My Theory That Kurt Russell’s Characters Are Actually All The Same Person

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Big Trouble in Little China copyright 1986 20th Century Fox

Kurt Russell is one of my favorite actors to watch. His plucky charm seems to radiate from his somehow perfectly round, and perfectly sharp at the same time, face. Even in roles like MacReady from The Thing, or Snake Plissken from Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., roles where he plays hardened men with no love for the world, Russell still brings that tongue-in-cheek element to them, peppered with a spice only he has.

One of the fun things to watch an actor do, for me, is to use their roles to explore different sides of themselves. In this way, with some actors, each role they play becomes essentially a different version of themselves; the same character reacting to a different set of circumstances.

So, I submit to you, some of Kurt Russell’s characters are actually all the same person. He changes his name and moves from place to place or time to time, but he is the same character. This doesn’t line up with every single movie Kurt Russell has done but more than a few of them line up for me. (Spoilers to follow) Here’s how I see it:

The Thing (1982) Dir. John Carpenter

Kurt Russell, a helicopter pilot, stuck at Outpost 31 in Antarctica has quite a day fighting off a John Carpenter alien that can assume any organic form. After the alien kills everyone but two people, Kurt Russell ostensibly blows it to hell with dynamite. Needless to say, Kurt Russell had seen some shit at this point.

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The Thing copyright 1982 Universal Pictures

He watched all of his friends die brutally and is now most likely questioning his reality. Kurt Russell needs a break. So he mangages his way back to the States and picks up a job as a truck driver.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986) Dir. John Carpenter

After going a little insane because of the event in Antarctica, Kurt Russell has donned a new attitude towards life.

“I’m a reasonable guy. But, I’ve just experienced some very unreasonable things.” – Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in BTILC

Kurt Russell ends up “leading” a group of rag-tag do-gooders to rescue his friend’s fiancé from an ancient, evil, mystical, Chinese sorcerer. He somehow, manages to keep his cool throughout all of it.

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Big Trouble in Little China copyright 1986 20th Century Fox

“I’m not saying I’ve been everywhere and I’ve done everything. But I do know this is a pretty amazing planet we live on here. And a man would have to be some kind of fool to think we’re all alone in this universe.” – Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in BTILC

After Kurt Russell’s experience with aliens and sorcerers – not to mention his tactical experience and his problem solving skills, Kurt feels that maybe he has a future in law enforcement…

Tango and Cash (1989) Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky, Albert Magnoli, Peter MacDonald, Stuart Baird

…So Kurt Russell becomes the greatest police officer that the west coast has ever seen. Contested only by Sylvester Stallone’s character in Tango and Cash, a really excellent 90s buddy cop movie. Kurt Russell and Sly are oil and water when it comes to crimefighting, but they have to learn to work together when they’re framed for murder.

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Tango and Cash copyright 1989 Warner Bros.
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Modified 88’Chevy Silverado in Tango and Cash, copyright 1989 Warner Bros.

The movie ends is a fiery explosion with, what I would call, an apocalypse mobile: a modified 88′ Chevy Silverado.

Now that Kurt russell has even more tactical experience and, arguably, some paramilitary experience…why not join the U.S. military…?

Stargate (1994) Dir. Roland Emmerich

Kurt Russell becomes a Colonel in U.S. Air Force. Because of his encounters with aliens and the generally unexplained, Kurt Russell is put in charge of a special team that will travel across the galaxy, through a wormhole machine, to another planet, get into a fight with more aliens and save the local proletariat from their overlords.

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Stargate copyright 1994 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

If you’ve ever watched and episode of Stargate SG-1, then you know that shenanigans can happen with a Stargate. You could be sent to a jail world. You could end up (back) in antarctica. You could be sent back in time because of a solar flare…

Escape from New York (1981) and Escape from L.A. (1996) as episodes of Stargate, Dir. John Carpenter

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Escape from New York copyright 1981 AVCO Embassy Pictures

…You could be sent to a jail world, where all of your crazy experience helps you survive and escape the post-apocalyptic island of New York and then a not-this-again episode where the same thing happens in L.A.

Tombstone (1993) as an episode of Stargate Dir. George P. Cosmatos, Kevin Jarre

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Tombstone copyright 1993 Buena Vista Pictures

…You could be sent back in time to the old west and became a lawman because you can’t get back to your own time and being a lawman is all you know…

This is where Kurt Russell finally gets stuck; in the old west. He lives out his life as a lawman and eventually becomes a bounty hunter in…

The Hateful Eight (2015) Dir. Quentin Tarantino

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The Hateful Eight copyright 2015 The Weinstein Company

Okay, granted, the Stargate thing sort of breaks everything, it’s not a perfect theory, OKAY! Kurt Russell’s roll as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 would also allow a blanket theory that he is, in fact, the same character in every Kurt Russell movie. Honorable mention to Death Proof (2007, Dir.  Quentin Tarantino) which probably fits in just after Tango and Cash somewhere on account of Kurt Russell’s new found love for extreme automobiling after his ride in the apocalypse mobile. 

 

Top Three for Twenty Seventeen

But weren’t actually released in 2017…

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Arrival, Swiss Army Man, The Witch

I have no idea what this blog is going to look like, or what the point is, other than for me to talk about movies that I love. So I guess I’ll just get it going with the best three movies I’ve watched in 2017 so far.

It’s been a pretty good couple of years for movies. Plenty of silly, high budget blockbusters that act like a fishing rod on my wallet. Seriously, I can see a Marvel Studios executive casting a line to cartoonishly hook the twelve bucks out of my pocket and say “I’ll take that…” as they reel it in. Curse you Marvel Studios for continuing to make movies that I like.

But I digress. Not only have there been money-sponging movies that generate their own gravity, but also plenty of movies that fall into a more [insert pretentious word here] category. The three best movies I’ve seen this year, I would say, fall under this category. They are, in no particular order: Arrival, Swiss Army Man, and The VVitch (I’m a sucker for that double ‘V’). Each of these movies sort of blew my mind in a way.  Each was wonderfully fresh and original.

 

Arrival (2016) Dir. Denis Villeneuve

Arrival is an extremely important movie right now. It advocates communication and understanding on an entirely basic level. When aliens land on earth with no explanation, the world’s governments scramble to learn why they’ve come and what their intentions are. They employ a linguistics expert to attempt to make contact and initiate a dialog with said aliens. I was sold on this movie when the military industrial complex character charged the linguistics/scientist characters to get these questions answered, and the linguistics/scientist characters answered the MIC character with- we need to make sure these aliens understand the concept of what a question is first.

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Arrival, Photo Copyright Paramount Pictures 2016

We’re living in a time when it seems like people are struggling to understand each other- an environment that germinates fear. Arrival offers us an example of a patient path to communication, and by virtue, a path to world with less fear.

 

Swiss Army Man (2016) Dir. Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan

I wish I had seen this movie when I was 16. Swiss Army Man explores ideas about people and our relationships with them and the rest of the world in a hilariously unapologetic way. It asks questions like: why can’t we talk about life openly? Why can’t we talk about farting and sex? The answer is, obviously, we can. But there are so many convoluted taboos in society that it’s often difficult, on a micro and macro level, to talk about stuff like that.  A good movie, I think, reveals some truth in a way. Swiss Army Man nails what it means to fit into society, relationships, and your own heads.

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Swiss Army Man, Photo Copyright A24 2016

Daniel Radcliff playing a dead guy is friggin halarious and the movie is  worth watching just for that. But what sold it for me was the incredible soundtrack, that has sort of an Animal Collective meets Radical Face sound, and the quirky, found material set design.

 

The VVitch (2015) Dir. Robert Eggers

It can be difficult to find well made horror movies. So many of them these days rely on shallow jump scares and creepiness for creepiness sake. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love those things too. Plenty of movies that I’ll probably end up talking about in later posts use these methods. But The VVitch taps into a deeper, shiver-inducing, psyche. It’s set in 17th century, puritan New England. So already there’s the off-putting, heavy-handed, religious society aspect about everything. Maybe it’s just me, but religious oligarchies wig me out, so already I’m on edge with the setting. The film continues to create a fantastically unnerving setting when the main characters are shunned from the town and isolate themselves on a farm by the edge of a forest- where dwells, you guessed it, the witch.

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The Witch, Photo Copyright A24 2015

This movie is ALL about atmosphere. There really aren’t any jump scares and when there is gore, the gore has value beyond shock. The cinematography was perhaps my favorite thing about it (other than the fact that I love witches). Each shot was reminiscent of an old Dutch painting, where light is just as much of a character as any of the people in it. The director doesn’t skimp on metaphor either. The character of the father chops away ceaselessly at a pile of wood. The movie contextualizes this to show that with each piece of wood he stacks, he is stubbornly authoring his own ending.

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The Witch, Photo Copyright A24 2015

And speaking of endings…horror movies with good, let alone great, endings are few and far between. But the ending of The VVitch  is peeeerrrfect.