[Mad Max: Fury Road](tag:41445) was a masterpiece of cinema, and deftly avoided any questions about how it fit into the greater canon of the Mad Max franchise by powering ahead with its own story. The post apocalyptic landscape was definitely something new and different, but there were plenty of callbacks to the original films. Somehow, Fury Road is a sequel, a reboot, a standalone, and yet also isn't any of these things. It exists very much within its own world, and what a world!
With radiation poisoning, creepy swampland, and electrical vortex sandstorms, this is not somewhere you'd want to explore alone. And yet that's exactly what Max sets out to do at the end of Fury Road, turning away from his new allies to return to his life wandering the Wasteland.
So what could be in store for Max in the second (or fifth) film? Could we finally discover how it all fits together? And is Tom Hardy's Max the same Road Warrior from the original movies?
Who killed the world?
The world of Fury Road is a very different one to that of 1979's Mad Max film. Back then there were tarmac roads, trees, and ice-cream. In Fury Road, Nux doesn't even know what a tree is, and there's barely enough water to sustain a population. So exactly how much time has passed from the original movies?
Clearly, some huge cataclysmic event happened to cause the environment to slowly go into an extreme decline. In Mad Max: Road Warrior (1981), the gasoline has run out, and gangs to fight it out over the precious resource. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) shows a world after modern civilisation has died, where oases are the only place to find shelter.
But by Fury Road, even the older characters can't remember a time where fertile land was abundant, and TV shows are talked about like fairy tales. While Tom Hardy's Max looks around the same age as Mel Gibson's Max, there's no way the world could have changed this much in a few years, right?
There are many theories floating about, as fans are trying to resolve these timeline issues. Either this is the same Max as in the previous movies, or decades have passed and someone else is carrying the Road Warrior torch.
So if decades have passed, who could this Max be? It's possible he's a completely different person from Mel Gibson's incarnation. After all, he's mad in a much more traditional sense: while Gibson's Max was dynamic and very much in control of his mind, Hardy's Max is plagued by flashbacks and is far more reticent.
Aside from the characterisation and the hints that a long time has passed between the original film and Fury Road, there isn't much evidence to suggest that this Max is someone new. However, there are plenty of Easter eggs to show that Hardy's Max and Gibson's Max are one and the same.
- The Car
It may be a bit battered and worse for wear, but the car that Max so dearly loves in Fury Road is definitely the V8 Interceptor of the original films.
- The Leg Brace
In the first film back in 1979, Gibson's Max was shot in the leg, and wore a brace during Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome. And if you look carefully, Hardy's Max is wearing the very same brace...
- The Jacket
Check out that asymmetrical shoulder pad: Max is no stranger to setting trends and he's still rocking his 80s look in Fury Road...
And there we have it. Unless this new Max is pretty obsessed with emulating his predecessor, Hardy's Max is the same person as Gibson's. If decades have indeed passed, as the setting would imply, could this mean that Max is immortal? Or maybe he just ages really, really well...
Answers to be found in the Wasteland
Clearing up these timeline questions is definitely something that Miller's next film, Mad Max: The Wasteland could do, as well as explaining the radiation poisoning that caused hundreds of people to suffer mutations and tumors, while the soil turned barren. The Wasteland could also explain who the people in Max's flashback were. From what we can tell, he was their protector and yet something happened that he couldn't shield them from. Still plagued by this guilt, could Max finally reveal what happened?
While The Wasteland could delve deeper into Max's past, and give us the answers to our many, many questions, maybe it's better if this is all left as a mystery. The films have so far followed a rather episodic structure, independent from each other in characters and plot, with Max himself as the only unifying element. He may be the hero of the story, but he is also the vehicle to tell others' stories.
Although it would be fantastic to find out more about him, and discover what happened in the years between Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road, it's more likely The Wasteland will give us new characters and stories. And as Miller is a master of visual storytelling, there's always answers to be found if we know where to look!