It’s been a month since actor Anton Yelchin was killed at age 27 in a freak automobile accident. If you missed it in the news, Yelchin was crushed to death when his Jeep rolled down an incline and pinned him against a brick wall. It’s always tragic when anyone is taken so suddenly and senselessly, but particularly when they’ve barely had a chance to live. Maybe it strikes even closer to home for me after my son Myles was nearly killed in an auto accident two years ago. He was just a few years younger than Yelchin at the time.
Mercifully, Myles survived, recovered and hopefully will grow to a very, very old age. Yechin will not. But like other young actors lost too soon — River Phoenix, James Dean, Heath Ledger, just to name a few — Yelchin has a certain immortality through the work he produced.
I can’t say I’ve seen the bulk of what Yelchin was in over his brief time on Earth, but I thought I’d at least share three of his essential science fiction / fantasy roles. Links to my reviews of these movies are included.
Terminator: Salvation. Although the film was panned as one of the worst of the Terminator series (Terminator Genysis wasn’t out yet), Yelchin did a admirable job playing Kyle Reese. The Reese character is a pivotal one of course, for without him there’s no John Connor, no rebellion against the machines, no chance to save the human race. Yelchin’s Reese is still a teenager pretending to be a man, fighting a lonely battle against the machines in the ruins of Los Angeles. He’s a very serious guy, but you can still see the innate goodness, empathy and leadership qualities which made Sarah Connor fall for him years later. (Or is it years earlier? So hard to say with time travel movies.)
Star Trek.Yelchin was a regular in this reboot of the classic 1960s TV series, including in the just released Star Trek Beyond. He played Russian crew member Pavel Chekov, a role originated by Walter Koenig. Because Yelchin is actually Russian (his parents defected to the US during the tail end of the Cold War), this must’ve been an easy gig for him. The scene in Star Trek where Chekov valiantly but incomprehensibly relays information over the intercom in his thick accent still makes me chuckle. Although his screen time was brief, his energy exemplified the youthful spirit of Starfleet.
Fright Night.In this remake of the 1980s classic, Yelchin played a teenager named Charlie Brewster who discovered that a vampire had moved in next door. The original film was a great example of a campy urban horror story, but camp always creates problems including, in this case at least, several melodramatic performances and a lame subplot. Ultimately, Yelchin’s updated Charlie is more authentic when compared to William Ragsdale’s. We can all be happy that Anton traded in the corduroy jacket for clothing actually worn by teens — and generally behaved more like a high school boy. Although the remake was still inferior to the original, Yelchin was a definitely ray of sunshine. (Get it? Vampire joke. Heh.)
What Anton Yelchin performances did you enjoy? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.