Last night, a friend asked me about the upcoming Judge Dredd movie, wondering why they’d ever remake such a terrible film.  I explained to her about the much-older (and, frankly, much BETTER) British comic strip upon which it was based, and how Dredd himself is considerably cooler than Stallone’s treatment.  The discussion turned to how Dredd NEVER removed his helmet, and how it’s very nearly the first thing Stallone did as the Judge, and suddenly I realized that nearly EVERY superhero movie in the past few years has had an unmasking scene.  Obadiah Stane ripped off Iron Man’s faceplate, Toby Maguire couldn’t keep his face covered if you paid him to, and Captain America only seemed to wear his when in his USO garb…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) doesn’t remember this ever happening to Adam West, asking: Does it bother you when superhero movies repeatedly unmask characters to show the actor’s faces, breaking one of comics’ cardinal rules?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Michael
    September 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm — Reply

    I think you see it so much in the Spider-Man movies because the mask covers everything. Mouth, eyes, eyebrows. Everything an actor uses to convey emotion. So we’re gonna have to live with it. At least in Spider-Man movies.

    Having said that I didn’t mind the scene from the Amazing Spider-Man when the cops unmasked him as he seemed to make an effort to keep his face down and covered by the shadows.

    Compare that to the train scene in Spider-Man two where he’s running around maskless in front of everyone. For me that just didn’t work.

    I think the only way Spider-Man (and, really, Spider-Man is the gravest offender here) can get away from that is to go the Iron Spider route, make the mask a helmet and do what Iron Man does by going under the helmet to show Stark looking at his displays.

  2. September 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm — Reply

    I can understand why the powers that be in the studio system insist on showing the face of the star under the mask after probably paying millions for that star. Also, studio heads insist on a “name” and starpower. I also think that they think we need to see a “star” in the costume, or the audience wont get involved with the story. (In the case of Spider-man, I think an executive at the studio probably was seeing the Electric Company’s Spidey Super Stories in his head.)

    Should the mask stay on? Yes. The mask, and hiding behind it, is part of the mythos. When Michael Keaton tore off his fruit roll up mask in Batman Returns, I was also torn out of the movie. I believe a good actor can rise up to the challenge of acting behind a mask. Look at Roddy McDowwel in Planet of the Apes, and more currently, anything Andy Serkis does.

  3. Slappy
    September 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm — Reply

    Yes, yes it does.
    In the first 3 90’s Batman movies, every girl and half of the villains knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman at some point in time. I have completely blocked the fourth from memory with the assistance of a therapist and can not comment on that right now.
    Green Goblin and Doc Ock both knew who Spidey was. Similarly to Batman 4, Spider-man 3 is also blocked.
    Christian Baleman did a decent job of hiding his identity. Come on, Talia knew about him from the beginning, No detective work needed.
    This is an annoying trend. Why bother with the mask if the villains and lovers all know who you are. I understand everyone knowing who Hulk and Thor are, but Iron Man could have kept the secret like he did originally. The story of the magalomaniac trying to keep a secret identity while dying could have been more interesting if he needed to find excuses to be absent while Iron Man was active.
    Hopefully Superman will be able to keep his identity secret in his new movie without a mask. Looking at GL Corps New 52 #1, the conversation between Guy & John Stewart was really nice. Guy couldn’t get a football coaching job because of his GL identity and the possible threat to the children. Of course this doesn’t always make for good film where actors usually want their face shown like Nic Cage in Kickass.
    And that is all I have to say about that PPTHHPTHPFFTHPPPT!!!

  4. Oldcomican
    September 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm — Reply

    I think it’s a studio decision. They’re paying big bucks for big name actors, so of course they’re going to want to show their face as much as possible. With the exception of Willem Defoe as the Green Goblin, who was much less scarey with the mask on than off. I really liked him in “Missisippi Burning” but between that and “Spiderman” it looks like he had taken a belt-sander to his face.

  5. B.V.K.
    September 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm — Reply

    To build off of Oldcomican, when you leave the mask on a person you get Willem Defoe in Spider Man. A person with a very expressive face that is essentially useless in the best scenes of the movie. It doesn’t bother me if some of the hero rules are broken if it contributes to the overall movie experience.

    September 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm — Reply

    I does bother me.
    I think some actors egos get in the way. I think that Stallone couldn’t stand having his face covered the entire time.

    A good actor can work around not showing his/her face. Hugo Weaving in “V for Vendetta” comes to mind. You never saw his face, but through the voice and body language, you can convey any emotion you need to.

  7. September 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm — Reply

    Both yes and no for me, it really depends on the story and situation. As has already been stated, some cases it just works better for the film (such as Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin) and they are paying big bucks for a specific actor, so they need to get the face out there enough. But sometimes it just feels unnatural to the story, both the movie story and the story of the character from the comics.

  8. Shush
    September 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm — Reply

    Only the most grievous offenders really bother me.

    Some I can understand better than others. If a hero is taking a breather in his secret lair in between doing his self-appointed job of punching mooks in the face with Justice, that’s okay. If it happens in an action scene, it does tend to bother me.

  9. September 3, 2012 at 10:42 am — Reply

    Honestly it all depends on the situation and the writing. If they’re just removing the mask for no real reason then it’s not worth it, but if there is something to cause it, either someone getting the mask or a giant ego, then it can be done well.

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