With news that Tom Hardy is ready to head back out into the dusty desert for at least two more outings as the titular "mad" Max, this leaves a big question about where George Miller's universe will go next. The Mad Max franchise lay in limbo for 30 years before the release of 2015's Fury Road, so hopefully the wait won't be as long this time around. It looks like Hardy is in it for the long rung, so where does this leave Mel Gibson's original iteration of the iconic character?
We know that Hardy's Max is a younger version of the Gibson era character from 1979–1985, so could it even work to have an even more aged version of the character return, or could Gibson play someone completely new? Mel certainly held his own as the lead of the first three films, but Fury Road nearly eclipsed the memory of what the original Max was, and certainly slaughtered his trilogy at the box office. So, with all this to consider, here are the pros and cons for bringing back Gibson's gruff apocalyptic driver just one more time.
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Bring Back Max
It can be done - Firstly, having someone cross from old into new can be done (albeit a rarity). While we axed most of the '90s era of James Bond, Judy Dench's portrayal of M made it seamlessly into the Sam Mendes rebooted films. Speaking of Bond, Gibson and Hardy may both be the same Max, but the internet is awash with theories and thoughts that there actually multiple James Bonds, with it just being a name applied to 007. George Miller might maintain that Hardy is a younger version of Gibson's Max Rockatansky, but why not apply the same formula and have Rockatansky as a moniker.
It nearly happened before - What you also have to bear in mind with a Gibson return, is that we have been here before. The very first iteration of whatever became Fury Road originally had Gibson's return in the cards, and the plans were full-steam ahead until 9/11 happened. The terrorist attack caused the US dollar to collapse against the Australian dollar overnight, and production lost 25% of its budget. By the time George Miller returned to the idea in 2006, Gibson had hit some *erm* personal troubles, and they began to look elsewhere for their lead. That clearly means that at one point Miller's mind had an idea for a Gibson outing to continue, while it seems a shame to waste the opportunity.
We needed a break from Gibson - Perhaps a break away from the madness of Max was what we needed. The A Nightmare on Elm Street series bombed with its second outing, which retired Heather Langenkamp's final girl Nancy Thompson, only to return for its most-successful film in the entire franchise when Heather returned for third film, Dream Warriors. A 2017 Gibson sees him return to form in an attempt to put his past behind him, so has he finally regained his Hollywood status enough to return to Max? Let's not forget that some of Gibson's work in Gallipoli and Braveheart made him one of cinema's greatest actors and once "Sexiest Man Alive."
Tying it all together - Finally, a back-to-the-start approach would tie together the old and the new, bringing fans of the original Max trilogy into Miller's newer world. The 2015 "reboot" drove away with the big box office bucks, but it actually slips just behind Mad Max: Road Warrior for critical acclaim from Rotten Tomatoes. It is then no surprise that Fury Road saw a return to a Road Warrior style of film and away from the third film, Beyond Thunderdome, and the walk and talk style. There is no denying that Hardy played a huge part in Fury Road, but the film was undoubtedly lead by Charlize Theron's Furiosa. You could argue that Max actually played second fiddle, while there will be some who will have refused to tune in to watch Hardy, simply because Gibson will be their one and only Max.
Keep It Hardy
George Miller doesn't want it - While we may have seen franchises move beyond their lead character plenty of times, admittedly it is usually with mixed success. Alien, Final Destination, Jurassic Park, and now Max Max have all proved that there is life beyond their final character. Miller created and directed all four Mad Max films and even he himself has seemingly put the nail in the coffin of any hopes that Gibson's Max could return. In a 2015 interview, Miller played down any idea that Hardy and Gibson would share screentime:
"If Mel, who is Max in a lot of people’s memories, appeared in the next movie, it would pull audiences out of the movie for a bit, and we worked so hard to keep people immersed in the movie as much as possible. It would be like, I don’t know, seeing Roger Moore appearing in a Daniel Craig James Bond movie. It would be fun, but it would also pull you out of the experience of the movie."
If it isn't good enough for the director, then why would we want it?
A logistical nightmare - It could also be a nice idea, but I just don't see it working practically; as previously said, Hardy is confirmed as a young Max. Unless you were going to have some flash forward, or time travel, it isn't really worth including Gibson, and both those ideas sound atrocious. So many franchises have been undone by the dragging out of a lead character just for the sake of a mild box office boost. At the heart of Fury Road was the high-adrenaline stunts; the last thing we want is a dusty Mel Gibson strapped to the hood of a car well into his 60s. Just as Christopher Nolan's Batman seemed like a fresh reinvention, and despite how much I loved Keaton/Burton's era, the thought of bringing the two back together would seem ludicrous.
A cameo wouldn't work - Possibly the worst thing Miller could do would be to shoehorn in a Gibson cameo akin to Paul Feig's Ghostbusters. One of the film's biggest criticisms (it was a long list) was the fact that original stars like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd appeared in wholly new roles. If Gibson were to return, it would have to be as the mohawked Max, but it doesn't seem like Miller is too keen for any kind of inclusion.
We can't forgive and forget - Then there is the actor himself. Sure, Gibson might appear at everything from the Oscars to the Golden Globes, and seems to be back on track with Hacksaw Ridge, but there is no forgetting his tumultuous past. From his homophobic comments back in 1991, to his racial slur in 2010, his anti-semitic views, and rumors of domestic violence, Mel has a very dark past. Hollywood can be fickle, and many viewers still consider Gibson to be box office suicide.
Fury Road was its own entity - Finally, as Australia's most successful film of all time, and the highest-grossing film in the franchise, bringing back the original Max might dilute the purity of the "new" franchise. As Miller said, having two Bonds share a screen would be a head-scratcher to say the least and would pull the audience out of the reality they are in. Like the Avengers eventually handing over the baton to someone new, you feel that Gibson has had his time behind the wheel.
The idea of Gibson returning to the role of Max looks almost laughable on paper (at least for now), but this isn't to say that he couldn't appear in future films. With Hardy and Miller working on a new trilogy, a Gibson swansong and a final scene that time jumps to the future could be the perfect way to appease fans of all sides. We could even use some of that nifty Rogue One CGI to place a younger looking Gibson in the first scene from 1979's classic. Personally though, I think that if you are going to bring anyone back to the mad world of Max it should be Tina Turner's Aunty. Sure, Beyond Thunderdome may have been lambasted as the franchise's weakest entry, but someone stick Tina back in those shoulder pads. Are you listening, George?
Check out Turner's soulful soundtrack from Beyond Thunderdome, and don't forget our poll below!
Should Mel Gibson return to Mad Max?