I’ve always had an affinity for third chapters, the final arc of a trilogy, as all the answers to questions become apparent, and heroes face their foes, and the villain gets their comeuppance.
Return of the Jedi is one of the most well known of these and it surely does bring the trilogy to a close, but I’ve always had another thought, and it’s the influence of the third chapter on the series of Mad Max, in particular Beyond Thunderdome.
This is Tatooine in Australia, no really. It’s just like Jabba’s Palace, a central set piece to bring all the action together. Other films, there’s not a lot vehicular action.
Even the entry of Mel into this world is like Luke’s as Max has always been a wandering Ronin like character, based all on survival, especially in Road Warrior and this one. The way in which he dispenses his weapons at the gates of Barter Town has the tone and humour of ROTJ.
This is Australia’s answer to George Lucas, another George or in this case two Georges: Miller and Ogilve.
The film starts in a desolate Australian desert (Coober Pedy), and we see Max travelling with camels as they drag a vehicle behind them. This is a little like the start of Fury Road which I thought gas a little bit of a Star Wars fantasy style vibe. It makes it seem like it’s on another world.
The wide open vistas, have that influence of a John Ford western not unlike George Lucas had on A New Hope with Tatooine, and a ronin figure coming into a desolate town, to seek vengeance.
Luke’s entrance in Return of the Jedi is a classic heroic archetype which is the lone gunslinger, mysteriously coming into the town, and no one has any idea who they are. This can be seen in A Fistful of Dollars, and many classic westerns. Max also fits this antihero like figure, as he never says a lot, and in some ways is the vehicle for us into this world, as the true lead characters of Mad Max are the characters around Max.
Fury Road was seen as more Furiosa’s film and less Mad Max, and that’s correct but looking back to the old films, apart from the first, Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome fall into this arc. The classic ronin story. Right back to Kurosawa’s own Yojimbo and Sanjuro.
No one does that better that Mifune and Eastwood, they’ve influenced so many films.
The there’s Barter Town, which is a run down, post apocalyptic town run by Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity, and she’s like the town leader. With competition from Master Blaster. I like the conflict in this one too, as it leads towards the pit, or in this case, Thunderdome.
The event is where two men go in one man leaves, which the audience chant. This is pretty much like what Luke faces, and like Gladiators of old they face beasts, and adversaries ready to kill them.
Both scenes in each film make the hero think outside of the box, and grow as a character. That again is why these scenes are in such tales, as we need to see our heroic characters grow, and evolve. It’s also exciting.