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Unmasking superheroes in movies

Reported by: James Eppler
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Updated: 7/10/2012 11:26 am

On Twitter: @JamesEppler

As much as I enjoyed the new "Spider-Man" movie, one thing really got on my nerves: Peter Parker kept taking off the mask for his suit. There was one instance where he did it to calm a child he was trying to save, which was nice. But there are other times he yanks the thing off while he's running down a hallway or when he's reached the top of a building for no other reason to remind us that it's Andrew Garfield wearing the suit and doing these things.

It's a trend we've seen more in superhero movies over the years. The reason is obvious: the filmmakers and especially the actors themselves don't want their money-makers covered.

But I think it can take a lot away from the mystery of some of these characters.

The first comic book movie I remember seeing was Tim Burton's "Batman," and there's a scene where he is almost unmasked. Our hero is knocked out, laying in the street, and a few thugs start to peel back the rubber mask. Fortunately, they're interrupted and don't succeed. But I remember being so scared that the mystery would be blown.

Then in the climax of "Batman Returns," Batman rips his mask off to reveal his identity to Catwoman to convince her not to kill Max Shreck. It's a pretty amazing scene, actually, with Michael Keaton's head sticking out of the ripped neck of the rubber suit, trying to communicate shared humanity with the woman.

The unmasking of heroes in movies is hardly ever used for an interesting purpose like that, though. It's mostly about vanity. From Bill Campbell ("The Rocketeer"), to Ben Affleck ("Daredevil"), Toby Maguire ("Spider-Man"), Chris Evans ("Captain America"), Seth Rogen ("Green Hornet"), Ryan Reynolds ("Green Lantern") and others, it seems few superheroes are that concerned with maintaining their secret identity.

That's what makes Tony Stark such a fascinating departure. At the end of "Iron Man" the cocky businessman played by Robert Downey Jr. reveals to a press conference that he is Iron Man. It was a perfect ending to the movie, and it made sense that the character would want all the glory that comes with being a superhero. It was also the most fascinating aspect of "Iron Man 2," as Stark grappled with the fame he sought.

But most of the time when I see a hero take off their mask I can hear the actor's publicist saying something like, "Make sure we see Andrew's face in at least 65 percent of the shots when he's in costume!"

Hey, Spidey - worry about stopping the Lizard instead of waiting for your close-up.

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