Nine Intriguing Characters of Sci-Fi Film
By SFMZ Webmaster

I'm breaking away from my top ten trend for this article mainly to keep it open ended. There are just so many great characters of sci-fi, so keeping this article free of the confines of a top ten list format allows me to add more characters if I decide to expand this article. For now, here are nine characters, some from iconic sci-fi films, to get this project started.

Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg - The Fifth Element 1997

"I hate warriors, too narrow-minded. I'll tell you what I do like though: a killer, a dyed-in-the-wool killer. Cold blooded, clean, methodical and thorough." . . . . . Zorg

Add one part evil lord, three parts Gary Oldman, sprinkle on top a hillbilly accent, and you have the character Zorg from the over the top sci-fi film The Fifth Element. I will admit personal bias played a role in my attraction to this character and/or find him an intriguing character. That bias being he is portrayed by Gary Oldman. Extreme, loud, or distinctive visual characters is Oldman's forte.

Zorg is such an off the wall character, glittery apparel, a cunning intelligence, and then he speaks in that twangy country accent. It's like they took a variety of film character attributes, threw them in a bag, shook it up, and pulled out a handful of attributes to create the villain (though not the film's utimate villain). Zorg is quite the zany character.

Carl Stargher - The Cell 2000

"Where you come from priddy thing?". . . . . Carl Stargher

How far does a serial killer dive into his/her fantasy world to help cope with the real world atrocities they have committed? Carl (Vincent D'Onofrio), a disturbed young man leaving a trail of dead women, has fabricated a surreal world where he is a God surrounding himself with lavish dress and Salvador Dali like interiors.

Earlier scenes reveal why he has become the monster he is and never shy to flaunt his distorted imagination visually. It's disturbing to ponder what Carl thrives on the most, his God like stature in his unconscious world or his desire of inflicting physical pain on himself in the real world.

Doctor Pretorius - The Bride of Frankenstein 1935

"To a new world of gods and monsters!". . . . . Doctor Pretorius

Another stereotypical scientist who's gone mad, however, this movie mad scientist has quite a striking visual presence. From the pompadour like hair cut to his distinctive facial features, the visuals of the Pretorius character (Ernest Thesiger) has been repeated throughout the decades in many forms of entertainment.

It doesn't take very long into the film for the audience to see that Pretorius has a dark and twisted sense of humor, and I find him much more intriguing than the often whining Dr. Frankenstein. Pretorius is not burden with the moral issues that plague Dr. Frankenstein. The old doc is more than eager to chuck such silly notions aside in his quest for science gone mad.

If the first Frankenstein film had a scientist like Pretorius creating the monster instead of the more compassionate Dr. Frankenstein, we would perhaps have a whole different legacy of horror/sci-fi film to admire. The sinister Dr. Pretorius and his monster made from cadavers.

Captain Nemo - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1954

"The natives over there are cannibals. They eat liars with the same enthusiasm as they eat honest men.". . . . . Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo (an unforgettable performance by James Mason) is an afflicted soul who blames the world for his misery and considers himself the monarch of the sea. Though he is bent on the destruction of mankind, he presents himself as a congenial and refined gentleman. Today, his character might be described as part anti-hero, part terrorist, and part tormented scientist, yet he sees himself as a good man. Mason's performance adds a wonderful blend of neurosis and elegance.

Despite Nemo being a delusional genius, his assessment of man's corruption and lust for destruction is presented with hard to dispute solid reasoning. Struggling internally with his devious schemes, Nemo muscles his way through his insanity using the torture and death of his wife and son as his beacon to press on.

Dr. Emmett Brown -
Back to the Future 1985

"There's that word again. "Heavy." Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull?" . . . . . Dr. Emmett Brown

Besides being simply a lovable character in sci-fi, Dr. Brown has a charming and retro appeal. His tenacity to respond with such naive demeanor about the future is a great mix of humor and a harmless poke at stereotypical views of scientists. Excellently performed by Christopher Lloyd, the Doc would be the companion you would want by your side in any sci-fi adventure . . . or misadventure.

Private Hudson - Aliens 1986

"We're on an express elevator to hell; going down!" . . . . . Private Hudson

Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) is one of the most quoted, if not the most quoted character in sci-fi film, perhaps all genres of film. It's been over 25 years since Aliens was made and his standard quotes have been exhausted, forgotten, revived and exhausted again.

Even today, it's practically impossible to visit any cinema forum online and not come across one of Hudson's famous quotes. His quotes have flooded the marketing corner with T-shirts, posters, and more. As for the character himself, for a marine, he's a bit of a weasel.

A soldier soon to finish his duty, he cares very little of others, although there are a few lone moments where he's participating as a team member. Weasel or not, there's little doubt that he's a standout character of Aliens when it comes to audience favorites. Imagine how different the third installment, Alien 3, would be if Hudson had survived and played a sizable role in that film.

Dr. Edward Morbius - Forbidden Planet 1956

"Guilty! Guilty! My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it! ." . . . . . Dr. Edward Morbius.

The esoteric Dr. Morbius (convincingly portrayed by Walter Pigeon) was the only survivor of a previous space excursion that takes place 20 years before the film's present time line. From the discovery and use of alien technology, he became the guardian of the planet Altaire IV.

Morbius, much like the equivalent of 'Tempest's' Prospero, is a perplexing character who prefers solitude and is on a spiraling struggle to face his inner demons. Eventually Morbius loses control and conjures up terrors that were deeply rooted in the dark corners of his mind.

It really wouldn't be accurate to say this character is the type of antagonist typically seen in other sci-fi films of the fifties. At times he displayed accountablility for his actions, though he has lost the ability to contain what he has unleashed. This conflict within himself sets him on a path of self destruction.

Max Rockatansky - Mad Max 1979

"Look, any longer out on that road and I'm one of them, a terminal psychotic, except that I've got this bronze badge that says that I'm one of the good guys." . . . . . Max Rockatansky

Max Rockatansky lives two lives, a content family man who desires to escape from the misery of the apocalyptic future, and his other life as a cop battling sadistic scum which he serves justice on them with a quick and forceful hand. A guardian of the highway, this traditional hero teeters on the edge while wading through the chaos.

It's the brutal killing of his family that pushes him into that dark region his victims have long ago submersed themselves. It's a tragic story where a mostly honorable man who suffers a horrible loss and discovers he is much more efficient in dishing out a sorte of savage violence than his wacko adversaries.

Jeffrey Goines - Twelve Monkeys 1995

"Your information train is jammed, man!" . . . . . Jeffrey Goines

While no doubt the Goines (Brad Pitt) character is about as far as one can get from mental stability, it's scary to think that the insane can affect so deeply the sane. Is this possible that such a lunatic could have any life/death affecting impact in the real world?

Think of a few current and recent dictators of the world and a character like Jeffrey and his ability to cause havok is definitely a possibility in the real world. Which in the case of this movie, the "man" with the deadly virus was not Jeffrey, but still, Goines had his own agenda and had the power to carry it out.

Speculation abounds on the end of mankind - Global warming, a large asteroid, and countless other theories. One other to consider is the right lunatic comes along to buy a world destroying device/virus from the right lunatic and sets in motion the destruction of life on Earth.

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