In 1979, the world was introduced to George Miller's nihilistic vision of future Australia in Mad Max. This was a world on the rack but not yet ruined, being slowly overrun by sadistic biker gangs led by monsters like the Toecutter.
One of Miller's greatest successes in that low budget movie was to get over how fragile law and order actually is. There was some semblance of justice to counter the creeping death and anarchy in the form of "The Bronze" and from the opening frames with "The Nightrider" giving his own eulogy during the pursuit. This was a world where outlaws and myths were quickly taking over as reality and courts, law and order were finally eroding.
The movie is most famous for introducing the world to Max Rocktansky, the best of what was left of The Bronze, a man who once everything was taken from him became "Mad Max" and he began his own personal decent into hell, as the world around him did likewise.
Released in 1981, the sequel Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior showed Max a distance away from that descent. Five years after being thrust on his new life, we see Max almost a veteran of it, he is now numb to the horrors he sees daily and is all about survival.
On it's initial release, particularly in North America, few were even aware this was a sequel, until they saw the images from the earlier movie and even then many hadn't seen it. The narrated intro fills in the gaps, but it barely makes Max sympathetic, however by referring to him as "a shell of a man" it almost excuses many of his actions which are all out of self interest throughout the movie, indeed only the Feral Kid (who would be about the same age as his own son would have been) manages to get anything from him that could be seen as a gesture, by giving him a music box, perhaps the only true gesture of the film? Or is it?
Max is held up as a great example of an anti hero, but that's not hard for a movie where nearly everyone will screw each other over. The Gyro Captain is more than happy for a snake to kill someone so he can get their gas and belongings, Papagallo is more than happy to renege on the deal a dead man made to try to gain advantage, even the young girl who is ready to leave her "family and friends" with the Gyro Captain till her change of heart.
There is one character who actually seems not to be like that, and it's the one character most would refer to as the villain...but even if Miller didn't intend it at the time, there is a great deal of evidence to back up that he is the one decent character in the film, and for a reason.
I am talking of course about Lord Humongous, the gigantic, hockey mask wearing "Ayatollah Of Rock N' Rolla".
Throughout the movie we rarely see him do much other than speak, eloquently. Others carry out any carnage necessary and all fear and respect him. When Wez, the psycho punk is so consumed by grief for his fallen lover, Humongous sympathizes and chokes him out to stop him acting any more rashly. Many villains would kill a subordinate who directly disobeys in that way.
Many are swayed by his promises of "safe passage" and that he keeps his word.
Most tellingly, at the crucial moment, he has the chance to kill Max and doesn't? It can be seen as a miss but there is also another big possibility as to why all the above take place.
He KNOWS Max, but doesn't realize until that point. How?
Because he was in Mad Max, and was his boss.
Yes, there is a VERY compelling argument that says "Fifi" McAfee, the head of the Bronze is in fact Lord Humongous himself.
WHAT? I hear you say?
There are large number of subtle clues to his identity throughout the movie but many are found in Mad Max, if you've not seen it, last chance cos...Spoilers...
Fifi spends a lot of the first movie trying to talk Max into staying, not necessarily as a lawman/bronze but as a "hero". Fifi knows what is coming and that when it does only the strong and those strong enough to lead them will survive. How do those people prove they can lead? By being "heroes", having legends and stories attached to them and while Fifi doesn't do much in Mad Max, it is clear he is fiercely respected by his men and has "done his time" as one of them.
When Fifi talks of "giving them their heroes back" he is in fact saying "come with me Max...we can do this together". Max of course declines, fearing that he will become a crazy himself, ironically a self fulfilling prophecy, but perhaps he also suspected Fifi had already "gone himself".
When Max finally returns to the station to steal the Charger, we don't see Fifi. Was he at home? or had Toecutter and co already been there too? We all know what happened to Jim "Goose" and Humongous has clearly had something similar occur. It's entirely possible Fifi had already suffered some burning incident by the time Max went back, enough to deform him and wreck his voice, giving him the gravelly husky tones in the Road Warrior and necessitating the mask.
Physically the men are VERY similar with bodybuilder physiques and one trait is very clear in both Fifi and Humongous and his gang, they are out and proud!
Fifi is and arguably one of the first movie portrayals of a positive, leadership role model character as gay, while it's not overtly stated, his team know and are fine with it. Fifi clearly is a play on his surname and his preference.
Never for one second in Mad Max do you feel this guy isn't totally respected by the few men who have remained and feared by everyone else, especially the lawyer (who we'll get to) who represents Johnny The Boy, not many other movies of that time put a flamboyant gay character in such a role especially action movies.
LH's gang attack the refinery people at the start, but this is not like Toecutter's gang who rape male and female alike and defile their victims... a woman is killed, but quickly from a crash. It is the men who are made to be symbols on the front of the buggy's, almost bondage fashion and when one is knocked out it is done so with an almost "sorry" gesture. LH makes a lot of speeches about too much bloodshed and that he will keep his word. Because McAfee would keep his word and makes similar speeches to Max, it's a big, big clue.
How would a guy like Fifi gain such followers? He probably knew a lot of them already before things went to the dogs, guys like Wez were clearly guys he had some kind of relationship with (the leash is a dead giveaway) and they believe in him enough to follow his every command.
If he were say a respected lawman once upon a time, who had been a "hero" then they would follow him perhaps at the start, but as "The Warrior Of The Wasteland", then he would attract more. Again we go back to him "comforting" Wez rather than putting the "mad dog" down permanently. The ruthless killer wouldn't do that, but McAfee would.
Fifi didn't do that with Jim "Goose" either when he fatally was going to kill Johnny The Boy in the first movie, he calmed him and placated the situation.
The flamboyance and storytelling is a big giveaway. Fifi waxes lyrical to Max in the first movie about the importance of heroes and how they can save people and they are sorely needed, he truly believes it and although he fails to get Max to join he indeed does create a myth for himself, as evidenced by one of the most important characters, but also one dismissed as "comic relief".
The Toadie is the small, bespectacled guy who gets on the mic and like a Wrestling manager introduces his leader...he has more nicknames than Muhammad Ali, he has the awe inspiring name and look and he has the shock and awe of those who see him.
That's exactly what Fifi wanted Max to be back in that first movie, be it on the side of the Bronze or outside.
If this theory was indeed true, then it's entirely possible the Toadie is that lawyer from the first movie, they're roughly similar, small mousy men with glasses and someone like that, the first place they're gonna go when society collapses and they themselves are in trouble is to someone like Fifi, who they know can protect them. As a lawyer, he'd be used to lying and telling stories, so he becomes LH's own personal ring announcer, as a lawyer would talk highly of his client, Toadie does about LH...then he loses his fingers and everyone laughs. Could it be cos they know what he once was and feel he deserved it?
Then we come to the the equipment and clothing worn by the gang. Most is seemingly Bronze gear re-purposed, Fifi would know where to get all the equipment needed from other outposts/stations and probably pick up some more recruits once the world really had gone to hell. Indeed he could go to every Bronze station and gut it for valuable gear, if anyone was left they would follow him on rank and if they didn't, he could take them down.
We then come to the final, pivotal moment. Where Max is driving towards LH and he shoots and either misses, or changes his mind at the last moment and shoots the engine block.
No guy with THAT gun (clearly a special Bronze or military issue) is going to miss that shot at close range unless... he recognizes his former ally at the wheel and decides he's not going to kill him at that point unless he has to.
Wez of course has other ideas and it's ironic that both end up killed together... after all LH is gone, he can escape, regroup... Why go back? Maybe he wanted to save his old friend from Wez? Maybe to have another crack at the convoy people with Max saying who he was?
Max of course is oblivious, if LH is burned then unmasking probably wouldn't help, there's no way he could prove he is who he is even if he wanted to. The whole end of that scene for LH is seemingly a "dumb f'ing luck" situation, he might even decide to commit suicide at that point cos he knows Max is what he intended and can never be...lots of different angles here.
Of course at this point it becomes something that is in the realms of a theory and there will never be hard evidence to back it up unless Miller himself comes out and says so. But there is a lot of evidence throughout the film and indeed early scripts put Jim "Goose" as Humongous, so a face from the past was definitely in mind when putting the film together, whatever Miller might now say. While the actor who played Fifi was big, he was not as big as the guy who played LH, but 5 years in the Outback would strip fat off, so that's not really an issue. Miller is also fond of casting the same actors where he can, but not doing so isn't really a clue either way.
With the new Max taking the world by storm, could this be something we see revisited in a movie? Could a Humongous prequel work?
Had Hardy not taken this role he'd have made a perfect modern version of Fifi/Humongous (anyone who has seen Bronson will know what I mean) to tell that story.
As with any theory like this, take it for what it's worth, personally I like this explanation, it makes a lot of sense and ties the two films together in a way that makes the mythos more, that is always a good thing.
As ever, let me know you feedback. I really wish I'd remembered this for the origin story comp a few weeks back...oh well.