Thursday, January 28, 2016

By Grabthar's Hammer, by the Suns of Worvan, You Shall be Mourned

There is truly only one way to describe the emotional reaction I felt upon hearing about Alan Rickman's death when I awoke on January 14: it felt like someone had cut my heart out with a spoon. With the world still reeling from the loss of iconic singer and codpiece aficionado David Bowie just days earlier, it seemed almost too much to bear to lose the iconic actor as well. It seemed all the more surreal when it was revealed that both Bowie and Rickman had both died of cancer at the age of sixty-nine. It seemed that sixty-nine was quickly becoming the new twenty-three (and the fact that sixty-nine is a multiple of twenty three didn't help to make conspiracy theorists any less insufferable).

Alan Rickman was instantly recognizable with his trademark deep voice that itself was worth the price of admission to any movie he was in as well as, you know, his general ability to kick ass in any role he tackled. He was a stand out in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the cartoonishly evil Sheriff of Nottingham, and this coming from a man who actually loves Prince of Thieves completely unironically. Whether threatening to cut Kevin Costner's heart out with a spoon, calling off Christmas, or doing the slow turnaround to one of his fellow lords and telling him to "Shut up, you twit!" Rickman was eminently watchable and is still quoted prominently amongst my family to this day in nearly every social interaction.

Rickman also left his mark on me through his role in Galaxy Quest, a criminally underrated movie, as a washed-up actor reliving the glory days playing an alien on a Star Trek-esque sci-fi show. He also left his mark playing Metatron, the literal embodiment of the Voice of God, in Kevin Smith's seminal Dogma. These are both roles that easily could have been relegated to the realm of the absurd or the laughable in the hands of lesser actors. But Rickman always appeared to approach each role with respect and a gravitas that allowed him to elevate any material he had or any project he worked with. That man could also channel sardonic wit like nobody's business. I'm sure it would have been one of my greatest pleasures in life to be verbally eviscerated by Alan Rickman.

Though for some, Rickman's most memorable role was as Severus Snape, the most watchable part--by far--of the Harry Potter film series, for me, as I imagine is the case for many others of my generation, Alan Rickman will always be remembered as Hans Gruber, the memorable antagonist from Die Hard. As the German thief posing as a terrorist to pull off the heist of a lifetime (and, I assume, go to Disney World once it was all over), Alan Rickman was both an integral ingredient of and the icing on the cake. Portraying one of cinema's all-time greatest villains in one of cinema's all-time greatest action movies--if not the greatest; a genre-defining effort to say the least--is certainly not the worst legacy one could leave behind.

Early in Die Hard, Hans Gruber quipped "And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer." This was meant both as a comment on the ambitions of the powerful business man Takagi, perhaps to draw a comparison between himself to rationalize his actions, and as clue as to his own motivations for the robbery. After hearing of Rickman's death, there was no quipping. And there was weeping for worlds left unconquered, but of a different sort. Alan Rickman was able to conquer both our screens and our hearts. Some would say that was more than enough. I'm tempted to agree.   


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