the Nova Corps. From here the story unfolds as their personalities collide.

Warning – Spoilers ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: Drax – Who would have thought a professional wrestler would end up being an amazing actor. Dave Bautista owns this role and has a lot of comedic moments as his character doesn’t understand figurative expressions. He is the one who brings the team together too besides Rocket and Groot protecting Star-Lord because they want what he has. Drax is the most reckless of the group and more than a little insane. He also has a heart, that we get to see in the end and we know why he is the way he is since Ronan slaughtered his wife and child. Can’t wait to see what they do with this guy in the sequel. After Gamora saves his life she becomes part of the team to him too.

Rocket – Bradley Cooper is fantastic as the snarky, sarcastic raccoon with a major chip on his shoulder. His character is an inventor and was experimented on to become the creature he is today. This becomes a plot point when he gets really drunk in the outlaw hideaway Knowhere and Quill and the others finally understand what he is going through. There sticking up for him leads to him eventually them as family. He has a touching scene with Drax after Groot is gone and we see his humanity in a plant in a pot carries at the end.

Groot – “We are Groot,” is one of the best lines in the film and it is when Groot sacrifices his body so that the Guardians of the Galaxy will survive. He is the heart of the group and the one who acts for the best in any situation. Vin Diesel’s voice acting gives a lot to this role given for most of the film Groot can only say, “I am Groot,” in different inflections to get his point across.

Gamora – I want to know more about her relationship with Thanos given Thanos kidnapped her and destroyed her family in order to make her a weapon. Her sister Nebula I believe went through something similar. She is great as the guarded assassin but shows a lot of humanity. She is the one who reminds Quill that there is more to the galaxy than money, and teaches him the meaning of honor. They have a great complex friendship/romance and her friendship with the rest of the team, especially Drax who first sees her as an enemy, is a pleasure to watch. Zoe Saldana is once again fantastic in sci. fi.

The Collector and Knowhere – First Nowhere is a fantastic location. A Titan’s head made into a city as the organics are processed from it is a masterful idea. It makes sense the Collector would make this his home. He is creepy as always and shows us the device is a purple infinite stone of which there are six. When they are distracted his slave destroys everything having him finally face some accountability for treating people like objects. Knowhere is where Ronan arrives with Nebula and his army after Drax gives them a call. The Collector has a funny scene at the end too.

Nova Corps – Nova Corps is a like a futuristic military made up of mostly humans or humanlike aliens. Glenn Close plays Nova Prime and John Reilly plays Corpsmen Dey her unspoken second in command. When Ronan attacks having consumed an infinite stone (He is a Kree Zealot who sees the Xandar’s as needing to be cleansed). She risks everything including trusting the Guardians of the Galaxy to protect them from Ronan using the Infinite Stone to consume their world.

Nebula – Karen Gillian has a lot of range. I loved her as Amy Pond on Doctor Who and as Nebula…one of Thanos’s daughters who hates her sister Gamora and Thanos…she makes a complex baddy. She can also regenerate her body and escapes during the last battle managing to survive. We don’t know where her loyalties are, and I love that.

The Comedy – From Drax’s inability to understand language expressions, to Quill’s sarcasm, or Gamora’s obliviousness or Groot’s Grootness…contrasted by Rocket’s crazyness creates some great moments of comedy. Better comedy than “The Avengers,” for sure, which didn’t always know what tone it wanted.

The Final Battle – The final battle is fantastic and has a cost. Groot loses his body, the Nova Corps is decimated, and their capital is at least partially in ruins. There is the moment of awesome too when Drax, Quill, Gamora and Rocket use the power of friendship to contain the infinity stone and use it to destroy Ronan.

Quill / Star-Lord – This guy is wonderful. He starts out as the scoundrel and becomes the accidental hero. There is not a moment this guy is unfunny though. I love his arc in becoming a hero too since we do see much of his motivation is money. I really want to see Chris Pratt in other things now. Not much more to say, beyond his hero journey is fun and in the end he isn’t a total hero as he plans to do a little bit of good and a little bit of bad with the team.

The Music – Using the mixed tape that Quill’s mother gave him when she was alive we get some amazing 80’s music throughout the film, all the songs work perfectly and also contribute to the comedy too as Quill embraces every song so fully. I loved the soundtrack and plan on using it for writing inspiration.

Okay/Good – Ronan – Nebula is the Loki of this movie…Ronan is the Malekith. We know he’s a religously fanatical Kree who follows Thanos, but we don’t know what his religion fully intends. He hams it up perfectly though and is a great threat, since unlike Loki in “The Avengers,” this guy can actually succeed, and he nearly does.

Thanos – He is just a shadow in the background and doesn’t feel like a threat yet. We know he’s a powerful manipulator…but so is Loki. What sets him apart from Loki besides number of followers in the MCU? That is one thing I hope we learn as the Infinite Arc unfolds. He wasn’t bad, but he seemed powerless to do anything about Ronan’s betrayal, which was a shame…I was hoping he would come to Xandar to take the infinite stone himself and shut down his subordinate for the betrayal.

This is one of my favorite movies of the year, and in many ways on par with “Winter Soldier,” the only reason I can’t give it a ten is because within the Marvel Cinematic Universe H.Y.D.R.A. now feels like a much greater threat than Thanos. I would like that to change, since this guy is a destroyer of worlds. We’ll see what happens. Character, action and humorwise this film did everything it needed to do and I very highly recommend it.

My final score is 9.8 / 10. One of my new favorite films.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) – The Legacy of the Throne of Asgard and the Gambit

Thor: The Dark World

After a second watching, I really like “Thor: The Dark World,” it has much more going on than the original and manages to get into the mythology of the Universe and offer us hints of things to come (as well as recognizing past events). But, before I go any further…the premise.

“Thor: The Dark World,” begins with narration by Odin telling of how his father Bor stood against the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith when he created the Aether in order to consume the Universe in darkness. After his father hid the Aether we are in the future with Thor and Sif and the Warriors bringing peace to the 9 Realms after Loki’s actions in “Thor.” After we see Jane investigating anomolies and getting possessed by the Aether. Thor brings her to Asgard…Malekith attacks Asgard and the story unfolds from there.

Spoilers ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The 9 Realms – We don’t get to see all of them, but we get to see the Dark Elf World of Svartalfheim, the Ice Giant World and glimpse the world of fire and the forest world that one of the warriors three makes his home. We even see a glimpse of the Fire Realm…these glimpses hint at just at how big the world is which make me excited to see what they do with Thor next.

The Dark Elves – I won’t put them in okay because they are actually a worthy foe. They kill Loki and Thor’s mother Frigga, destroy much of Asgard and manage to get the Aether back. Never do they feel like an unworthy foe.

Malekith – Not the best Marvel Antagonist (that still belongs to Loki), but he is a threat. His biggest problem is arrogance and shortsightedness. He is so set on getting the Aether he loses track of the threats beyond Asgard (the science team) around him. Congrats to the 9th Doctor Eccleston for pulling this role off.

Battle of Asgard – Is a battle of consequences and shows that the Dark Elves are a much greater threat than the Ice Giants ever were. They are the organization that is the biggest threat at this point in the films because of this battle and what goes down during it. Even Heimdall is blind before their threat.

Frigga – She gets killed during the Battle of Asgard but we see how her intelligence rubbed off on Loki and how she represents the good in Loki as he does care for her. She fights with the dagger well and it is only the arrival of Kurse, Malekith’s dragon that leads to her death. She is the one who counters Odin’s firmness with compassion and is a great co-leader with him. Her death also actually means something.

Odin – The father who wants his son to rule…Odin is disappointed dad for much of this film but pulls it off really well. We see how lost he is with Frigga’s death and how unforgiving he is of Loki. Anthony Hopkins does it again.

Loki’s Breakout – We see Thor recount the plan and it go down as planned. Also some great moments in it such as Loki taking the form of Captain America and satirizing the character.

Sif and the Warriors Three – They don’t do the Thor and Sif romance, which I’m happy about. There is enough in this film without a love triangle…and we see all the warriors present help Loki escape and bring Thor and Jane to the Dark Elf World. They fit the theme of the film of every character having a purpose and advancing the story. They later are in the reveal too setting up things in the universe for later.

Heimdall – Helps Jane escape and admits his inability to see the Dark Elves. Manages to take out one of the dark elf ships on his own too. Idris Elba is one of my favorite actors for a reason.

Science Team – Dr. Selvig discovers the Convergence and gets arrested (slightly mad after having Loki in his head during “The Avengers.”) Is happy when he hears from Thor that Loki is “dead.” Darcy discovers the anomaly where the Aether is and her and her intern and the whole team help place the Portal Devices to fight against the Dark Elves. There are some good comedy moments too, especially with Darcy per usual.

Jane – Jane is great in this. We see a character who is active and has agency and doesn’t put up with crap. She smacks Thor and Loki for what they did and is the reason Malekith is stopped since she finds out how to manipulate the scanning devices to create Portal Weapons.

Thor – Hemsworth owns this role. We see depth in his relationships with Jane, Loki, Odin and Heimdall. He has some create comedic moments too, like when he comments on the phone call Jane gets from the man she dated before the events started to unfold, and when he takes the train during the battle, and his banter with Loki.

Loki’s Gambit – I’m beginning to think he wanted to lose on Earth…or used his loss for gain. He got revenge for Frigga by killing Malekith’s “Dragon,” (strongest Dark Elf Warrior named Kurse), fakes his own death and takes Odin’s place on the throne as he pretends to be Odin and watches Thor abdicate. His intelligence is fantastic and we see his is a complicated character…we’re left wondering if he learned from events or is still an antagonist. Again, what happened to Odin?

The Legacy of the Throne of Asgard – Has Loki learned? What does Thor’s abdication mean for the 9 Realms? Where is Odin? Asgard has shown to no longer be impenetrable by the Dark Elf attack, what does this mean for the future? This movie has shown us just how important this legacy is…what this means for the future remains to be seen.

Okay: The Music – Isn’t super amazing, but it isn’t bad. Just not as great as the first film.

The Narrative – There is a lot going on and not everything is fully explored. For example, where is Odin? Did Loki actually change? Where did Malekith’s desire come from? These are things that keep it from being a perfect film. Answering any one of these would have made more than great.

The Reveals – The Collector is weird and I hope he gets good explanation in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” cause based off this film I have no reason to care about this character. The ending with Thor and Jane is cute though and the Ice Beast is scene at the end chasing birds too (he was portalled into our world during the battle).

This movie is superior to the first “Thor,” and better than a lot of Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure this was a film that was even better with the second viewing and sets things up in the Universe really well, as well as being a great stand alone story in it’s own right. Alan Taylor does a fantastic job directing and this is a film I highly recommend. It is worth it if only for Hemsworth and Hiddleson and the dynamic their characters have with each other.

My final score for this film is 9.2 / 10. Definitely a favorite.