Why does Max Rockatansky walk away at the conclusion of Mad Max: Fury Road? We break down the ending and what it means for Tom Hardy’s character.
WARNING: Spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Why does Max Rockatansky walk away at the end of Mad Max: Fury Road? Portrayed by Tom Hardy, the road warrior begins the 2015 action classic by telling the audience that he runs from both the living and the dead. By the climax, though, he has bonded with a group of revolutionaries led by the strong-willed Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Max plays a major role in overthrowing The Citadel leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and could theoretically live like a King, if he so pleased. Instead, Max quickly sets off a new journey, leaving some viewers to question his decision.
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Mad Mad: Fury Road begins with subtle callbacks to the 1979 franchise-starter, Mad Max. Hardy’s character drives the “Last of the V8 Interceptors,” the Pursuit Special, and wears his MPF jacket; a relic from working for Australia’s highway patrol. He’s later tattooed with the word “Road Warrior” after being captured by Immortan Joe’s War Boys, who intend to use him as a human blood bag for one of their own, a sick “half-life” known as Nux (Nicholas Hoult). When Imperator Furiosa flees with Joe’s five wives, Max is strapped across the front of Nux’s vehicle. From there, Mad Mad: Fury Road becomes a film about hope, redemption, and survival.
In Mad Mad: Fury Road, Hardy’s character states that he’s been reduced to a single instinct – to survive – and so it’s not an ideal situation when he reluctantly teams up with Imperator Furiosa’s crew. Far beyond the mountains from The Citadel, Max tells Theron’s character that “Hope IS a mistake,” the result of her discovering the sad truth about her decimated homeland. Skeptical as Max may be, reminders of personal failures make him stick with Furiosa. Because each warrior desperately needs food and water to survive, the narrative circles back to The Citadel. Max helps his new comrades defeat Immortan Joe, which allows them to establish new societal rules at the military headquarters. At this point in Mad Mad: Fury Road, Miller reinforces the central themes. Hope has been restored for the locals, and both Max and Furiosa have been redeemed through their heroic actions. Even Max feels a sense of purpose after using his blood to save Furiosa. Still, Max can’t escape his past, which is both a curse and a remedy, and so he leaves. Hardy’s character needs to roam this world alone, as he doesn’t know any other way to survive.
For storytelling purposes, Tom Hardy’s Max walks away because it continues the legend of the character. Miller originally intended to have a redemption story for Max, at least if Mel Gibson had agreed to reprise his role. After the events of the first three films, Mad Mad: Fury Road was structurally designed to begin with chaos and end with the protagonist finding himself. But since the 2015 film is essentially a new Mad Max tale featuring a new lead, it makes sense for Hardy to drift away and thus set up the next film. But narratively speaking, Max not finding a resolution fits with the trauma of his past and the fact that he will never find happiness because of it.
Mad Mad: Fury Road also includes a telling scene near the end that implies Max hasn’t actually lost his mind; a concept that Hardy’s character talks about during the opening minutes. After saving Furiosa, Max remembers that he previously refused to state his name (perhaps because he couldn’t actually remember it), but then calmly says “My name is Max… that’s my name.” The moment plays out like a kind gesture – a “thank you” – but it’s really a personal epiphany for the character as he embraces his identity, even briefly. Tragically, Max knows that Furiosa will have peace once she recovers, but he also knows that he’s destined to roam the Wasteland like a Man with No Name because of his past.
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