Wednesday, 24 November 2010

10 Minor Characters Given Overly Dramatic Death Scenes

So you're an actor and you're struggling to get your big break. Your agent calls and they've got you a part in a big new Hollywood film. The only problem is that you only have a handful of lines of dialogue and have barely any influence on the main plot. However, the director wants a tacked on, emotional scene to give a false sense of pathos. Your character gets to die and you get to make tragic faces despite the audience knowing barely anything about who you're playing. It's win-win.

Welcome to the world of the overly dramatic death scenes for minor characters. Here are some of the most notable:

Haldir in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

For the climatic battle of Helm's Deep, Peter Jackson and co. had a problem. Aragorn and friends were facing a battle against overwhelming odds but, as fans of reading will know, no-one particularly important was going to die. How are we meant to get our emotional kick when the only one's dying are a few grizzled peasants? Craig Parker, that's how.

Some genius remembered the character of Haldir, played by Parker for all of two minutes in the first film in the trilogy and decided it would be a great idea to bring him back and swiftly kill him, just so the audience has something to be sad about. Said genius probably didn't stop to think that the audience might not really care too deeply for that elf that was in Lothlorien for a bit. So, Haldir returns to honour an allegiance between men and elves and then dies in a way that is something of a running theme in this list; fighting heroically until his last breath and passing away in the hero's arms. Absolutely no-one was upset about this.

Mifune in The Matrix Revolutions

Having killed off most of the poorly fleshed out supporting characters in the first film, the producer's of the Matrix sequels decided to introduce thousands more supporting players to be poorly fleshed out, but this time with with stupider names like Ballard or Sparks. One of the characters to get a better deal was Mifune (Nathaniel Lees). Not only did he get to make a rousing speech, he got a pretty good death too. Not from the character's point of view of course; having your face cut up by Sentinal tentacles must sting, but Nathaniel Lees must have loved the opportunity to show off his range of facial expressions, which vary from 'stern' to 'angry.'

Needless to say, Mifune dies fighting heroically until his last breath, only this time he doesn't die in the hero's arms but in the arms of the tedious kid that no-one likes.

Hagen in Gladiator

Having failed to turn the phrase "Hagen dies" into some sort of joke involving ice cream, I'll cut straight to the point; Hagen (Ralf Moeller) was doomed from the start. Hagen is a classic bad-ass with a good heart. At first he gives Russell Crowe a good kicking and the audience thinks he's kind of a dick but then he turns out to be a good guy and a fierce warrior. He's willing to fight with Maximus to the death, and, as with a lot of characters willing to fight with the main character to the death, he dies. Hagen defends Proximo's Gladiator school as Maximus attempts to escape, showing how much of a bad-ass he is along the way before ultimately dying fighting heroically until his last breath. Again.

Ben Hayes in King Kong (2005)

This was never going to end well. Peter Jackson had shown in The Two Towers that he would never be happy with just letting faceless expendables die so one or two of the not-so-important supporting players were doomed the minute they set foot on Skull Island. Jack Black's film crew got a pretty unfair deal but it was Ben Hayes (Evan Parke) who was there to pack an emotional punch. A wise and weary mentor and father figure to Jamie Bell's Jimmy, the audience was instantly made aware of him being a good guy because he knew stuff about books.

Having established this bond between Hayes and Jimmy, Jackson proceeds to kill Hayes in a horrifying way; first being crushed by King Kong and then thrown to a bottom of a canyon. Needless to say, Hayes died heroica...well you know the rest.

Tommy Ryan in Titanic

Tommy Ryan (Jason Barry) DID NOT die heroically fighting until his last breath, thus making this list less monotonous.

Having established himself as a man of good character based purely on the fact that he was Irish, Ryan epitomised the fun and exciting ethic diversity of steerage class and how far it was removed from the evil and boring rich people. He was doomed, however, along with his partner in crime Fabrizio, who suffered death by funnel.

It was a tall order for Tommy Ryan to have a distinctively tragic death in a film full of tragic deaths but being shot by 1st Officer Murdoch in the scuffle for survival is pretty tragic. Murdoch shooting himself afterwards didn't help either.

The Not-So-Important Jedi in Revenge of the Sith

There's nothing like a good montage of mass murder to tug on the heartstrings. George Lucas even went one step further and decided to get younglings involved. But for the actors who had endured hours in make-up to play background Jedi with only the occasional cool looking lightsaber kill to show for it, this was their moment in the sun. Order 66 is executed and the Clone Troopers turn on the Jedi and kill them one by one in a series of cowardly ways. We don't know anything about these characters, but it's kind of sad in a way. Well, a bit. But not much.

Rest in peace pointy headed beard man and kind-of-hot blue woman. Rest in peace.

Dr. Satnam Tsurutani in 2012

Remember when Jimi Mistry was going to be the next big thing in Hollywood after he made East is East and set off to make the god-awful The Guru? Well this is where he ended up. Tsurutani is pretty much responsible for finding out the world is going to end. He has a nice family too. Chiwetel Ejiofor really wants to save him but he encounters the evils of bureaucracy and doesn't. Thus, Tsurutani, nice family and all, dies with everyone else, leaving the many dislikeable and undeserving characters to survive on the arks.

Frank Harris in The Day After Tomorrow

While we're on the issue of Roland Emmerich disaster movies, we best cover The Day After Tomorrow. What Emmerich really, really, likes to do is take a small character, give him the slightest hint of emotional depth and pathos, and have him die in a sad yet contrived situation and expect the audience to feel bad about this. We saw this with Satnam Tsurutani and we saw it with Frank Harris (Jay O. Sanders).

Harris is a grizzled old timer, loyal to the end to Dennis Quaid. We know very little about him, but he's a good guy. So when he falls through glass and is left dangling high above a shopping centre and threatens to pull his colleagues to their doom with him, he cuts the rope and falls to his death to save them. Note the variation from the common theme; Harris sacrifices himself heroically, rather than fighting heroically.

Stan Olber in Volcano

Staying on the theme of heroic sacrifices, Stan Olber (John Carroll Lynch) saves a bunch of people from a subway train being consumed by lava (for those that haven't seen it, Volcano is about a volcano erupting in down town L.A., for some reason). As a reward for his valiant efforts, he slowly burns to death after jumping into a pool of lava. You can't help thinking that Stan should have made a better job of his jump but this scene has the distinction of being one of the only memorable things in Volcano. Thus a small character is transformed into a tiny redeeming feature of an otherwise terrible, terrible movie.

Ivan Dubov in Face/Off

The character of Dubov is instantly rendered cooler by the fact that he's played by Frank Subotka from The Wire (Chris Bauer). His role is small, but important to the plot and featuring an impressive amount of drool. Dubov is an enemy of Nic Cage's (except Nic Cage isn't really Nic Cage, of course) but when the idea is suggested that they work together on a escape, he come's around to the idea pretty quickly and all of a sudden Cage and Bauer are best buds. Dubov does most of the hard work in helping Cage escape, but is thrown off a walk-way and dangles over a big drop with only a gun and Cage's hand between him and falling. Naturally, he falls and Cage is briefly sad before forgetting about him completely.

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  1. First off, the Star Wars characters are called Ki-Ai-Mundi and Aayla Secura.

    Second, why isn't Ike Eisenmann from STAR TREK II on this list?

  2. Might I also recommend Wu Han from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The Indiana sidekick that only appears in the opening adventure. Indiana sets him up quickly as an "old friend." Then moments later as Wu Han is shot, Indiana cradles him as he dies, proclaiming "I go first Indie!" Quickly after this, Indie is bursting out of Club Obi-Wan with no regard for his friend's death. Even their get away driver, Short Round fails to even mention Wu Han.


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