Monday, April 4, 2011

Movie Web Monday: Alan Rickman

Movie Web Monday: Each week, I'll look at a specific actor's roles across three good movies. The third movie will in turn tie into the first movie of the next week's actor, whose third movie will continue the pattern. I will go through actors and movies at this rate, with the following limitations in mind: every movie(or television show) invoked will be one I either own, or wish to own; no movie or actor will be invoked twice. So sit back and enjoy as you fall into the nerdery's movie web. (Oh, and I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, telling you just enough to know if you'll enjoy the movie)

Alan Rickman: Frakking with your Genres

Movie: Galaxy Quest (Own it)

Alan Rickman, as Sir Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus, provides a great level of depth in Galaxy Quest, both in terms of dramatic reality and tremendous comedic timing. Early on in the movie, Rickman's character embodies the bitterest ennui amongst the principal characters, playing a rather self-possessed brit that can't escape the cheesy embarrassment that represents his greatest fame. As the movie progresses and the characters have to live the reality of their roles, he gives a ton of comedic fodder as he is forced to represent an alien and the second-in-command of the crew. But for me the greatest moment in the whole comedy comes in a tear-jerky moment that gives me nerdlies every single time. Read below the picture to get a description of the slightly spoilerific moment.

Shortly after meeting the alien crew, Alexander Dane meets an extraterrestrial fanboy named Quellek who--like all of the pimply earth counterparts we see in the opening scenes--loves to quote Dr. Lazarus' over-done catch-phrase pledge. Dane rebuffs the fan's enthusiasm, and there's just a bit of sensitive shock in the alien's reaction as his hero rudely brushes him off. Towards the climax of the film, Quellek is fatally shot by one of the lobster-goons of the antagonist. While the youthful xeno dies recounting adulation for his idol, the jaded actor utters the hackneyed line as a solemn, tearful pledge to put aside his British ways and kick some crustacean keester. Charging out into the corridor, he body-slams the assassin, proving to the timid alien fans that gadgets and technology are useless without the courage to use them.

It's a fabulous scene that proves that this comedy has heart, and it really flies true thanks to Alan Rickman's grounded performance.

Movie: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Own it)

Robin Hood has been adapted and re-hashed time and time again, and up until 1991, most of those versions had settled into a reasonable number of predictable interpretations. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves assaulted most of those staid concepts in a dark alley, and Alan Rickman really leant his support to it. Stepping into the villain's role as the Sheriff of Nottingham, this medieval baddie is at once humorous, but--unlike the previous Hood foes--he maintains a vicious sort of menace throughout the film. From murdering his own cousin, to personally and somewhat-charismatically taking part in his dungeon's torture regimen, Rickman's Sheriff is unique, despicably fun, and has just enough wherewithal to be threatening while seeming evenly matched with his enemies. At the climax of the movie, he retreads the classic villain path to glory by trying to force himself on the protagonist's woman, and when the hero interrupts, Rickman is pitch-perfect with the line:

Oooh, slimy. His delivery for that line is so great, so vile, and so casual in its dry wit, that the audience is imbued with a fresh desire to see the villain stabbed. And it makes the entire film all the better for it, and intensely unique from the stale old interpretations of Robin Hood that have gone before it.

Movie: Die Hard (Own it)

Ah, Die Hard. The action movie that almost single-handedly ushered in the genre-shift of the 90's action movie. A movie with classic lines, a more humble, balding, and less put-together hero than before, and bad-guys that were defined--in the movie, at least--as being smart, professional, and organized. And at the head of it all is Hans Gruber, Alan Rickman's savvy international man-of-bank-robbing-means. Previously, your average 80s villain tended to be a drug-dealing buffoon surrounded by crazed idiots on a bender with guns, or they were some kind of pseudo-military organization that spoofed a communist or guerilla force from the real world. Hans, by contrast, is personable and eloquent, with a group of more-than-competent specialist bad guys at his command.

Now, as a bad guy, Hans seems almost too put-together to be defeated by your average good guy. Or so it would seem. But in Die Hard the universal constant is that John McClane is not an average good guy. Average good guys in this movie's reality are either good-natured-but-largely-ineffectual underlings, or posturing bureaucrats who allegedly call the shots. That's one of the main conceits of the first movie, as Hans happily proclaims that his entire master plan hinged on the FBI's predictable response.

In a movie series defined by outrageously memorable lines, Rickman has a vast majority of the great ones that deadpan amidst the potpourri of explosions, blood, and expletives. It's a welcome spice, and based on its success, it's no surprise that the themes of elegantly organized bad guys opposed by inept bureaucrats with a rogue hero in the middle had become the order of the day for action movies for at least a decade.

Alan Rickman. In your genres, messing them up. Making them better.

Movie Web Monday will continue next week with a new actor, picking up with some other prolific player from the last movie listed above.

1 comment:

  1. As Alan Rickman has passed the veil separating this world from the next, I am struck by the conviction that life, as we know it, is over. Forever changed by his absence. What will we do without character actors of his aplomb? I found your blog scanning for the perfect Rickman moment. By Grabthar's Hammer, indeed.