Movies · News

‘Fate of the Furious’ Director to Play With a ‘M.A.S.K.’ Movie

F. Gary Gray will tackle more vehicular stunts. 
By  · Published on April 19th, 2018

F. Gary Gray will tackle more vehicular stunts.

After delivering the first African-American-helmed movie to gross over a billion dollars, F. Gary Gray could do anything. Following his global success on The Fate of the Furious, he could have turned another rapper into a movie icon, a la Ice Cube in his feature debut, Friday. He could have given us a whole movie of Dwayne Johnson as a singing cowboy, if he wanted. But Gray is sticking to franchises. Next up, he’s got the Men in Black spin-off reuniting Thor: Ragnarok duo Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. Then, according to The Hollywood Reporter, he’s directing the M.A.S.K. movie.

Maybe he’s just really into doing car stunts. After all, Gray helmed the Italian Job remake that helped reintroduce and popularize the MINI Coopers into the world. And last year he delivered the eighth installment of the Fast and the Furious series. With M.A.S.K., the director will get to work with vehicles that transform into other kinds of vehicles, usually that are armed or otherwise more battle-friendly than the street versions. One M.A.S.K. toy was a car that turns into a submarine. That’s basically two birds with one stone as far as part of The Fate of the Furious was concerned.

Speaking of the original Kenner toys, M.A.S.K. was fun because anything in the ’80s that transformed was fun. Yes, even a robot that transformed into the Chrysler Building would have been a hit — for me anyway. Looking back, though, I don’t understand the appeal of a helicopter that turns into a jet, either as a plaything for real-world kids or as an item of transportation for the villains, known as V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem). The car that turns into a plane, sure. A motorcycle that becomes a helicopter, yes. But a thing that flies becoming another thing that flies? Easy but dumb.

Somehow Gray will have to make a grounded movie out of the story of M.A.S.K., aka Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. At least as grounded as the Transformers movies have been, since Paramount is connecting M.A.S.K. to Michael Bay’s toy-based franchise through a new expanded universe. The most recent Transformers was so manic and ridiculous that a movie where gull-wing doors are used as literal wings won’t be too far off. M.A.S.K. also has a little robot friend that sort of turns into a motorcycle (but looks just like a robot with a kid riding its back), which isn’t too different from Sqweeks in Transformers: The Last Knight.

It’s too bad they can’t also add the Fast and the Furious series to this mega-franchise, because M.A.S.K. has some interesting similarities to those movies. The gang — sorry, family — at the center of the Fast and the Furious basically started out as the thieving organization V.E.N.O.M. and evolved into the task force organization M.A.S.K., only without cars that transform into battle vehicles or specially powered masks for good and bad guys. M.A.S.K., however, went from being more about superheroes to more about racing, while the Fast and the Furious has gone the opposite direction.

Considering there’s no writer attached to M.A.S.K. yet let alone a script, we’re still a ways away from finally seeing this property actually made into a movie (who else was crushed when it turned out the 1985 film Mask wasn’t related in any way?). A few years ago, a whole team of talented scribes, including Michael Chabon, Nicole Perlman, Michael K. Vaughn, and the duo of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein spent three weeks together hashing out ideas for the Hasbro movie-verse, and some of the future Transformers films apparently will come out of that. But I guess not M.A.S.K. or ROM, which also recently reignited development.

Allspark Productions, which is running the franchise, needs to get something else up and running soon. The first piece in the evolution from Bay’s Transformers to a shared universe, the prequel spin-off Bumblebee, is due out in December.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.