Friday, December 18, 2015

An aside about masks

These days, everyone has/had a theory about who would be under Kylo Ren’s mask in the new Star Wars movie.  I've heard everything from Luke to Jar Jar to a freakishly tall Jawa (actually that was another one of mine).  But who I really hope is behind the mask is just a guy named Kylo Ren.

The obvious inspiration for Ren's mask comes from the most iconic mask of all times, Darth Vader.  But the reason that mask was so effective was that it didn't matter who's face was behind it.  The mask was the face of Darth Vader.  It was cold, jet black, and impenetrable, the face of evil.  Even when we found out who was wearing the mask, there was no need see underneath.  It would just be some guy we never saw before.  At the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI, when the mask finally comes off, it isn't a reveal, it is a rebirth.  Darth Vader is dead, and without the mask, he can once again be Anakin Skywalker.  Until he dies thirty seconds later.  

Sometimes the mask is the whole point.  The biggest misstep with the grimy, overproduced, desaturated remake of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was showing Leatherface's real, non-leather face.  It is plain why he wants to hide what he really looks like, he has no nose.  But the reason the original is so unnerving is that you have no idea why this guy would wear another human being's skinned face over his.  It is absolutely insane, and if he goes that far, there may be no limit to what sick desecration he will do to you. He doesn't even seem to think it's a big deal.  In the outtakes of the movie, he has a whole bucket full of stitched up faces that he is anxiously pawing through before the dinner table scene, like someone trying to pick the perfect outfit.  The mask isn't to hide behind, it's an accessory to his madness.

Jason's mask comes off pretty regularly in the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies, but it's always a setup for a makeup gag.  You never learn anything new about the man other than he doesn't age well.  There's a reason you only get fleeting glances at Michael Myers' unmasked face (to my knowledge, the HALLOWEEN franchise isn't my favorite), his horror comes from his featureless, soulless, emotionless imitation of a human face.  

Reveals can be very tricky beasts.  For every brilliant one (Keyser Söze!), there are a hundred lame ones (you mean Benedict Cumberbatch, the guy we guessed would be Khan the second he was cast, is actually Khan?!?).  And yes, I know that was J.J. Abrams' doing, but you have to give him a pass there because that was an impossible task to keep quiet.  "Why do you think there would be a Khan in a remake of STAR TREK II?  That's just...crazy talk."  

But even if there is a big reveal about Kylo Ren, and even if it's not wholly satisfying, it's only one part in what I'm sure is going to be an amazingly entertaining experience.  It won't be a game changer for me.  I just kinda hope the mask stays on.  

Unless it's Lando.  I'm all in for that. 

C Chaka 

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