(1985)3Brian J. DillardAlthough it's slicker and more hopeful than the low-budget original (and its equally nihilistic follow-up), the third Mad Max offering is still an entertaining sci-fi-action flick with breathtaking production design and a script and cast that back it up. George Miller, writer/director of the first two films, teams with co-director George Ogilvie for the most visually elaborate entry in the series, delineating his film's competing post-apocalyptic societies with a deftness and density that other science fiction storytellers should study. Despite his newfound scruples -- sparing the life of a gladiator with Down's syndrome and aiding a band of feral children -- Mel Gibson's titular protagonist is still an engagingly gritty hero. In addition to his now well-honed leather-n-guns schtick, here Gibson also gets to show off the game sense of humor that would characterize his later blockbusters, including the Lethal Weapon films. Tina Turner makes a sublimely campy villain, clad in low-cut chain mail and some serious horns. Barking orders in that distinctively gruff voice, the soul survivor takes care to strike bad-girl poses that show off her famous legs to good advantage. Despite the strong leads, though, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome would fall apart if not for the supporting characters, costumes, and settings that bring the post-nuclear outback vividly to life. From an underground pig dung factory to an idyllic valley to a desiccated frontier town, the sets look great. As for the performers, veterans as varied as horror-flick bit-part champ Angelo Rossitto and venerable Aussie thespian Frank Thring get to blend quirky character acting and far-out costumes into a truly memorable rogues' gallery. The film's chase sequences can't match those from the previous films, while the good-guy Max and the film's hopeful finale alienated some fans of the franchise. But as a stand-alone action extravaganza with a Hollywood touch, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome delivers.