I was never a big fan of the first Mad Max movie, but I think the second one may be the greatest movie ever not made by myself. So when they asked me to do a third, I figured I had a fifty-fifty shot at continuing the series’ good/bad tradition either way, which adds up to one hundred percent. As it turned out, my logic and math was fifty-percent flawed.

It’s not my fault though; I was fighting against forces I knew nothing about. See, thanks to cocaine, we thought all of our movie ideas were gold, and we kept them coming at a pretty steady pace. Instead of making endless sequels, we made original films we were excited about. But then, thanks to cocaine, money became an issue and we needed a lot of it, like right fucking now. Our idea-making talent went toward ways to make dough and the best of these ideas was to repeat past success over and over again.

This worked out pretty well, and it was during this time I took on Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. If sequels worked, why not dip in another time for a threequel? Such young arrogance. In our naivety, we knew nothing of the movie Wizard and his Trilogy Curse. It was there, the three-headed beast, mouths gushing bloody foam and eyes forever weeping, waiting for me to discover it. If I ever find that Wizard who inflicts these curses upon us, I’m gonna yank his beard and hope his jaw comes with it.

In retrospect, I feel I did better than most if only because my film resists this curse for almost half its running time. Non-filmmakers simply cannot understand how strong this curse is. It’s like jumping out of an airplane and expecting to live. That 45 minutes of this film kicks ass is maybe the greatest achievement in cinema’s long, thirty-five year old history.

So Max is mad. First his wife and kid are run over by bikers. Then the rest of the world is turned to a desiccated wasteland thanks to a completely unrelated nukular war. He tried to fight depression and loneliness by getting a dog, but it was killed, and a car, but it was killed too. The closest thing he has to a friend is a pilot, Captain Stretch Talltooth, and that guy’s both an ass and an asshole.

For instance, when this film begins, Max is trudging along with a carriage carried by camels which is promptly stolen by Captain Talltooth himself and a brood of dirty Australian blonde kids. You read that right. While Max was eating dog food and not getting haircuts, his bastard buddy was out experiencing the Family Circus comforts of domestication (fucking). In an effort to stay superior, Talltooth keeps an eye on Max and robs him of whatever little camel comfort he manages to gather while out there battling gay bodybuilders in Hockey masks. Friends indeed.

So Max is mad. With absolutely no trade-able possessions, he wanders into a community called Barter Town. This place has some advanced shit going on like electricity and toilets. Perhaps, Max thinks, this marks the beginning of the end of the end of the world.

Immediately, people in Barter Town see Mad Max for the hard-ass he is and clear a path. It’s not long before he’s caught the attention of Barter Town’s main man, Auntie Entity, a natural survivor played by pop superstar Whitney Houston whose voice is a perfect combination of cigarettes, robitussin, and sass.

Entity has a job for Max. She will give him an apple if he kills a retarded person for her. See, all the technology in Barter Town is run by a methane made from Pig Shit. Everyone knows how to make pigs shit, but only one man knows how to turn it into energy: Master, a midget who constantly challenges Entity’s authority over Barter Town by threatening to hurt her with his exclusive expertise. Masters’ amazing confidence comes not only from his pig shit know-how, but also from his best friend and bodyguard, Bater, a retarded giant (the most dangerous kind of both). Entity wants Max to take out Bater so she can weaken Master and make him her slave.

Max is pretty mad so he says okay. Basically, he goes down to the pig shit factory and starts mouthing off to Bater-Master, which of course provokes a fight. But because Barter Town is run by rules made up by children, their fight must take place in a particular location designed to make fights as badass as post-apocalyptically possible.

Thunderdome is exactly what it sounds like except for the “thunder” part. Max and Bater are attached to bungee chords which bounce them inexplicably around the inside of a dome-shaped jungle gym. Various weapons are stationed throughout, and the entire Barter Town population watches from whatever vantage point they can climb to. So if Max tries to stab Bater but misses, some spectator is likely to be stabbed in the face instead. Thunderdome is 1960’s NASA level badassery.

At first, Max doesn’t have much of a chance. Bater hits him, stomps him, and squeezes him almost to death. But Bater is stupid, and Max has a trick up his sleeve. Earlier, Max found that like a dog, Bater is sensitive to loud noises. Thus, Max’s greatest weapon is a whistle, not a chainsaw. But because I am an awesome director, I let him have a chainsaw for a while anyway.

After blowing the whistle on Bater’s shenanigans, Max goes in for the kill, but can’t do it once he sees Bater’s giant retarded face. This marks the beginning of the end for Max as a mad person and for Beyond Thunderdome as a good movie. Entity kills Bater herself and punishes Max for “breaking a deal” by making him “face the wheel”.

Max’s first spin lands on “Lose a Turn” which is meaningless because he’s the only player. His second spin lands on “Bankrupt” which is meaningless because he doesn’t have any bank to rupt. Finally his third spin lands on “Gulag” which is a word I made up for when you’re sent into the desert on a horse with your hands tied behind your back and a gigantic mask put on your head backwards.

At this point in the shoot, weird things started happening to me. It was quite subtle. If I’d noticed it, I might have been able to stop it. The Wizard knows this, and his work happens beneath the surface.

First I stopped drinking alcohol on set. Then I quit smoking. Then I stopped having sex. I fired everyone who did not do the same. I started wearing the exact same clothes everyday. I kept my beard but meticulously shaved my neck. The Wizard is an absolute genius. Essentially, the Trilogy Curse works by turning even the greatest filmmaker into George Lucas.

I cut off Max’s hair, which, like Samson, instantly made him more of a pussy. Next, I rewrote the script. Without my being able to stop myself, I canceled the motorcycle-riding dinosaurs and naked superwomen I’d planned for the film’s second half and replaced them with a plane-load of pathetic children. I also rewrote the film’s climactic super exciting twenty minute long carwreck bonanza into an eight minute long single-file chase in which none of the bad guys die conclusively. And I also added a race of genetically mutated Jamaican lizards which I call Gungans.

Basically, the kids save Max because they mistake him for the airline pilot they think can save them. Mad Max is like, “you’re on your own kids,” but their cuteness melts his heart and before long he’s all handing out piggy-back rides and resolving self-esteem issues and playing with their viewfinders and teaching them how to listen to records and letting them drink milk from his teets.

He and the stupid kids decide to go back to Barter Town and rescue Master from pig shit slavery, so they can use him to start their own pig shit town. Auntie Entity doesn’t like this very much, so she gives them a nonchalant chase across the desert. When things start to get hard, she gives up and the conflict ends non-violently.  We need to stop this Wizard now.

Max and the kids find an airplane hidden under the sand and fly it to Vegas, which still works. When we last see Max he’s wearing a dress and is played by Roberto Benigni.

(three stars)