Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Review: 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome' by Joan D. Vinge

5 / 5 Stars

This novelization of the screenplay of ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome’ (Warner Books, 1985, 219 pp.) was written by Joan D. Vinge; she is of course a well-known SF writer (‘The Snow Queen’, ‘Psion’).

There’s nothing in the novelization that does not appear in the film, but it does provide some little bits of detail, nuances, and backstory that will be appreciated by fans of ‘Thunderdome’. For example, the reason why Master uses pidgin English in the first half of the film (“No energy, no town. Me King Arab !”) is so that Blaster can follow the conversation. It’s later in the film that Master reverts to correct English (“My name is Elvis Ford…I’m thirty-five inches tall…Sixty-six years old…And my life is over…”).

We also learn that the little shaven-headed man, sporting the mask and plume of hair atop an aerial fixed to his back, is named ‘Ironbar Bassey’, and the convict who befriends Max in the pigpens of the Underworld is named ‘Pig Killer’ (an unforgiveable offense in Bartortown). The Master of Ceremonies at Thunderdome, the man with the slicked-back hair, is named Dr Dealgood, and the tattooed, blind saxophonist in Aunt Entity’s palace is named…appropriately….. Tonton Tattoo. These are the little bits of Australian humor that give the story its quirky, offbeat character.

The novel makes clearer the reasons for the increasing enmity between Aunt Entity and Master, and thus Max's mission to the Thunderdome. As well, the segment of the film that takes place in the camp of the lost children, which I found confusing (due in some part to the Australian accents of the actors and their heavily stylized dialogue: "we're be doing The Tell so that them's who come after, be in the knowing of the why and the how") is easier to understand as described in the novelization.

Even if you are familiar with the movie the novelization is a worthy read; Vinge is skilled at relating events via a smooth and well-paced narrative that can be very engaging at times. Indeed, ‘Thunderdome’ is one of the better script novelizations I’ve encountered. Recommended to Mad Max fans, and those who enjoy a good post-apocalyptic adventure story.

As of October 2009, there are reports that director George Miller will start filming the fourth installment of the series, tentatively titled 'Mad Max: Fury Road', in Australia in 2010. Rumored casting choices include Sam Worthington (from 'Terminator: Salvation'), Tim Worthy, and Charlize Theron (Mel Gibson is apparently adamant that he will not reprise his role as Mad Max).

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