“The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spiderman” may be full of stunning special effects and thrilling action scenes, but I was not surprised to see two of Hollywood’s best writers leave a deeper, ambiguous meaning — wide open for interpretation. I have long been fascinated by songwriters concealing the stories behind their lyrics saying each person can connect to them in their own way. No two minds think the same so I cannot assume that Christopher Nolan (Batman) and James Vanderbilt (Spiderman) had similar intentions for “the mask.”
Though it is a minor part of the plot and action of each of these films, both heroes define themselves when they put on their mask. It empowers them, convinces them they are someone they are not and brings overwhelming responsibility to their daily lives.
As Spiderman saves a frightened little boy, he removes his mask to reveal he is “just a normal guy” before tossing the kid the mask and shouting the subliminal words, “Put it on, it will make you strong.” Andrew Garfield portrays a young boy who did not discover his ability to be extraordinary until he became someone he wasn’t — and maybe the spider bite helped a little.
Similarly, early in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Bruce Wayne struggles to come out of “retirement” as he mysteriously stares at his glass-encased mask. When his loyal servant Alfred reminds him that he “cannot be the man behind the mask” it makes Bruce all the more flustered.
Bane, Batman’s nemesis, sports an eerie mouth-covering mask as he battles with the city of Gotham. Blatantly exposing the mask theme, he says, “No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.”
These deeper messages that surfaced during the blockbusters told me that Nolan and Vanderbilt were subtly leaving their viewers a message. Though I understand their intentions, I found another route for “the mask” to be unveiled.
The movie theater is a mask. Your ticket gets ripped, you’re directed to your theater and you plant yourself in a double-cupholder, cushioned chair. Errands? Forget them. Work on Monday? You don’t care. For the next two hours you have one job: become immersed in the screenplay unrolling before your eyes.
Is the movie theater mask as powerful as a superhero’s? It depends on who you are trying to be. If you are looking to bail out innocent citizens, probably not. If you are looking to pause a world that is moving too fast? Mash your hand into that bag of popcorn and let the movie take you away.
For me, the movie theater is one. The tailgate of a truck is another. We all have an alternate reality — a mask. For most, it comes in short spurts and reminds us there is someone inside of us who does not come out often enough. That side remembers how we got to the moment of needing to find that person. It’s needed, I feel, to maintain sanity and have a little fun.
Garrett Valenzela is a reporter at the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.