This week, I took my youngest sister to the theater for a screening of a new family adventure movie called Beyond the Mask. It was produced by cousins Chad and Aaron Burns, homeschool alumni who are now working to make Christian films together. Set at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, it boasts some scenery-chewing star power with John Rhys-Davies as the villain (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings) and contains more special effects shots than blockbusters like Inception and Pirates of the Caribbean. (When I showed her the trailer, her reaction was, and I quote, “Ooooh, sword fights and stuff on fire. I want to see this!”) The premise is that a former British spy migrates to America and becomes a masked vigilante for the cause of liberty, hoping to redeem himself from his shady past. Along the way, he discovers true love, strong hate, harsh revenge, and all that fun stuff.
Our theater captain was the effects coordinator for the film, as well as the 2nd assistant director. The town showed up in force, and Littlest Sister and I had a high old time together, though we did note some things that could have been improved. Among other things, we discussed the film’s historical accuracy, and our conclusions may surprise you! So instead of having me write a typical review, I thought it would be fun to change it up and interview her instead. I simply hit record and transcribed our entire conversation, with very entertaining results. As you’ll see, the family resemblance is quite strong. Enjoy this special guest appearance. (My questions are in bold, and her answers are in normal type.)
Yours Truly: So, I understand this is your first experience of watching a movie in the theater. What was that like?
Littlest Sister: Well, the screen was pretty big, and that was cool of course. And for an action-packed movie, a large screen was necessary for the edge-of-your-seat quality. And it was very helpful, because it was the first time watching it, so seeing it to its full was a fun experience.
All right! What did you think of the CGI and special effects?
Well, sometimes it looked a little unrealistic, because like for example, when our character is jumping over the rooftops, you can tell that they’re too conveniently placed. They wouldn’t really be that close together, they wouldn’t be slanted so perfectly. But most of the time, the CGI was extremely interesting, and you couldn’t really tell that it was just CGI.
All right, what about the stunts and fight scenes?
Those were very impressive. They must have gotten some pretty good stunt people to do all that stuff. And I think the stunts they chose were very good for the movie. And in the fight scenes especially, you can hardly tell who’s getting hit because it’s so fast, and that’s actually very impressive.
Actually, I think I read that Andrew Cheney (the main actor) did his own stunts.
Wow! That’s even more impressive!
Okay, what did you think of the acting in this movie?
Actually, it was very good. Some of the lines they had, especially the villains, were over-the-top, but they acted them out very well anyway. And the brief moments of humor popped up unexpectedly, and that was very well-delivered. I think they just chose a very good cast.
Did the American actors put on good British accents, do you think?
Well with our main character, I didn’t actually notice any slips in the accent. The actor who played George Washington, he didn’t even try very well to make a British accent, but he was a pretty good character. He wasn’t that bad of an actor anyway. Most of the characters put on really good British accents even if they probably weren’t British.
Although I don’t know… I suppose Washington would still have sounded pretty British at that point, because there was no time to establish a separate kind of accent.
Yeah, I don’t think that would be possible.
Okay, did you like the romance in this movie?
Definitely! It was one of those things where it was… a little bit typical, but I liked the typical anyway. [*grins*] He’s giving her the ring, aaaaah [*swoons*] basically. They needed more kisses though. [*giggles*]
They needed more kisses! Alrighty then!
They only had one, and we hardly even SAW much of it anyway!
Oh, okay, so you would put in a request for more kissing for their next one?
All right, we’ll bear that in mind. Who was your favorite character besides the hero, and why?
Hmmmm. Well, obviously the heroINE was a very good actor and impressive, but… if there was another besides the two main characters, her mother only shows up in one scene (the heroine’s mother), but she’s actually a pretty good actor, so really I would have liked to see more of her, because I could tell that she acted very well, and she should have gotten more than a bit part.
What about Benjamin Franklin?
He was extremely funny and an extremely good actor, and I think that they gave him good lines.
Like what good lines? What do you remember?
Well, like when he’s trying to figure out what side [the hero] is on, so he sends him to the pub that is actually a Royalist pub, and he’s like, “Give him five minutes,” looking at his watch. ‘Cause they want to find out whether he’s Libertarian, or if he’s gonna put his foot in his mouth and have the Royalists get mad at him, or whether he’s not. And he actually does, he gets on a Libertarian rant, and that’s not very safe.
That’s true, although I don’t know if “libertarian” is quite the word we want at this point in history.
Yeah, maybe not.
Yeah, basically. Non-royalist, anti-royalist rant.
Yes. Okay, now speaking of that, let’s talk about the history in this movie. Was it accurate? Did you learn anything new?
Well, I’m not sure about learning anything new, but I think that most of it was historic, except for the fact that the British East India Company was actually not as horrific as they make it out to be.
Yes. Can you think of something good that the British did in India?
Hm, well I don’t know a whole lot about what they did over there, but I do believe that they probably protected India with troops or whatever.
Well do you remember, there was a particular practice in India that they ended.
I think that the Indians burned people alive, like if someone else had died. That was definitely a distasteful practice, and I believe that the British ended that.
Specifically it would be a widow, and it was called suttee. So the widow would burn herself on a pyre.
Or they would burn her.
Well, she would let herself be burned. And so they outlawed that.
Which was definitely good. But in this movie, they make it out to be like they were slaughtering people and… blah-blah-blah-blah, that kind of thing.
Right. And what about the violence and what-not in the colonies? Don’t they kind of portray that as being basically the fault of the British?
Yeah, you know, I’ve heard that the Minutemen, the Americans, actually were very violent and burning down Royalists’ houses. So I think that in the movie, they put all the violence on one side more than balancing it out. They basically make it that the colonists are these innocent people just trying to make a new start, not doing ANYthing violent, then the Royalists come in and start burning down these houses and everything. Well the Minutemen burned down plenty of houses too, like houses of judges they didn’t like or whatever. [Editor’s note: This is true. Specifically, if there were judges who wouldn’t promise not to enforce the Stamp Act, the patriots would burn their houses down.] So I think that they should have balanced out… that there’s some bad people on the American side too, that it wasn’t just innocent, innocent little wittle colonists. [*laughing*]
I think I agree. But then of course it would have been harder to make the kind of movie they wanted to make.
Yeah, they wanted the creepy British blah-blah-blah. And, you know, it made a fun movie, ’cause then you can always tell who’s on the good side, who’s on the bad side. But it wasn’t very accurate even though it made a good movie.
Yes, I agree. Although, I did not know that there was a plot to assassinate George Washington.
Yeah, I’d never heard of that. That was very interesting. But of course they had to put it in because [spoilers redacted!]
Okay, what did you think of the movie’s Christian message? Do you think it would still be a good movie without it?
Yeah, you know, I don’t think they really over-stressed the Christian message. I guess they didn’t want it to be too typical. So they didn’t want… I mean very good movies have been made with a typical Christian message type thingey. But they just let it go by fast, and you know, that allowed more time for the exciting stuff to happen. But you know, they had to have a conversion scene with some parson guy and the hero who’s about to be [spoiler redacted!] But they didn’t make you sit through it, so that was nice.
Okay, I’ll have to redact that spoiler there, ‘cuz we don’t want to give EVERYthing away!
What other movies would you compare it to?
Well I think that the mask part, you can compare that to The Princess Bride. You know, where Westley’s going around wearing a mask and all that. Except obviously the reasons for wearing a mask are quite different. But also, I think it’s somewhat similar to The Scarlet Pimpernel in a few ways.
You know, running away from one set of bad guys basically.
The woman who doesn’t know who he is, and then she has to, well, spoilers.
Find out who he is… yes, we won’t tell them that.
Okay, let’s see… were there any plot holes or other implausible things…?
DEFINITELY. Like, let me get my thoughts together here… for example, the bad guy, the villains wouldn’t be loudly proclaiming their plot to blow up whatever-whatever. They would be more discreet about that, rather than yelling out their plans while the bad-guy’s niece was nearby and NOT asleep. They would talk more quietly, or pass notes, or something, rather than loudly saying, “I’m going to blow up such-and-such a city, completely, with my devious plot. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.” Basically.
[Editor’s note: Not to mention that said devious plot is so ridiculously far-fetched that I’d say it forfeits the movie’s right to be marketed as a “historical” drama. At a certain point I just pretended I was watching Captain America instead, and it worked much better that way.]
Okay! So Paul McCusker wrote the script for this movie. Did it remind you of Adventures in Odyssey?
Somewhat, yes. Like for example, that slightly sarcastic humor that popped out was very Paul McCusker-ish. And the slightly over-the-top bad-guys, but exciting anyway, you know, that kind of thing, you could definitely tell who wrote it. And I actually like his style a lot, so even though the bad-guys were a little over-villainous, it was actually a very good script.
So what do you like about his style?
Well, I like the fact that he can make exciting, slight little bits of humor… and he can just throw stuff together into a mix and make it really good.
Cool! Okay, so would you recommend Beyond the Mask to a friend?
Definitely, unless the friend was against violence or something like that. Because I have to admit, even though it’s not overly violent, there are a lot of people getting hurt, that kind of thing… if they’re really against violence, then probably I wouldn’t. But I think it’s a very fun movie, so if I had a friend who was more lenient, or parents who were more lenient about that kind of thing, I would definitely recommend it.
Well, judging by the number of homeschooling families in the theater with us, I don’t think we know a whole lot of people who would have trouble with the violence in this movie.
Yeah, I mean, there was a 6-year-old sitting next to me, and her mom was like, at the time where they were trying to feather and tar the rebel, she was staring at the screen like “What?” or her mother was, and like, “How about if you go sit over behind me, honey,” not literally saying that, but basically [*surprised face*] staring at the screen.
Oh really? I missed that. That’s funny.
I was paying attention mostly to the screen, but the scene to the right of me caught the corner of my eye.
I see! Okay. Did you have any other remarks that I didn’t get to with my questions?
Well, I really liked the costume designers. And also, did you notice that in most every scene, our heroine is wearing a different necklace every time? And also, it was SLIGHTLY over-dramatic, down under the mill when the… I will not give any spoilers, but the villain is about to release his devious plot, and our heroine the beautiful blonde, her hair flying loose, a damsel in distress expression on her overly made-up face [spoilers!] with our dashing hero who by this time is looking properly disheveled, with his hair flopping in his face, and they [spoilers!] just in time to escape the [spoilers!]
Okay, that’s a little too spoilerific!
Okay, and so I think that’s about it. So here’s an interesting question: Do you think non-Christians would enjoy the movie?
Yes, because maybe they wouldn’t like other Christian movies, because “Oh, there’s too much Christianity,” but I really think there’s enough Christianity that it would be very good for them to watch, if you know what I mean. But I think they would like just the action, the thrilling quality, all that stuff.
And on that note, thank you very much for this interview.
We should do this again some time.