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Instead, assume Fury Road takes place about three decades after the first three movies, and that Hardy is instead playing Max’s orphan sidekick from Road Warrior, the Feral Kid, now grown up. The Feral Kid is the nonverbal wild child Max sends out on the hood of the truck in climax of the great car chase in Road Warrior.
This would make some aspects of Fury Road better:
- Hardy’s struggles with his diction, swinging from grunts to over-formality, don’t sound much like Gibson’s character’s easy affability, but make more sense if you assume Hardy is playing the former mute child who didn’t learn how to speak until he was about ten.
- It makes a tic in the screenplay less annoying: Charlize Theron keeps asking Tom Hardy his name, and finally toward the end he says, big whoop, “Max.” That’s the name on the marquee, right? But what if Hardy’s character isn’t named Max? Maybe “Max” is to him more of an honorific that he has finally earned for himself over the course of this movie by emulating the legendary hero he knew before he could speak.
- Fury Road’s hero’s flashbacks to a lost loved one are to a little girl, but Mad Max famously lost a little boy to the bad guys in the 1979 first movie.
- The circumstances of Fury Road, such as the pervasive problem of birth defects among young males caused, presumably, by mutations due to nuclear war fallout, make more sense if you assume this movie takes place a generation after the earlier movies.
- And it holds open the option of casting Mel as the aged Max in a future sequel.
I’m sure there are holes in this theory, but it makes me like Fury Road considerably more than I did before I heard it.
The Age of Franchises in movies has some interesting effects on storytelling, such as making a virtue out of keeping your options open. You can float trial balloons over the Internet and see what fans think.
By the way, at the end of Road Warrior, the Feral Kid narrates that, after learning how to talk, he eventually became the leader of the Good People Tribe: