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Greatest Classic Adventure Characters: 5 Roles That Live On Through Big Screen

By    |   Thursday, 23 April 2015 10:46 AM

Adventure? Excitement? Moviegoers crave all these things, and those cravings have been satisfied by classic characters who pitch us headlong into a bigger world on the big screen.

Here are five memorable adventurers:

1. Indiana Jones, The "Indiana Jones" movies:
Harrison Ford's reluctant hero has become an icon through four movies, harkening back to the days of the cliffhanger with a wink and a crooked-grin nod to the jut-jawed heroes of Saturday serials past.

Reviewing the third Indy installment, Chicago critic Roger Ebert said of Ford, " ... what he does seems so easy, so deadpan, that few other actors could maintain such a straight and credible presence in the midst of such chaos."

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2. Captain Nemo, "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" and other movies: Jules Verne's driven and vengeful submarine commander has been portrayed by any number of actors in any number of movies and TV shows. Though Naseeruddin Shah's portrayal in 2003's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is thought to be more faithful to Verne's concept of Nemo as an Indian prince, most Americans think of James Mason’s more Western portrayal of the Nautilus's enigmatic commander.

Steve Biodrowsky, reviewing the 1958 Disney movie for Hollywood Gothique, singled out Mason's portrayal for a level of character complexity unusual for Disney.

3. Fred C. Dobbs, "Treasure of the Sierra Madre:" "One of the movie characters everybody can name," is how Ebert summed up Humphrey Bogart's gold-seeker driven mad by greed in this 1948 film.

"Bogart fearlessly makes Fred C. Dobbs into a pathetic, frightened, selfish man — so sick we would be tempted to pity him, if he were not so undeserving of pity," Ebert said.

4. Sherlock Holmes: Conan Doyle's cerebral sleuth has been portrayed on screen as everything from a suave, incisive reasoner to a drug-addled, socially unskilled mad genius. Among the detective’s big-screen incarnations, Basil Rathbone's contemporary 1930s-1940s portrayal stands tall.

"To many he remains the iconic image of the great detective," wrote Holmes scholar Randall Stock in his online listing of his 10 favorite Rathbone Holmes movies.

Since then, Holmes movies have reflected the times in which they were made, from Nicol Williamson's cocaine-addled sleuth of the 1976 "The Seven Per Cent Solution" to Robert Downey Jr.'s sociopathically smart steampunk bruiser of the 2000s.

5. Mr. Spock, "Star Trek" series:
Though "Star Trek" boss Gene Roddenberry was told by network brass to "lose the Martian," the character of Mr. Spock went on, as National Public Radio noted, "to become the most beloved half-alien in network history. In fact he went on to become, well, one of the most fascinating fictional characters on TV."

And that appeal only grew with the size of the screen. Starfleet's finest first officer transformed from an intriguing enigma on the small screen to the Enterprise's elder statesman on the big screen. The character even made the big-screen jump to a rewritten universe before the death of the man who brought him to life, Leonard Nimoy.

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Adventure? Excitement? Moviegoers crave all these things, and those cravings have been satisfied by classic characters who pitch us headlong into a bigger world on the big screen.
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Thursday, 23 April 2015 10:46 AM
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