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Max is in hell
That is it. Max's experiences in the apocalyptic wasteland are all his soul experiencing some form of hell for whatever reason.

It is all in Max's head
The events of the first movie happened as told. Biker gangs, Max's family getting killed, all of it. But Max was already in danger of going mad according to the plot, he even wants to quit the MFP because he thinks he will lose it. After his wife and child are murdered he goes out for vengeance, but it doesn't help anything. He has already lost his mind, and killing all the bikers just pushed him into a state of insanity that leads to his mind creating the "future" that is nothing but desolate wastes and gangs of psychos trying to annihilate order.

His fixation on trying to make things right in each subsequent story, the lack of continuity, and the general oddness each continued story takes is simply his mind creating, recreating, and retconning itself to better cope with his lose of sanity. It even explains why he doesn't age as he still imagines himself as the Max from the days when he lost his family.

"Where" Max is in reality is up for conjecture. He could still be on the road dying and this delusion was created by his blood drained brain. He could be on the farm as an old man, only barely conscious of the world around him. He could be in a hospital (medical or mental). None of that matters tho as the end result is the same. All the movies past the first (and even the game as it is tied through lore directly as a sequel to events in Fury Road, but taking place a full generation later which further explains the continuity errors) are just events made up in Max's mind.


Max is immortal
At the time of Mad Max, Max Rockatansky is a young cop with a wife and infant son, maybe in his mid to late 20s. (I'm intentionally aiming low here, and Mel Gibson was 23 at the time of filming.) The Collapse is ongoing in Mad Max but hasn't finished yet. There's still gas, people still have electricity, and there's something like a legal system; things are fucked, but it's not yet apocalyptic.

Fury Road is set between Mad Max and The Road Warrior, but how long has passed since the first movie? Furiosa says she's was taken captive by Immortan Joe almost 20 years ago, when she was 12 (and I'll note that her actress, Charlize Theron, is 40)—but at that time, she was a member of the Many Mothers Tribe, which implies that she grew up with a tribal identity. That makes it very likely that 25-30 years have passed since the Collapse.

The oldest of the Many Mothers remembers television and electric lights, like Max does, but none of the others do. Immortan Joe looks like a fairly old guy—and Hugh Keays-Byrne who plays Joe is 68—and was an army colonel before the Collapse. Max is played by Tom Hardy (who is 38) and looks like he might be in his 30s at most, despite them being theoretical contemporaries.


Road Warrior happens some time after this, but that's almost irrelevant. Beyond Thunderdome's script notes that 15 years have passed since the events of Road Warrior, which is much more interesting. By that time, Max has a little bit of grey in his hair, but he's still young-looking (Mel Gibson was 33 at the time of filming). Tina Turner is Aunty Entity, the ruler of Bartertown, and she notes she was a "nobody" before the collapse; Tina Turner was 50 at the time of filming.

So by the time of the final chronological film, Max Rockatansky is, by this math, somewhere in his *60s* but looks like a man of 30 or so. Depending on how much or little time is actually between Mad Max and Fury Road, and between Fury Road and Road Warrior, Max could reasonably be anywhere from his late 40s to his mid 70s, but looks like a man of 33 (with some hard living).


My theory: Max is immortal. He strongly fits into the "man with no name" or "cursed wanderer" literary and film archetypes, and one of the genre conventions for such characters is that they're condemned to walk the earth forever (or at least until they're forgiven by god or forgive themselves). Like Cain, Longinus, Clint Eastwood's Drifter, or Roland of Gilead, Max Rockatansky is kept alive by his guilt—in his case, the guilt from watching his wife and son die right in front of him. It's not until Max forgives himself and is redeemed as a human being at the end of Beyond Thunderdome that he can stop wandering and become mortal again.

  • This would also explain why he's questioning his sanity at the beginning of "MM:FR"; he's staying the same age in spite of everyone around him aging at a normal rate.
  • Word of God says that Fury Road doesn't actually take place in the same timeline as The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome at all, and possibly not even the same timeline as Mad Max itself.
    • Actually it's that there is no timeline. They're all just "Legends of the man called Mad Max" and so trying to establish "continuities" misses the point. They're all the same Max in the same way it's always the same Robin Hood.

Max knew the tanker had sand in it.
Max doesn't look very surprised to see the sand spilling out of the tanker at the end just a bit dazed from the crash. The plan to escape Lord Humungus and his followers was discussed more than once in Max's presence. The audience never hears the full plan because when Papagallo is talking you don't get to hear everything he's saying. His voice often fades away to inaudible levels because the focus of the scene is on max but that doesn't mean that max hasn't heard every word said in his presence. Max knows the tanker is filled with sand and that driving the tanker is a potentially suicidal distraction to allow the others to escape with the real fuel that's why he doesn't want to drive the tanker at first. It's only when he's lost everything he has and is looking for an opportunity to get a little revenge that he says he will drive the tanker.

driving the tanker wasn't meant to be a suicide mission.
Papegallo drives up alongside the tanker sees max is essentially pinned to his seat holds up his hand in a what can you do gesture and drops back to try to convince the feral kid to abandon the tanker. Whilst driving the tanker runs a risk of being killed it was always the plan when they were far enough out that the others had gotten safely away for Papagallo to drive up and collect anyone still alive essentially abandoning the tanker to Lord Humongous and his followers whose attention would be solely upon gaining possession of the tanker and might not realize they had been tricked til Papagallo and any survivors he had picked up had a nice head start.

Johnny is perfectly innocent.
We never see him perform any of his crimes, he's only left there at the end of the rape scene. He's thought of as a wimp by the rest of the gang. He visibly refuses to burn Goose alive. And, of course, he may have just found the truck destroyed and needed shoes.
  • But we do, however, see him messing around with Goose's bike which causes the crash (though what he did to make the brakes lock up at speed is never explained).
    • He loosened the rear axle, and it caused the wheel to lock up, probably when the bearings jammed.
    • He also tossed that wheel through the truck's windscreen, causing Goose to crash.

Lord Humungus is actually Fifi

Think about it. He wants to bring heroes back to Austrailia. What better way to do it than be the Villain.

  • Plus, Fifi was a pretty big guy, as was Humungus.

Mad Max is set in the Fallout universe.
Australia was physically mostly untouched by the bombs but society broke down just like everywhere else.
  • Yet their cars are all modern vehicles and transistors are widely used, whereas Fallout has wide use of vacuum tubes because the transistor wasn't invented until just before the war, and all cars look like either generic postwar era vehicles or the Ford Nucleon concept car.
    • Unless America was somehow technologically backwards in the Fallout-verse? Combined with the '50s cultural stasis, maybe there was technological stasis too, and the US was enough of an industrial powerhouse to be resistant to competition from better foreign tech?
      • Wouldn't work. Fallout had A.I.s, Computers, Robots, Both big and small, laser weapons, plenty of ammo. So did China. China had energy guns themselves, and fully working stealth suits. Australia had to have had something.
  • Alternatively, Mad Max is set in the Wasteland universe.

The Cars That Ate Paris is set in the Mad Max universe.
Fellow Australian New Waver Peter Weir's The Cars That Ate Paris is set in the 1970s of the Mad Max universe. Possibly 2014's The Rover is too. Any continuity errors, just like in the Mad Max films, are caused because they're all retellings of post-Apocalyptic mythology.

The fluid they are obsessing about in the movie (Mad Max 2, at least) is water, not petrol
While the film does mention "Guzzoline" a few times, they never actually state the stuff they're pumping is fuel. Also, crude oil requires massive equipment to fraction into burnable fuel, which they simply don't possess there. In the field, you don't see anyone pouring their collections into a car. Water would be precious in a desert environment, and would be a reason for Humungus to attack. If they needed fuel, why were they so profligate with their consumption?
  • Max is seen trying to salvage fuel from a crashed buggy in the opening scene. Plus, Toadie checks the Pursuit Special's fuel tanks when it crashes, telling Wez that they're full. They've probably got some kind of storage for it, just a limited supply.
  • That said, water is a plot point in Fury Road. It's likely that both are equally important.
  • Gasoline isnt the most immediate concern in Fury Road, they're right next to Gas Town which has its own refinery. Hell, its not even really about water, its about PEOPLE being used as commodities. The Citadel, Gas Town and the Bullet Farm have a trade system set up, meaning they have the most direct needs taken care of.

Cars in the Mad Max have been optimized for maximum fuel efficiency.
Cars in the second film, despite fuel being scarce, appear to be in little danger of running out (apart from the Pursuit Special's low fuel warning light at the beginning). With the little he salvages from the crashed buggy, Max is able to stave off his fuel problems until he gets to the refinery. The Lord Humungous' army seems to have little problem for the moment. Cars must be very efficient at this point. Of course, lean burning engines still burn, hence the need for a long term solution. This is further supported by the fact that the bikes Furiosa brings with her can carry enough fuel to travel for 160 days.

Every movie after the first is a part of the legend that didn't necessarily happen
After the first movie, the other movies are being told through oral history. The reality is that, like King Arthur and Beowulf, the legend of Max has been added to over time. All of them are really the stories of men who didn't identify themselves that later got attributed to the original Max over time.
  • With the possible exception of Fury Road, which is the only sequel to have Max narrate.
    • It's possible that that's the part of the epic poem that is told from the hero's perspective.
  • It may be part of a legend that did atually happen: notice how all the films except for the original one have a similar basic premise: Mad Max stumbles upon a grab for power between two factions, then helps one of them to escape the other without actually gaining much for all his troubles. So, we might be hearing the same story told three times by different sources that have been diverging over time as their respective oral traditions carry them further away from each other. Kind of how you may see certain similitudes and differences between an ancient mythological story that is told by two or more different primary sources.

Immortan Joe is Toecutter

Toecutter somehow survived the horrific crash from the first movie but still suffered major damage, which is why he needs the mask as a breathing aid. Surviving something that should have killed him (and could still kill him without the appropriate equipment) is how he gained the nickname "Immortan" and him renaming himself to Joe could be an attempt to gain anonymity so Max wouldn't immediately go after him again. It's no coincidence that they're played by the same actor.

  • Seemingly Jossed. Immortan Joe is dead by the end of Fury Road and the film makes no reference to Toecutter. Furthermore, Joe doesn't seem to recognize Max.
  • Definitely Jossed by the promotional materials. Immortan Joe is, in fact, a former army Colonel named Joe Moore.

Tom Hardy's Max is Sprog.
The original Max's son somehow survived what happened when he was young. He grew up in the post-apocalyptic wasteland and, by necessity, became much like his father without realizing. He suffered his own losses, which isn't surprising given the general roughness of things.
  • Plus, Max's crazyness would pass down to Sprog's genes.
  • Adding some weight to this theory is Furiosa's backstory. It's been at least 20 years ("Seven thousand days, and the ones I don't remember.") since the War Boys kidnapped her from the Many Mothers, and by that time the Mothers had already evolved their own distinct traditions of greeting and mourning. That means it's probably at least 25 years, and probably a lot longer, since civilization broke down.
  • Alternatively, he could be the grown up wild kid from the second movie, as he does seem a bit madder than Mel Gibson's Max.
  • Then where did he get the Pursuit Special? It was supposed to be the very last one. Also, he mentions in his opening narration that he was a cop.
  • Also, he is wearing a knee brace, just like old Max. And suffering from hallucinations that directly reference the experiences that Gibson's Max had.
  • It may all be explained if a) Sprog was injured in his knee when he and his mother were run over by Toecutter's gang; b) Sprog souped up another Pursuit Special as he grew up (possibly with help from Fifi); c) Sprog hallucinations are inherited insanity from his dad; and d) Sprog grew up to be a cop in Bartertown.

Mad Max is the Wasteland's Dread Pirate Roberts.
Eventually, he picks a successor and retires. Word of mouth keeps the legend going. Alternately, Max dies and someone has to assume the role. Or...

There's more than one Mad Max out there.
The Wasteland's a big enough place...

Mad Max take places in the Warhammer 40,000 at the beginning of the age of strife.
The earth is ruined, strange cult and wild faction. There aren't any high tech just because the action take place in a lost part of the old earth.
  • Combining with other theories, Max is a Perpetual, though not the Emperor, as he's clearly no Psyker.

There might actually be a fragment of civilization somewhere in the wasteland.
In a quiet moment in Fury Road, one of the rescued women wonders upon seeing an orbiting satellite passing through the night sky whether someone out there might still be using them. Given how vast the wastes are, it's possible that somewhere, a remnant of the old world might still exist, possibly biding its time before coming back in force to "restore order." Which could play a part in Mad Max: Furiosa.
  • And who will be the person leading from this remnant of civilization to restore the world? Fifi Macaffee, Max's commanding officer from the MFP, finally doing what he said he wanted to do: give the world back it's heroes.

Mad Max and Fist of the North Star take place in the same universe.
Thanks in part to very similar aesthetics and premises, not to mention a nuclear war in 20XX. The big difference though is that no one in the wastelands of Australia knows or cares about martial arts.

Max isn't immortal, nor is anyone else, but time itself has become strange and unreliable.

The Pursuit Special is cursed.
It feeds off Max's madness. When he drives it, he loses his humanity. Jessie and Sprog's deaths are enough to tip him over the edge, allowing the car to take control. Any time he loses the car, the curse is broken and Max begins to regain his humanity.

Fury Road is rather set after The Road Warrior and maybe also Beyond Thunderdome.
Because the world in Fury Road looks in worst shape than The Road Warrior. Also, every adult in RW seems to remember the time before the Collapse. In FR, only a couple of people can remember the old order. In BT, only those as old as or older than Max remember (and Max is implied to be as old as Auntie Entity), which would be more consistent with the faded view in FR. However by the time Max goes to Bartertown, they don't even have gasoline anymore; they have to produce methane from pig manure as fuel so it's possible FR is set between RW and BT.

Max's name is actually Martin Riggs, he was a member of the Fight Club and the Lethal Weapon series are just Max's madness running through his head.
Max Rockatansky's real name was Martin Riggs. In his late teens he was part of Fight Club, possibly its Australian chapter (It could be in America as well, reflecting Mel Gibson's American-Australian background). The club is where he learned to be such a tough, stoic fighter. It also explains why he's already not much of a talker and is a little offbeat in the head (e.g. not scared to play chicken) at the beginning of the first Mad Max movie, since the Fight Club's influence marked his personality.

After "Jack" gets rid of Tyler Durden via shooting himself in the face, Riggs along with the rest of the Club, scattered away. He changed his name to Max Rockatansky to hide from any possible government prosecution due to his involvement in the Club, joined the police in Australia and got married. But Durden's plan was already on its way as we can see in the final scene in Fight Club. So the collapse was slowly spreading until it reached Australia some 5 or 6 years after the action in Fight Club takes place, which is about the time the first Mad Max film ought to be set in.

The social unravelling destroys Max's family life. He's aware that he contributed to it from his club days, which helps to further screw him up mentally and emotionally. That's why civilization's collapse affects Max in a way that puzzles even the other survivors in the Mad Max sequels. It also explains why he is such a loner because he's denying himself human company as self-punishment for helping to create a Crapsack World.

The Feral Kid in Mad Max 2 is not telling the story straight because he was born after the collapse happened, so he's embellishing his tale through hazy memories. He can only understand the collapse in terms of oil because what he remembers is that when the Feral Kid was a child, Max appeared in the middle of a struggle to control an oil drill and refinery. The much older members of the escaping party never bothered to explain the story straight or they passed away a long time before the Kid narrates the story, so he's correctly narrating only what he saw with his own eyes but not the fall of the old order; besides, Fight Club's role in ending civilization would be murky at best even to well informed people in the escaping party due to the Club's underground nature. Of course oil is scarce because it's more difficult to get with all the technology and infrastructure destroyed by World War III. However, war didn't break out because the oil was drying up, but rather because of the financial panic caused after the Fight Club carried out Tyler Durden's plan.

The Lethal Weapon adventures of Martin Riggs and friends are recurring hallucinations Max is having about himself in his former identity if Fight Club´s actions had failed or if he never even joined (flashes of these delusions appear in Fury Road). Riggs is conveniently also a policeman. His suicidal tendencies are Max's sense of guilt over his role in helping to bring down civilization and Jessie and Sprog's ultimate deaths. Jessie is even projected into Riggs´ deceased wife. Riggs´ enhanced personal life and sense of belonging in the last two Lethal Weapon sequels are simply Max's Wish Fulfillment.

Max is a spirit of justice.
The original Max Rockatansky from the first movie has perished in the apocalypse. But his spirit has persisted and manifests itself (along with the Pursuit Special, which would explain it's miraculous recovery after being totaled so many times) to those in need - aside from the first movie, the central conflict never concerns him personally. While he always appears to be somewhat self-centered and disinterested in other people's plight, in reality he is simply testing them to see if their cause is just, and if it is, he always commits fully to their cause. After it is fullfilled, he disappears without a trace until someone somewhere in the wasteland is in a dire need again. This is supported by both Fury Road and the video game where characters of roughly Max's age (judging by the looks) have no memory of a pre-war world, making Max MUCH Older Than He Looks.

In his early days, Immortan Joe made a failed attempt to conquer Bartertown.

Scrooloose paints his body the same way as the warboys, and while a member of the Lost Tribe, he is clearly set apart from them in some way. My guess is he accompanied Joe's raiding party, but was left behind when Auntie drove them back. He found his way to the Lost Tribe, which we know is based not excessively far from Bartertown, and his fighting skills ingratiated him to an extent, though the rest of the Tribe still doesn't trust him when Max arrives. Still, he evidently finds the idea of Tomorrowmorrowland more appealing than Valhalla, plus he might feel that Immortan Joe has abandoned him but he still has a chance with Captain Walker.

Mad Max is in the same world as a lot of other post-apocalyptic stories.
When you think about it, most post-apocalyptic stories take place in a fairly small area. The Mad Max films tell what's going on in Australia. In other parts of the world, The Postman, The Road, or any number of others could be taking place.

If there's ever a Mad Max 5, Bruce Spence should return
His last appearance in the series was as Jedediah in Beyond Thunderdome. While he'd be quite old compared to then, he can still play the sleazy ally a reluctant Max needs to get through the day.

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