Looking at the current box-office with the Lion King reigning champion and Aladdin still doing solid business, I can’t help but think about the glory days of the early 90s and the flavour of the theatrical landscape then compared to now. Unlike today where all things theatrical seem to be MCU or Disney driven, hit titles from my teenage years of the early 90s, were diverse in genre scope. For example, Batman Returns, Aladdin and A Few Good Men where huge hits in 1992 whereas The Lion King ruled the box office of 1994 along with Forrest Gump and True Lies. Needless to say, the movie theatres of today are not what they use to be.
Specifically, looking back 25 years ago and the summer of 1994, I’m reminded of the year that introduced kids my age to the antics of Jim Carrey. Now more popular for his satirical political paintings, Twitter commentary and bombastic Sonic the Hedgehog trailer from earlier this year, the Jim Carrey of old was a shining star, rising from the fading era of “hard bodied” action heroes. As the politics of the cold war faded and 80s action stars slowly became obsolete (and turned to comedy themselves), the 90s presented new opportunities for both movie escapism and stardom.
“The potential for a wild character study about a mask that turns its wearer into a horror-infused alternate version of themselves could make for some interesting binge-watching.”
With Ace Ventura Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber all released in 1994, it was arguably The Mask, a late summer movie competing with the juggernauts of True Lies, Speed, Forrest Gump and The Lion King that secured Carrey’s legitimate movie stardom. Unlike his scene-stealing performance a year later as the Riddler in Batman Forever (1995), The Mask wasn’t a comic brand or character entrenched in shared pop-culture consciousness. As such, the film’s nearly $120 million domestic total (on a budget of $23 million) made it one of the year’s most successful films and showcased the durability of Jim Carrey’s growing brand at the time. In fact, globally, the film almost out-grossed True Lies. Needless to say, the film and the star were breakout hits.
25 years ago today, I sat in awe of Carrey’s manic performance as the green-faced body-altering cartoon-esqeue character. Although the special effects were truly spectacular (and ground-breaking at the time), I remember feeling fairly disappointed in the film’s family-friendly appeal. This wasn’t The Mask of the comic book series I read and loved. I was hoping for something darker and more sinister taking into account the limited comic book series’ graphic nature.
Being that The Crow (“Darker than the Bat” as it was marketed) was released that May, I was hoping for another comic telling that would lean heavily on the source material. Sadly, this wasn’t the case as The Mask was a love story that happened to feature a comic book character (although in the original series, the person wearing “the mask” was referred to as Big Head). In the film, bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey), an underdog in work and love, comes across an ancient mask that transforms his quiet everyday self into a hyper green character that oozes sexual appeal, confidence and can render cartoon actions to life. Vying for and lusting over the seductive Tina (Cameron Diaz, in her first big-screen role), and seeking redemption from all who mock his quiet and super nice guy sensibilities, Stanley first uses his new powers for personal gain before becoming an anti-hero that unwillingly saves Edge City from underworld crime lords. A canvas for Jim Carrey’s over the top antics, The Mask even earned the star his first Golden Globe nomination for comedy-performance.
Looking back at the film and its loose adaptation, I wonder what could be today if reimagined and not in a Guillermo Del Toro-less Hellboy (2019) way? As comic book adaptations continue to dominate the box office, perhaps the timing is right for a new adaption that moves away from the family domain and the tainted memory of the ridiculous 2005 sequel Son of the Mask starring Jamie Kennedy. With original source material including The Mask, The Mask Returns and The Mask Strikes Back, the Dark Horse Comics’ limited series could return as it was printed in the early 90s. If not theatrical, Netflix or Amazon could produce an adult-skewed limited series that features the comic’s dark tone and graphic violence. After all, The Mask was originally inspired by DC’s the Joker, the lesser-known Creeper and, of course, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The potential for a wild character study about a mask that turns its wearer into a horror-infused alternate version of themselves could make for some interesting binge-watching. Hell, where do I subscribe?
“In a world where “masks” are continuously warn, […] The possibilities are endless.”
The alternate, the horror, the abstract of self is at the very core of the The Mask comic book series. As a graphic novel series, The Mask deserves a reimagining or realignment. Where the original film adaptation became a canvas for cartoon-inspired sequences of early 90s CGI, a new telling could truly speak to the murderous and chaotic consequences of wearing an ancient mask that takes over the body, spirit and consciousness. In a world where “masks” are continuously warn, a new horror film could rise, heightened by state-of-the-art special effects and rich character study. The possibilities are endless.
With all of this though, it’s not necessarily fair to judge a movie on what it could have been, although one could dream. In the end, 25 years ago, Jim Carrey stormed the North American box-office with vigour and I (along with many others) had a wonderful and unique time at the movies. Would you watch a reboot of The Mask? Do you think it could be a binge-worthy streaming show? Let us know on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!