Thursday, January 7, 2016

OverAnalyzed: "Historic on the Fury Road: A Timeline of Mad Max"

Let’s talk about Max Rockatansky. More specifically, the timeline of his life. This has not been researched in any sort of scholarly manner, being based solely on watching Fury Road and The Road Warrior an unhealthy number of times, as well as an ongoing playthrough of Mad Max (the game). Spoilers will abound, so ye be warned.

So. The movies (and game). What order do they occur in? Well, we know that Mad Max comes first. That’s not up for debate. Max has a wife and child in Mad Max. Civilization is still struggling to survive. He gets the Interceptor, the Black-On-Black. At the end of the film, he drives off into the wasteland, a devastated and angry man. So. That’s how it all begins. 

Now, it seems logical to assume that The Road Warrior immediately follows Mad Max. (It’s actually five years later, but close enough. Direct sequel, is what I’m saying.) And then Beyond Thunderdome, right? I mean, Max has the Black-On-Black in The Road Warrior, it’s destroyed, and then in Beyond Thunderdome he’s only got a wagon. Right? Right? 

Two problems. Two very large problems. One called Fury Road. The other called Mad Max (the game this time). See, Max has the Black-On-Black in Fury Road, and in Mad Max (the game). But it’s taken from him in Fury Road. We see it being disassembled in the opening sequence. Scrapped. Or at least it would seem that way.  

So how many Black-On-Blacks does Max have? One? Two? Does he somehow manage to rebuild the Black-On-Black after Fury Road? Is Fury Road non-canon? Is it and Mad Max (the game), which features some familiar faces, the start of a new canon? How does the order go now? I'll tell you: Mad Max (movie), Mad Max (game), Fury Road, Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome. This is the order which makes sense with the least massaging of data from yours truly. 

Why’s that? Well, as I said, Mad Max (the movie) is clearly the starting point, since that’s when Max GETS the Black-On-Black and drives into the wasteland. And Beyond Thunderdome is clearly the ending point, since this is the only film where Max NEVER drives the Black-On-Black. But in-between is where things get hazy. We know that, in The Road Warrior, the Black-On-Black is utterly annihilated, blown up in a fireball. So Fury Road and Mad Max (the game), which both feature the Black-On-Black, can’t take place AFTER The Road Warrior

Now, in Fury Road, the Black-On-Black is disassembled, at least partially. During Max's escape in the opening sequence, we see War Boys tearing the poor girl apart. The engine is taken out, and a War Boy is taking an angle grinder to the chassis, but Furiosa’s escape might have stopped that in favor of all-out pursuit. So maybe Max could just drop the engine back in and be on his merry way. 

That would mean that Fury Road can easily precede The Road Warrior. How about the game, then? Simple. Mad Max (the game), is a direct prequel to Fury Road. And when I say direct, I mean straight-up precedes Fury Road by a year or two at best. See, Max had a son. Sprog. And in Fury Road, Max is haunted by both his wife and son, but also by a little girl. Who’s the girl? Her name is Glory. She, and her mother Hope, who Max befriends/romances, are in Mad Max (the game). They are killed. By whom? One of Immortan Joe’s sons, in territory within reach of Immortan Joe’s Citadel. In fact, Hope was one of Joe’s concubines at one point. The game ends with Max climbing back into the Black-On-Black and driving off, with another mother-child duo on his conscience. 

What happens next? At the beginning of Fury Road, Max is trying to escape the voice (and hallucination) of a little girl who wants to know why he didn’t save them. Max winds up enslaved by Immortan Joe. And then he helps Joe’s OTHER concubines escape. (Okay, he had some strong encouragement from Furiosa’s dead-man’s-switch on the war rig.) He’s redeemed himself somewhat. At least for Hope and Glory’s deaths. But not in his own mind. In his own mind, he’s still lost four people he cared about. 

Which leads us directly into The Road Warrior, where Max is still focused only on survival. Sure, in The Road Warrior he’s haunted by his wife and child’s death, which are further in the past than Hope and Glory, but to be fair he’s got a picture of his wife and child on his dashboard. And his wife and child dying was the rock that smashed the glass of Max’s psyche. Hope and Glory? You can’t break what’s already broken. You can only set it on fire. 

Anyway, the whole middle arc of The Road Warrior involves Max abandoning the refinery settlement to The Humongous, driving off into the night. Of course, he doesn’t make it far, because he’s got to wind up back in the refinery somehow to drive the tanker, but he tries to leave. And then volunteers to drive the tanker, almost like he planned to abscond with the whole thing. Clearly the refinery clan thought so, given that they filled the tanker with sand instead. (Granted it also made a good diversionary tactic—send Max to be killed by Humungous’ horde as a distraction). So Max is still—in his own eyes and the eyes of others—Mad Max. Not Max. Mad Max. 

But then, Beyond Thunderdome. Max has changed. Maybe the years have softened the edge of his pain. Either way, he’s more humane, less mercenary. He refuses to kill the Blaster half of Master Blaster. (WHO RUN BARTERTOWN?) He helps the feral children. Maybe he finds his peace. I don’t know. He sure didn’t find it out past the Plains of Silence, or in the Green Place, or with Hope and Glory. Maybe he never did. I hope he did...

For what started as an almost-critique of the Mad Max series, this ended up as me basically saying “Oh hey, they all fit together with very little cherry-picking.” Which makes me happy. This series is one that pays a surprising amount of attention to detail—Max gets his knee blown out in Mad Max, and forever after he wears a knee-brace. That’s something simple that other franchises might forget. I’m impressed. I will witness. WITNESS!

(But don’t get me started about the apocalypses’ timeline. Max is apparently old enough to remember pre-apocalypse days [or at least the very end of civilization]. Yet you expect me to believe that humanity devolved into a bunch of gimp-masked, chrome-huffing freaks in one man’s lifetime? …I mean, it is set in Australia, but… I prefer to have a bit more faith in humanity.)