We’ve recently looked at a few movie characters who probably shouldn’t have died for the sake of their own narrative integrity , which itself was inspired by the five movie sidekicks who deserved better than sudden death. In the comments to the 10 characters who shouldn’t have died thread, essential Eloquent superasente (he of the Zombie Jumping the Shark art) suggested an evil universe version of that list. Thus, the 10 Movie Characters Who Should Have Died When They Had The Chance was born.
However, there is one key difference between this list than the others. In this one, we’re taking each movies’ own verisimilitude to task. Their relationship to reality, if you will. In even in the most ridiculous cases, if any other character in the movie would have died in these situations, then all of the characters listed below should have perished, too. So it isn’t schadenfreude we’re going for here, or a list full of characters who deserved to die for being giant buttholes (see William Zabka’s career). Instead, what we’ve got here is a list of characters who just could not have survived in the real world, no matter how high up their name is in the cast credits. Okay, fine. One is based on solely principle, but the rest are the real deal…
(Note: If you consider the opposite of outcomes in movies to be spoilers, then beware of SPOILERS, I guess?)
Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, 1999, 2002, 2005)
Why They Should Have Died: Jar Jar Binks was an awful racist stereotype, a concoction solely for “comic relief” who made C-3P0 look suave in comparison. But also because while it’s one thing to believe that a future Jedi Master/Dark Lord of the Sith could luck into blowing up the bad guys’ starbase, it’s quite another to believe a bumbling fool who was exiled by his own people — for probably nearly causing the genocide of his own people in a “hilarious” accident — could single-handedly foil an entire army of droids that were programmed to do nothing but kill whatever their blasters happened to be aiming at.
It doesn’t matter which of three Star Wars prequels, either, as Jar Jar Binks shouldn’t have survived any of them, much less all of them. Lucas just lost his nerve after slaughtering Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Also, there were toys and shit to sell.
Alan Grant (Jurassic Park III, 2001)
Why They Should Have Died: Alan Grant was the undisputed hero of the first Jurassic Park (all apologies to the T-Rex), so he rightfully got a chance to catch his breath and missed out on the “adventures” of the The Lost World. Sadly, his cool, calm, and collected nature left an indelible hole that apparently needed to be filled by a third film, much to his and the audience’s chagrin. For his part, everything is going pretty well for Grant in JP3, that is until the movie’s conclusion, when he’s surrounded by a clan of hungry, and apparently vengeful, velociraptor. Dr. Grant’s archenemy!
It’s a situation that not even grizzled game warden Robert Muldoon could survive, so there’s no way a weaponless paleontologist has any chance in dinosaur hell of making it out of that situation alive. Then again, Muldoon didn’t have any raptor eggs with which to trade the wild animals for his life. Which is exactly what would happen in real life, certainly. No, wait. The opposite. As much as I love Sam Neil as Alan Grant, no self-respecting raptor would turn down a free meal, whether they got their egg back or not. And, you know, being alive while they him really would have been a good death for a man who dedicated his life to proving just how badass that species of dinos were.
Tom Cruise’s Son, and by extension all of humanity (War of the Worlds, 2005)
Why They Should Have Died: Dude (Robbie, if you care to know) spends two-thirds of the movie in lock-step with his sister and estranged father, beating odds every which way but loose, and survivng alien ambush after alien ambush because he’s fictionally related to Tom Cruise, and nothing too bad can ever happen to Tom Cruise. But then, in the middle of the biggest fire fight between humans and Martians in the movie, this teenage haircut decides he to be a big man and runs off to join the army right in the heat of battle. And into a giant explosion that kills basically everyone else in the scene not named Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning.
For the remainder of the movie, Cruise and Fanning are on their own, rightly believing Justin Chatwin is probably dead, only to find him safely at his mom’s house when the Martians lose the interplanetary war to the common cold, that wily bastard. Typical Spielberg schmaltz. But not all of that is the director’s fault, because no matter which version of War of the Worlds you’ve read or seen, humanity should lose every time. Every. Single. Time. The Martians are so technologically advanced that they have beams of light that incinerate human beings on contact, completely turning a former person to a current pile of dust in five seconds flat. Our nuclear devices don’t even hurt them and Jeff Goldblum doesn’t exist in this universe to create a comptuer virus that causes the alien ships to self-destruct. Basically, we’re all doomed. Doomed, I tells ya.
Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2008)
Why They Should Have Died: I didn’t say anything when he survived at least a two day underwater trek attached to a Nazi submarine. I didn’t say anything when he jumped out of an airplane with nothing but a plastic life raft, and then slid down a Himalayan mountainside. I didn’t say anything when he went over a cliff, while still half inside a Panzer tank, only to miraculously grab some rock or extended tree branch 20 feet from the spot he initially went over, and then climb back up as if nothing awesome just happened. And because of that silence, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg nuked the fridge.
If our beloved archeologist/adventurer had perished at the beginning of Crystal Skull, not only would we have been excused from the ridiculousness of that phrase (and director Spielberg’s pride in helping coin it), we would have been spared CGI Shia Lebeouf swinging from trees with his monkey pals, interdimensional ancient aliens, and the gradual loss of respect one felt for Cate Blanchett as her accent became more “Rocky & Bullwinkle” the longer the movie went on. It may have been the shortest film in the franchise, but it would have been much less painful to see Indy drop dead as he watched that mushroom cloud rise over his head than the final film we got. Plus, y’know, he’s like 500 feet away from that mushroom cloud and all he needs is a 1950s scrubdown? That wouldn’t even fly in an Ed Wood movie.
Sam Witwicky (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 2009)
Why They Should Have Died: Speaking Shia Lebeouf ruining things… Ah, no, that isn’t fair. The Beef isn’t to be blamed for the travesty of the Transformers movie franchise, that fault mostly lies with Michael Bay’s hard on for jingoism and big ass ‘splosions. It’s also His Baynis’ fault that Sam Witwicky does actually die in Revenge of the Fallen, go up (down? I dunno) to robot heaven, talk with some robot angels (demons? I really didn’t understand that part), and then be resurrected in time to save the world, in spite having no discernible talents or skills, while more talented and better skilled people and robots die around him. Again.
We’re talking a movie filled with highly trained and highly advanced soldiers, some of whom are giant, nearly indestructible robots, and one goofy college kid who gets by solely on his grandfather’s past achievements is the hero? Those soldiers, humans and robot, die left and right in all three movies — some in terribly gruesome ways (there might not be any blood, but ask your toaster how she feels seeing Autobots get ripped in twain). Somehow Sam is immune every time he rushes headlong into a robot smackdown, and the one time they could have used a dose of reality? Robot Heaven. Fuck you in the ear, Michael Bay. (And yes, I know this image is from Dark of the Moon, but it was too hilarious not to use. You’re welcome.)
Chev Chelios (Crank, 2009)
Why They Should Have Died: Chev Chelios is probably Jason Statham’s most iconic “Jason Statham” role to-date, and that means Chelios is basically a super hero in the vein of Bruce Willis from Unbreakable. But 65% less dour. The fact that Chev is alive for most of the movie at all is reason enough to suspend disbelief for a couple hours, while he runs around town at less frames per second than an 8MM camera, looking for the jerk-offs who want him dead. It’s a fantastic one-off action movie that distills the genre’s essence far better than Clive Owen’s Shoot ‘Em Up.
But once he falls out of that plane, and the expression on his face implies his heart finally stopping and he’s at peace, Chev Chelios is dead. But even if he was still alive before he hit the ground, once he does, he’s dead. Not mostly dead, dead dead. That isn’t raspberry jam coming out of his eyes and ears, that’s what is left of his brain after it exploded upon impact after reaching terminal velocity. That’s “terminal” as in “he literally can’t go any faster” without breaking the laws of physics. Hell, Chelios should be unrecognizable as a human being, much less recognizable as Jason Statham, as soon as he splatters the pavement. But then there wouldn’t be a Crank 2: High Voltage, you say? And that’s a bad thing, why?
Sid, Dewey, and Gale (Scre4m, 2011)
Why They Should Have Died: The first three Scream movies do a pretty bang up job of showing throughout the course of their runtimes how the franchise’s three leads (Sidney Prescott, Dewey Riley, and Gale Weathers) continue making the final cut and barely missing the killers’ blade. No matter how many times you may want to root for their deaths, there’s always a pretty good reason why they’re still alive — usually due to each killers’ previously non-noteworthy stupidity in the final act wherein they spend more time telling Sid why they want to kill her than actually killing her. However, Scre4m (not Scream 4, because that would be ridiculous, right?) pretty clearly establishes that Emma Roberts’ serial murderer (confusingly named Jill Roberts) is in a class above those that came before her, even if her motives are even more laughable than those that came before her.
The movie sets up the denoument in such a fashion that it is not only believable that Jill is about to get away with murder, it’s also preferable. Of course, she doesn’t. Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson walk back their own brilliance, allowing Sid, Dewey, Gale and generic storytelling another chance to live to fight another day in Scre5m. Which is a shame, because if they really wanted a new trilogy, one centering on the same killer, shifting to her perspective, and who is profoundly good at her chosen profession, would be much more interesting than anything Craven and Williamson can come up with next. Guaranteed.
Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, 2011)
Why They Should Have Died: Admittedly, this is the hardest one to write about. I was so very glad that J.K. Rowling found a way not to kill off Harry Potter at the end of the series’ last book, Deathly Hallows, because I’d been dreading it ever since she first introduced the Prophecy. As I’ve mentioned before, killing characters off for lack of a better ending rubs me the wrong way, but in this instance it makes perfect sense. Especially considering these cryptic lines from said Prophecy: “[A]nd either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.” Obviously, Voldermort would never win, but that didn’t mean Harry had to live. In fact, for several books/movies, it almost seemed like Harry would have to die in order to save the world, and those he loved most.
And he should have. Because while it would have made for an incredibly down ending to the books and the movies, Harry’s death would have carried weight with it forever. Harry Potter’s sacrifice would have been felt and celebrated for the selflessly heroic act that it was in both the fictional land of Hogwarts and in our own world for many, many years. Harry would have been like so many heroes before him, and Rowling even forces Harry to make this choice, and he does so, bravely before she undercuts him by putting a big magical bandaid on the whole thing. Unlike Shia’s jaunt to robot heaven, Harry’s trip to the wizarding afterlife is a beautiful scene made all the more powerful that he was finally with the people he really loved and at peace. He would have been, like Buffy before she too was brought back from the dead, warm and happy forever.
Harry’s survival simply doesn’t sit right. He could never have a normal life, not even normal in wizarding world terms. That’s likely why the epilogue bothers so many people — it feels to easy and quaint for everything we’ve just read/seen. It simply doesn’t feel right to have Harry Potter being a happily married middle class man with kids who goes about his day not solving the world’s crises one Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, or He Who Shall Not Be Named, at a time. Harry Potter is a hero, and heroes die for the betterment of all. Or, they should, anyway.
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force and tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar. He completely understands if you disagree with him on that last point, but the rest are inarguable. INARGUABLE.