Hasbro and Paramount's MASK movie, based on the '80s toy line and animated series, has hired Fate of the Furious director F. Gary Gray to begin development. Created by Kenner, MASK revolved around an elite task force (Mobile Armored Strike Command) and their ongoing battle with the criminal organization VENOM.
In essence, MASK took the military angle of G.I. Joe and mashed it up with the transforming vehicles approach of Transformers. Later, the combat element was de-emphasized in favor of a racing theme. As with the more-popular G.I. Joe and Transformers toy lines, an animated series was released to promote the MASK line. That series ran for two seasons, racking up 75 episodes. DC also produced a comic book series.
As reported by Deadline, Hasbro will go ahead with development of a movie based on the MASK toys and animated series, with Fate of the Furious director F. Gary Gray heading up the project. The team will now seek a writer for what is being described as "a contemporary subculture movie with a youth empowerment angle." It's perhaps worth noting that the main good guy of MASK, the white Matt Trakker, would become an African-American in later incarnations of the comic book series.
After getting his start in music videos, Gray made the leap to feature films with the classic comedy Friday. In 1998, Gray launched his action movie career by directing the intense thriller The Negotiator starring Samuel L. Jackson. Then in 2003 he directed the heist/chase film The Italian Job starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron. Gray's skill at directing car-related action made him a natural for 2017's The Fate of the Furious, which grossed $1.2 billion worldwide. Gray has also mixed in some more standard dramas, including 2015's acclaimed biopic Straight Outta Compton, about the rap group NWA.
News that MASK will move forward at Paramount comes on the heels of previous reports that another Hasbro property, ROM: Spaceknight, will come to life at the same studio with Zak Penn (Ready Player One) hired to write. Working with Hasbro's recently created AllSpark Pictures division, Paramount also recently announced release dates for a Micronauts movie, a new G.I. Joe and Dungeons & Dragons. This year also sees the release of the first Transformers spin-off film, Bumblebee. Meanwhile, the main Transformers franchise - the property that launched Paramount on the road to becoming the go-to studio for toy-based cinema - finds itself somewhat in limbo after 2017's disappointing Transformers: The Last Knight.
Certainly, MASK does not carry anywhere near the same pop culture cachet as Transformers or G.I. Joe. Gray and his team will have to find the right angle to make MASK something that appeals to youth looking for empowerment. Or they can just hire Dwayne Johnson and have an automatic hit.
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018