Anton Yelchin tragically passed on June 19, but as an everyman protagonist, he’s left his mark in cinema history. Yelchin started gaining notice in Hollywood in 2000 in numerous TV shows from ER, The Practice, Judging Amy and numerous feature films like Along Came a Spider, Hearts of Atlantis, Alpha Dog, and 15 Minutes. His hard work paid off as he gained more starring roles leading up to his most famous role in the J. J. Abrams Star Trek reboot as Pavel Chekov.
Here are my list of the most memorable films of Yelchin’s career.
Fright Night (2011)
In this remake, Yelchin steps into the shoes of William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, a teenager who discovers his neighbor, Jerry (Colin Ferrell) is a vampire. While the remake not as good as the original, Yelchin is a good contrast to Ferrell as a man trying to do everything he can do to protect his loved ones. Their chemistry makes this film watchable.
Director Craig Gillespie does a serviceable job building up to the inevitable conflict, but given the way the characters were written, you didn’t really need Charley’s mom, Jane (Toni Collette) and Peter Vincent (David Tennant) for this film to work.
Odd Thomas (2014)
Directed by Stephen Sommers and based on the Dean Koontz novel, Odd Thomas combines the premise of Constantine and The Sixth Sense with Yelchin as the title character. As a short-order cook, he develops clairvoyant abilities while trying to stop impending dark forces. Joined by his childhood sweetheart, Stormy (Addison Timlin) and a local sheriff (Willem Dafoe), it becomes a race against stop the forces of evil.
I felt Yelchin’s performance was more polished in Odd Thomas than his in Fright Night, which many times felt like a checklist to appease the fans than an attempt to make a serviceable update. It flowed as well as a Sommers’ adventures in the Mummy and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I would have lightened up a little on the narration.
Terminator: Salvation (2009)
While the film featured Christian Bale as the main protagonist in John Connor and Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright, you saw Yelchin cast as Kyle Reese, John’s future father. Yelchin captured Reese’s nobility, resourcefulness and scrappy nature. While the plot of the film became convoluted, Director McG did capture the essence of the Reese character in a way Alan Taylor sorely missed with Terminator: Genisys. It’s a testament to Yelhcin’s way of portraying Reese with a sense of urgency and never wasting his time as well as being useful in advancing the plot he way Jai Courtney failed to do.
Green Room (2015)
In what’s perhaps the most critically acclaimed film of his career, The Green Room features Yelchin as Pat, leading member of the punk band, “The Ain’t Rights.” The band find themselves locked up after performing upon discovering a grisly scene. The horror masterpiece, written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier offers a more traditional and psychological approach in horror in a CG-laden era.
The film really grew on me for two reasons. First, it offered a rare opportunity to see Star Trek alumni Patrick Stewart as the antagonist as Darcy Bunker. He played his role devilishly cerebral. I’m a big fan of outside the box thinking particularly since most of Stewart’s known work has been associated with Star Trek, X-Men and renowned status as a Shakespearen actor.
Secondly, it’s a tale of true survival. While it may sound like a broken record, the role of Pat is perfect fit for Yelchin who can play the beaten up everyman who perseveres while having the charisma to give him the personality to make him relatable.
Star Trek (2009) Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) Star Trek Beyond (2016)
While it’s an easy choice to list Pavel Chekov as Yelchin’s best, it does take a lot of pressure on a cast particularly the history of the franchise. Yes, Yelchin has a thick accent for the role, but rather than just pulling off an impression of Walter Koenig, Yelchin’s Chekov is fun, intrinsic, reliable and goes anywhere when needed. There’s a childlike, yet precocious nature about Chekov wanting to help every which way. While Chekov didn’t stand out as much in Star Trek Into Darkness, Yelchin did capture his eagerness and high energy particularly in the scene when he’s trying to transport people who are in motion.
That’s what I remember best about Yelchin in his roles, a scrappy, resourceful everyman trying to do good.