Ok, I’m officially convinced.
1) The fist Mad Max film presents Western society on a decline, but not post-apocalyptic. There are cities, lawyers, a police force, a court system, all very recognizable in clothes and style, etc etc. It’s pretty much our world but resources are growing scarce, and criminal gangs have taken over the open roads between cities (this is a common device in 80s dystopia. Street crime had been on the rise for a while then [thanks primarly to two faced coin of certain drug cartels and the “war on drugs”], and the idea that it would continue on that same trajectory unabatted to a dystopian conclusion was a common one in fiction).
2) Sometime between the first and second film, a global nuclear war happened, and now humanity is struggling to find a way to survive in the immediate aftermath. We end with a more tribal vision of the future, in which “the Road Warrior” has become a culture hero of myth.
3) In Fury Road however, only the very old remember civilization at all, and society is more like the glimpse of the future we got at the end of Road Warrior, though a more negative specific case thanks to the triple-alliance of Immortan Joe, People-Eater, and the Bullet Farmer.
So how is Max in his 30s in Fury Road? How was he a “cop” according to his own narration.
Biggest clues that were staring us in the face…
- Gibson’s “Mad” Max was Angry - not mentally ill. Hardy’s Max is clearly an unstable unreliable narrator.
- The visions of a girl’s death that plague Hardy’s Max do NOT fit the backstory from the Gibson films. Max lost his wife and infant SON.
- Max’s protected music box
- His resistance to giving any name at all - as though he has none, only to almost seem to PICK Max at the climax of the film.
Conclusion: That’s not Gibson’s Max. It’s the feral boy from “Road Warrior” all grown up, and internalizing the mythic figure who saved him as a child.