George Miller's Mad Max trilogy set a new kind of tone for dystopian futures, which found roving gangs of bandits pillaging whatever was left of the landscape after the world's end.
When Miller geared up in 2015 for his fourth installment in Mad Max: Fury Road, many expected more of the same just with updated standards. Instead, what we got was a complex and profound epic chase through the remains of humanity's deserts, morals, and self-isolation.
Mad Max: Fury Road became one of the most critically adored and significant movies made in the 21st century, seeing ten Academy Award nominations across various categories and winning six of them.
Now that George Miller has settled his dispute with Warner Brothers, pre-production is starting on more Mad Max films. After Miller finishes his Fury Road prequel in Furiosa, the next Mad Max film will commence—tentatively titled The Wasteland.
How could The Wasteland further elevate the series and take the Mad Max franchise to higher heights? Here's what we want to see most from George Miller and his next Mad Max adventure.
1. Tom Hardy's Return as Max
It should be a given that the titular character continues to be portrayed by Tom Hardy, especially since Hardy signed a multi-movie deal with Warner Brothers to continue playing Max in future films.
As Max and Furiosa are forced together during their daring escape from Immortan Joe, we actually didn't learn much about Max beyond the film's occasional glimpses into Max's visions and nightmares.
Even Max's name is kept secret from the crew he travels with up until the final moments of the picture when he tells a wounded Furiosa.
His initial portrayal of Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road was a performance that demands further exploration with another film. The quiet and withdrawn nature of Hardy's Max was starkly different from Mel Gibson's Max, whose portrayal felt more bombastic and aggressive.
2. A Different Kind of Story
All in all, Mad Max: Fury Road was one long car chase through various types of post-apocalyptic terrain, which made for a film that kept a high intensity for nearly the entire run of the picture. However, with a sequel, we can't just have more of the same.
George Miller can't recapture Mad Max: Fury Road's excellence by doing the same concept over again. The Wasteland needs to go a step further and see Max undergoing a different kind of challenge.
Though Miller has already written the next Mad Max film—which he did a while ago—we're hoping he takes thing in a new direction. Changing the film's tone and what happens along the way would allow us to see different aspects of Max's world and his aimless wandering.
By all accounts, Mad Max: Fury Road was a tough film to shoot (Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron didn't get along too well) and few were able to withstand the location's temperatures in the middle of the desert.
Changing it up would give us a different texture than sand to associate with Mad Max, and provide the filmmakers with a new path.
3. A Resolution to Max's Visions
Mad Max: Fury Road wasn't Max's film by any means; it belonged to Furiosa, the ruthless warrior who escapes across the desert with Immortan Joe's beautiful young wives in tow.
Max's visions and backstory were hinted at but never fully sequenced in the film, which gave Hardy's character a place to hide while the other characters' backstories unfolded before us.
The sequel movie should be obliged to explain some of Max's visions and go beyond simply equating them to the Gibson-era movies, since this iteration of Max isn't the same as the one Gibson portrayed.
The Wasteland must focus primarily on Max this time. Subverting expectations and placing another character in a more prominent role than Max again would be a bold move—one that's unlikely to work.
Fury Road showed us Max having visions he can't shake, generally shown to be of people long dead who he couldn't save. Seeing these visions get worse and/or drive him into madness would be an intriguing path, allowing Miller to explore a cerebral picture about mental health.
4. More Post-Apocalyptic World Building
Building a denser sandbox for Max to play in would be a double-edged sword for George Miller, since Fury Road worked so well due to Max's limited surroundings and being holed up in a car.
However, it's a risk that should receive careful consideration. Nobody is asking for a Thunderdome-style Bartertown, but something between that and the citadel that Immortan Joe ruled over in Fury Road.
The movie could have Max wandering alone through the wasteland, with next to no other characters involved, as Max fights the demons eating away at his soul. If executed well, that could be a much better concept than introducing even more people into the Mad Max universe.
5. Charlize Theron's Furiosa
Even if Max's journey in the sequel became one of singular purpose and quiet solitude, and even with Furiosa already giving Furiosa her own prequel movie, there has to be a way to get Charlize Theron's character involved in The Wasteland somehow.
In Mad Max: Fury Road, she became iconic. Theron's Furiosa wasn't an aperitif to Hardy's Max; she was part of the main course with him, whom Max viewed as somebody worth saving by the end of the film.
With Anya Taylor-Joy taking Theron's role as a younger iteration of the character in Furiosa, the world needs to see Theron in the role again. Leaving her atop the citadel in Fury Road can't be the end of her journey. Her partnership with Max in Fury Road demands more.