Four Letter Nerd

Tag - Galaxy Quest

Remembering Alan Rickman

If you’re reading this then you already know that the brilliant and beloved Alan Rickman has passed away. Reports say that Rickman lost a battle to cancer and peacefully went to that big Nakatomi Plaza in the sky. For most people from my generation, Rickman will always be most fondly remembered as Severus Snape, the brooding and intimidating Hogwarts professor with a reluctant and unassuming heart of gold. For the people just above my generation he’ll always be Hans Gruber, the cunning and ruthless German terrorist who helped introduce us to the best blue-collar action hero the world has ever seen, John McClane. And since everywhere else you read about the wonderful life of Mr. Rickman will likely only focus on these two roles of his, I’d like to talk about a few of his other fantastic work.

The first time I remember seeing Alan Rickman was in the Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film. As a kid, I LOVED that movie. I used to watch it all the time. As an adult, I realize… Costner maybe isn’t the best Robin Hood. However, Rickman’s portrayal of the despicable but humorously exasperated Sheriff of Nottingham is still one of the standout performances in that film. The Sheriff is a jerk, but Rickman almost gets you on his side for brief moments, due to the way you almost relate to his frustrations.

“I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!”

The next time I was captivated by Rickman wasn’t until about 8 years later. The film was Dogma. Written and directed by Kevin Smith, the film is about a woman who discovers that she is the final bloodline relative of Jesus Christ and is the only person who can save the universe from being obliterated. That movie made a very big impact on me in terms of my understanding and perception of religion and belief, and Rickman’s role as the Metatron, the Voice of God, played a big part in that. At one point in the film, the main character Bethany breaks down and says that she’s not capable of taking on the responsibility that’s fallen on her. At that point, Rickman delivers this monologue as only he could’ve…

That’s what Jesus said. Yes, I had to tell him. And you can imagine how that hurt the Father – not to be able to tell the Son Himself because one word from His lips would destroy the boy’s frail human form? So I was forced to deliver the news to a scared child who wanted nothing more than to play with other children. I had to tell this little boy that He was God’s only Son, and that it meant a life of persecution and eventual crucifixion at the hands of the very people He came to enlighten and redeem. He begged me to take it back, as if I could. He begged me to make it all not true. And I’ll let you in on something, Bethany, this is something I’ve never told anyone before… If I had the power, I would have.

That fell very heavy on me, and I’m convinced that no other actor could have inserted the intensity and emotion into it that Rickman did. The man was a master of his craft.

“Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God’s true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out.”

Immediately following Dogma, Rickman joined the ensemble comedy, Galaxy Quest, which has become something of a cult-classic in nerd culture. His portrayal of Alexander Dane, a true thespian who’s resentful that his most notable work is as “Dr. Lazarus” on the cancelled sci-fi show for which the film is named. He again, doing as Rickman did best, plays a very hilariously frustrated character, who doesn’t want much. Just the respect that he feels he deserves.

“I played Richard III… There were five curtain calls. I was an actor once, damn it. Now look at me. Look at me! I won’t go out there and say that stupid line one more time.”

The final film I’d like to mention, was a role for Rickman that was maybe his most down-to-earth performance ever. Love, Actually. I know, I know. It’s a “romantic comedy” and you very likely don’t even respect it’s existence. Well, you can go to hell becasue I actually love that movie. (See what I did there?)

Rickman plays Harry, the director of a design company who becomes gradually seduced by his secretary, as he drifts further and further away from his wife, played by Emma Thompson. Their interactions in the film become more and more difficult to watch as you see his whor… I mean… his “lady of the evening” secretary persuade him futher and further into an unseen, but clearly not imaginary, affair. He painfully captures the sincerity of someone who knows what they’re doing is wrong but keeps doing it anyway. The layers that exist in that character are, in my opinion, the most complex ones to be found in a film that, arguably, has more depth than you think it does. You can thank Alan Rickman for that.

“Right, the Christmas party. Not my favorite night of the year, and your unhappy job to organize… it’s basic, really. Find a venue, over-order on the drinks, bulk-buy the guacamole and advise the girls to avoid Kevin if they want their breasts unfondled.”

Alan Rickman was a truly brilliant actor. He could be menacing in ways that would make your skin crawl, but he could also make you laugh out loud with his dry and slightly bitter sense of humor. He could seamlessly flow from drama, to action, to fantasy, to comedy, and even do all four at once if need be. No role was too small that he couldn’t make it the most captivating performance you’d see in that entire film, and no role was too big that you’d tire of him. His artful presence will be sorely missed.

“Talent is an accident of genes – and a responsibility.” – Alan Rickman. 1946 – 2016

The Wide World of Sci-Fi Spoofs

I have a confession to make, and it will rock the foundations of everything you have known or will know – I am a big fan of science-fiction (I might have embellished a bit, if that shook you to your core it’s time to find a new core).   My all-time favorite sci-fi series is Star Wars, but I also enjoy Star Trek (The Original Series all the way).  One thing that I like just as much or more (in some cases) than these franchises are the spoofs that are borne out of them.

It’s important to note that not all spoofs are created equal.  Some miss the point of the films entirely, but others – the ones in this list, for instance – are absolutely wizard (bringing it back).

Spaceballs

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Mel Brooks is a comedic genius and if you say otherwise then you better have one hell of a good argument to support your position (I expect charts, spreadsheets, and pivot tables).  Due to my appreciation of sci-fi this is probably my favorite movie of his.  From characters to merchandising (Spaceballs the FLAMETHROWER), Spaceballs goes after everything Star Wars.

Spaceballs follows Lone Star and Barf as they try to rescue Princess Vespa from the tyrannical Dark Helmet.  You know the movie has comedic potential when the “terrifying villain” is played by Rick Moranis, and the late John Candy plays the Chewbacca-esque sidekick.  Bill Pullman also does a good job trying to emulate Han Solo while flying a Winnebago, which is no easy task!

If you have a Netflix subscription you can stream it instantly.  I highly recommend it.

 

Robot Chicken Star Wars Special I-III

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The Robot Chicken Star Wars Specials get better and longer with each entry.  The first one is relatively short, but is totally worth a watch.  The second and third installments are absolutely hilarious.  Seth Green goes out of his way to include some pretty obscure references and even brings in Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Ahmed Best (Jar-Jar Binks) to voice their own characters.

Robot Chicken, for the uninitiated, is a stop motion variety show created by Family Guy’s Seth Green.  The regular show includes characters from all over Pop Culture, but also has three Star Wars Specials and one DC Comics Special, which is also really good (Aquaman is made fun of the ENTIRE time, so Bill isn’t really a fan).  The Specials also include voiceovers by Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Zach Efron, and Scrubs’ Donald Faison.

 

Redshirts

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This is the only novel on the list, and it is freaking incredible.  I first heard about Redshirts while listening to an interview with the author, John Scalzi, on NPR.  The novel follows Andrew Dahl, an Ensign who has just been assigned to the Intrepid (think Enterprise) the flagship of the Universal Union.  He and the other new recruits begin to notice that on every away mission at least one low-ranking crewmember dies, while the famous senior officers (think Kirk, Spock, and Bones) always survive, although Lt. Kerensky always seems to be horribly maimed or infected with some exotic disease yet always recovers in a matter of days.  The non-senior members of the crew begin to be very superstitious of the away missions and do everything in their power to not be on the away team.  Eventually the Ensigns discover the reason for their ill fate, and must try to find a way to put an end to their lot as cannon fodder.

Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and for an added bonus the audiobook is narrated by Wil Wheaton.

 

Galaxy Quest

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Galaxy Quest is another great Star Trek parody.  The movie follows the cast of the once-popular, fictional sci-fi series, Galaxy Quest years after it was canceled.  While the fictional cast, played by Tim Allan, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell (who was an unnamed character who was the equivalent of a Redshirt), and Daryl Mitchell are attending a Galaxy Quest convention they are convinced by a group of aliens called the “Thermians” to come aboard their ship (which was made to look exactly like the Protector, their ship in the series).  At first they think it is an elaborate joke, but begin to realize that the Thermians believed that the reruns of their TV show were actual historical documents detailing their real adventures.  The cast must quickly become the characters they portrayed to save the Thermians from the evil warlord,  Sarris.

J. J. Abrams called Galaxy Quest one of the greatest Star Trek films ever made despite its parody status.

Family Guy Blue Harvest

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This is the first of a trilogy of film’s by Seth MacFarlane spoofing the original Star Wars trilogy.  I am only adding the first of the three to the list because I think the subsequent films were pretty weak in comparison.  Blue Harvest is almost a frame for frame reproduction of Star Wars: a New Hope, except with loads of Family Guy humor.  Peter Griffin is Han Solo, Lois is Leia, Chris is Luke Skywalker, Bryan is Chewbacca, and Herbert (the creepy old guy) is Ben Kenobi.  Meg is in the movie too, although she only has one scene as the Dianoga in the trash compacter (the one-eyed tentacle monster that tried to drown Luke).  They call out a lot of the plot holes in a New Hope and it’s a lot of fun, but only if you are a fan of Family Guy.

 

I hope you guys enjoy these incredible parodies.  Let me know what you think about the list, and if there are any spoofs you think should’ve been included let us know in the comments.