Mad Max: Fury Road Fan Theory – What if ‘Max’ Isn’t Actually Max Rockatansky?

The Mad Max canon is shaky at best, and there’s really no set chronology that’s ever explicitly established (or really needed) over the course of the four film series. 

That being said, the original trilogy of films do sort of follow one after the other. The first Mad Mad introduces Max Rockatansky, a police officer in a world that’s rapidly falling apart. The second film picks up or more or less right after the end of that one, although it’s a little bit inconsistent in how it portrays the state of society. Finally, the third installment can be reasonably assumed to take place a decade or more after the events of the second.

Then comes Fury Road, and all of that falls apart. Not only is Max portrayed by a new actor, but his characterization feels much different, and there are a couple of events in the movie that make it really difficult to fit it into the previous timeline.

What breaks the timeline?

For one, the flashbacks Max has don’t really line up with what we know about the character. We assume the recurring hallucination that Max has is his daughter being killed. While Max does lose his wife and child in the original film, he actually had a son, who was an infant at the time. Additionally, his kid is not run over by a truck, as we see in those visions. Instead, he was killed by a biker gang.

mad max wife and son

Additionally, early into Fury Road, Max gets a tattoo on his back listing his blood type among other health related details.

mad max fury road tattoo

It flashes by too quickly to see much else, but a piece of concept art for the tattoo reveals a very interesting stat:

mad max tattoo concept art

It reads “Day 12045,” which may put Max’s age at around 32 years old. That works for actor Tom Hardy, but not for the series’ timeline.

George Miller has stated that Fury Road takes place “45-50 years” after the apocalypse, which hasn’t yet happened in the original Mad Max film. That means the Mel Gibson version of the character would need to be 70+ years old during the events of Fury Road, and he is clearly not.

So together, what does this all mean?

It basically means that it’s very possible that the “Max” we see in Fury Road is not the same guy from the original trilogy.

Instead, fans have been speculating online that Tom Hardy’s character is actually someone we met during the second film. Namely, this guy:

The Feral Kid Mad Max Road Warrior

That’s the Feral Kid from Mad Max 2, and since that movie takes place after the apocalypse as well, it’s reasonable to assume that he could be Tom Hardy’s age during the events of Fury Road.

Why that character?

While this is just a loose fan theory (George Miller himself has said that chronology is not something he ever worried about with these movies), there are a few interesting bits of supporting evidence.

One big clue is the appearance of a music box in Fury Road, which looks remarkably similar to the one that Max gives to the Feral Kid in the second film. If Max has this here, that means it either takes place before Mad Max 2, or according to this theory, Tom Hardy’s character is simply using the name.

mad max 2 music box

Additionally, a weird character quirk Max has in Fury Road is his hesitance to use his own name. He finally says it towards the end of the movie, but only because he thinks Furiosa might be dying. Why would he be so weird about his own name? Maybe because it’s not his.

Likewise, Max seems to really dislike speaking in Fury Road, and most of his “dialogue” feels more like grunting. This would make a lot of sense if he’s actually the adult version of the Feral Kid, who spoke entirely in growls and grunts in Mad Max 2.

What does this add to the movie?

So why would he be doing this? Well the Feral Kid clearly came to idolize Max over the course of that story, and the end of that film reveals that an adult Kid had been narrating the story, mythologizing the adventures of the “Road Warrior.” It’s possible that he picked up the identity into his adulthood, imitating the look and mannerisms of the only positive role model he had growing up.

However, I think there’s a much more interesting angle. The end of Mad Max reveals that the Feral Kid accompanied a group that would later become the “Great Northern Tribe.” After reaching adulthood, the Kid eventually became the chief of the tribe. Many fans have been pointing at this as evidence that he couldn’t be the character we saw in Fury Road… but what if his time as the tribe’s leader was temporary? What if they all died, and it was somehow his fault?

We see a lot of people in Max’s hallucinations in addition to his daughter. Why does he have so much guilt on his conscience, and why aren’t these characters who died in the previous three movies? I believe these people were members of Max’s tribe, who were killed while he was their leader.

This would explain a ton about the character, including why he has a daughter instead of a son, his strange mannerisms, and how this movie fits into the timeline. It would also really add to Max’s apparent insanity. Now instead of just losing his family, this Max lost an entire tribe of people; people who trusted him to lead and protect them.

Perhaps after losing everything, the Kid took to wandering. When asked his name, maybe it wasn’t reluctance, maybe he genuinely didn’t know what to say. Telling Furiosa that his name is Max could be more than just him trusting her, it could be his arc as a character, finally embracing his new role as the mythological Road Warrior, destined to wander the wasteland alone, protecting the weak.

mad max fury road poster crop

It would also just be a neat link to the rest of the series in an installment that feels very far removed.

All of that being said, it’s just a fan theory, and George Miller clearly couldn’t care less about establishing a canon. He’s always viewed Max as less of a fully fleshed-out character, and more of a legendary archetype. In my mind though, that makes this theory work even better.

Max isn’t a flesh-and-blood person, he’s an idea. He’s a story that’s passed into legend, and one that doesn’t have to be tied to any one character.

We’ve heard rumors that the next two Mad Max movies may be prequels, so they may totally debunk this theory; but for now, I think it’s a pretty original idea that actually adds some interesting elements to an already awesome film.

24 Comments

  1. The appearance of the V8 Interceptor at the beginning of Fury Road supports this theory as well. The Interceptor gets trashed in The Road Warrior, and it doesn’t appear at all in Thunderdome, so it seems unlikely that Max fixed it afterwards. But it would make sense for the Feral Kid to have fixed it up in the meantime, as the Interceptor was presumably abandoned by Max at the refinery.

    Also the tattoo on his back doesn’t make any mention of Max’s fucked knee, and in fact says ‘no busted limbs’. Although it does look like Max is wearing the brace in Fury Road (but it’s not as clearly a leg-brace in Fury Road as it is in The Road Warrior).

    Good theory though, really hope there’s a bit more explanation in the next film.

    1. Max didn’t abandon his vehicle. It exploded when the Toadie tried to steal the gas from the tanks. Remember Max’s handy booby trap?

  2. Great analysis! I did enjoy reading it! Here is my take – The problem with the kid storyline as max is that in the road warrior, he does state he is old and his memories are fading, but I do think he managed to keep his Great Northern Tribe alive and well. I don’t think this is the feral kid, but more like what Miller had in mind – legendary archetype.

    All of the stories, as you stated, except the 1st one, are told by others in the end – from The Road Warrior (feral kid), Thunderdome (Savannah Nix) and The History of First Man (or whatever that quote was at the end of Fury Road). Just like Robin Hood, King Arthur, Beowulf, Lagnar and other legends, there are many tales of those men and their supporting cast of characters ~ we accept it as legend, that depending on your Point of View, you would see and tell things differently. The stories of King Arthur are varied and vast, yet, we all enjoy them and accept them as part of the legend, even though they vastly contradict each other.

    There was a man, named Max. He lost everything and went into the wasteland. movies 2-4 are the legends from his interactions in the wasteland, told by the POV of the people he “saved”. There is no continuity here and there doesn’t need to make sense out of the differences – notice that the little girl called Max “Max” for most of the film, not Dad. These are people he interacted with, his family is long gone in film 1.

    1. I like that theory best.

      All these stories being told decades or even centuries later, from scraps and half-memories.

      1. exactly…. It is the genius of George Miller’s storytelling here. I know folks want “backstories” but personally, I hope he doesn’t do it for Max.

        Max’s backstory is Mad Max 1 – his origin story. Everything else is legend, told by someone else, handed down over the years…..

        1. I know that sounded confusing….I mean, I don’t need anymore backstory with Max. I have all the information on him that I need to know why he is insane, what he was before he became insane, and what prompts him to interact with humanity (when he meets those in dire need and something triggers the good man in Max to come out)

    2. I thought the leg-brace looked very similar to Max’s leg-brace in “The Road Warrior.”

      Interesting theories about if this is Max or the Feral Kid. I wonder if it’s like all of the “Batman” movies (The Dark Knight universe is different than the Burton/Keaton universe but it’s still the same Batman character) over the years where timelines and character traits don’t always have to line up.

    3. Great observation Michele. You reminded me that when trying to make sense of how each film fits into the story line of the character Mad Max (after the first Mad Max movie), it must be remembered that every film is ultimately a retelling of past events involving a certain person’s contact with Max “as they remember them”. This is why certain aspects of the time line don’t always seem plausible.

      Good point about the little girl from Max’s memory calling him “Max”, as opposed to “Dad”. I missed that detail when viewing Fury Road, mostly because my senses were being overloaded by the thrilling spectacle of the movie as a whole.

      I think the majority of fans think of the Mad Max stories as a “saga”, more so than as a “legend”.

  3. got my own theory about the film. what if imortan joe wasnt just played by the same actor as toe cutter, but rather is toe cutter. joe’s boddy was severly damaged and he needed all that life support stuff perhaps as a result of going under a truck?

  4. Why the girl in the begining is Max’s Daugther? Max had halucination in the entire movie of the people he couldn’t save in front of his eyes.

  5. There is one thing I noticed while watching all of them in order recently. One of the wives had a wind up music deal just like the one he gave to the feral kid in RW. She is winding it when they are in the war rig heading back to the citadel. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

  6. If the Feral Kid came across Gibson’s Max’s body at some point and appropriated his gear (jacket, leg brace) that would go pretty far to establish that this is indeed a “new” Max carrying on in the tradition of the Road Warrior. Is this part of Miller’s master plan for the franchise? Who knows, but it’s some great fan conjecture!

  7. THE GIRLS NAME IS GLORY. IT IS NOT HIS DAUGHTER. This is Max. Where would he get the jacket and the leg brace from? He knows his name is Max, but he doesnt mention anything personal the entire movie because he does not want to get close to someone again and then loose them. He realized that Furiosa and him were safe at the end and told her his name. He rescued a womans daughter before these events and the daughter was named Glory, but soon after he rescued her and brought her back to her mother they were both ran over by Scavs or something and Max watched.

  8. In one of the comics written by Miller it’s revealed that the girl was not his daughter, just a kid he failed to save.

  9. Don’t forget, the music box was carried by the old woman in fury road, if it’s the same music box max gave to the feral kid, where did the old woman get it, and miller himself says fury road takes place after thunderdome, so no I do not think that is the kid or the real max.and his interceptor is most likely one of the other cars from the mpf in the first movie.

  10. One huge Easter egg everyone has failed to catch…the brief appearance of Lord Humungus

  11. When max is about to leave the girls and furiousa, he has one of those weird flashbacks of the little girl reaching out to him (some have said this is the Glory Child http://madmax.wikia.com/wiki/Glory_the_Child )…during this sequence the girl momentarily flashes and changes appearances to a man in a hockey mask closely resembling Lord Humungus from The Road Warrior. This happens exactly 1 hour 25 min. and 51 sec. into the movie

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