Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why Alexander Dane Is My Most Favorite Alan Rickman Character

Beloved English actor Alan Rickman passed away earlier this month at the age of 69 (he would have turned 70 next month).  He shall definitely be missed.  He was an easy celebrity to like.  He has a refined and charming personality, and he has this terrific, distinctive accent that everybody finds adorable and which other celebrities (e.g. Benedict Cumberbatch) love to impersonate.  Most importantly, he’s an “important” actor – and a genuinely talented one at that.  Now, there are only four movie characters that he portrayed that I extremely liked: Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the Sherriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves, Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus in Galaxy Quest, and Severus Snapes in the Harry Potter movies.  But he played these four characters to perfection, making them too memorable and striking that they were already enough to establish and solidify his reputation in the world of cinema and winning movie fans’ hearts.

Among these four Rickman characters, my most favorite is Alexander Dane.  I acknowledged that Snapes is arguably the most complex and iconic – maybe even the best – and it’s either him or Hans Gruber whom Rickman is most associated with.  But Dane was the character that I enjoyed the most.

To those who aren’t familiar with the classic Galaxy Quest, it’s a brilliant science fiction satire that centers on the cast of a Star Trek-esque TV series called Galaxy Quest (hence, the title of the movie).  Eighteen years had already passed since the show was cancelled, but it still has a dedicated following, and the washed-up cast makes their living by making appearances in fan conventions.  Meanwhile, an alien race that has no concept of fiction called Thermians got hold of broadcasts of the show.  Mistaking the episodes as historical records of the cast’s space adventures, the Thermians solicit their help to save them from a race of genocidal reptilian aliens led by the warlord Sarris.

Rickman’s character, Alexander Dane, is an actor that plays the show’s Spock analogue named Dr. Lazarus.  A capable Shakespearean actor, Dane is bitter of the fact that he’s only known for playing the character of Dr. Lazarus.  He loathes his character and the unavoidable inconvenience of being required to wear his character’s prosthetic headgear during appearances in conventions.  But as the movie progresses, he learns to overcome these and – along with his co-cast members – be the hero that the Thermians need.

Again, Rickman’s other iconic characters are pretty great, but Alexander Dane really stood out for me.  It’s probably because: a.) unlike the other Rickman characters, Alexander Dane is a hero.  Sure, Snapes is eventually revealed to be an ultimate hero in the end, but he was mostly antagonistic for most of the story.  Dane was handled as a hero right from the start; and b.) being an English actor, Rickman has this theatrical flair and aristocratic charm present in his characters.  This was also true with Alexander Dane but this was primarily done for comedic effect rather than a flavorful layer.  Dane was a comedic role for Rickman, but this was accomplished by retaining the “Rickmanian” element in the performance and not by resorting to cheap, idiotic, self-ridiculing slapstick.

Thus, in my book, Alexander Dane is the most hilarious and most unique character Rickman ever played on film.  His acidic attitude, the sharp remarks, the various expressions of resentment and bemusement in his face… priceless!  Most importantly, the arc on Alexander Dane was pretty great – how he learned to embrace the character he passionately abhors in order to become a bona fide hero in real life.

Rest in peace, Mr. Rickman.  Thank you for the great performances and delightful characters – especially Alexander Dane.  

For the last time, “By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!”

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