It may seem strange to put it this way, but Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is arguably one of the more realistic depictions of the post-apocalyptic world.
Bartertown is a functional economy and (just as with Road Warrior) you get the crazy punk-meets-tribal look, only it is now more fully realized. The use of livestock manure to supply natural gas for power generation is actually "a thing" these days and large scale operations can reach a remarkable degree of self-sufficiency.
We also see the progression from nomadic raiders to a growing settlement and a semblance of civilization.
One must make a special call-out to Tina Turner, who is exceptional as the matriarch of Bartertown. I've said this many, many times before, but strong women in films is nothing new. It is as old as film (and before that theater) itself. Her portrayal is marvelous, and her discussion of how she was a "nobody" and is now "somebody" is a wonderful shorthand way to describe her rise to power.
There's also her undeniable presence, something sorely lacking in today's stars. You can readily believe that she can gain and hold attention.
Amidst all the fun and now iconic phrases ("two men enter, one man leaves!"), there is a sour note that I missed when I saw it back in the 80s but now standing out like a flashing light: a complete absence of faith.
The Lost Children have learned their legend, and ascribed semi-divine power to an airline pilot, but what about God? There's a reference in the memorial the parents left behind them, but that's it.
I suppose it is a sad commentary on Australian culture that even in 1985 no one would think that parents would teach children their prayers or a little scripture. If they were trying to flee the urban nightmare, might not one have brought the family bible along with a recording of French lessons?
This hearkens back to something that The Lord of Spirits podcast brought up more than a year ago: the modern assumption that settlement patterns are driven entirely by economics, with religion being a later addition, a luxury item.
The origin for this notion is probably in the settlement of the American frontier - or at least the modern secular interpretation of it. We see it in countless cowboy movies set in the Old West: the town starts has a tavern/general store, later a jail and then once civilization shows up, a church.
This completely ignores that fact that many settlements were actually built around missionary communities. Indeed, the United States itself was in large part a refuge for religious communities - the Pilgrims, and later Catholics, Anabaptists, etc. - all came seeking freedom of worship rather than simply a chance to build a log cabin.
Even the Old West was shaped by this drive for religious freedom. Utah exists in its present Mormon-heavy configuration because the practice of polygamy led to that faith's persecution east of the Mississippi.
As much as we like to pretend otherwise, humans are spiritual creatures, incapable of existing outside of a moral framework. Those who claim to be most secular have simply substituted their own divine code, which they delude themselves by thinking is "rational" or "science-based," but it really just a reflection of their own personal priorities.
It would be interesting to imagine a post-apocalyptic world with a religious element - mission settlements built around surviving churches or even a shrine commemorating a miracle during the Downfall.
This brings us to the great irony that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome itself uses religious language ("Poxy-clipse") to describe the collapse of civilization without any thought to its deeper meaning.