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Credit: Warner Bros.

Chris Pine is the genre romance hero we need right now

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Aug 26, 2019, 1:00 PM EDT

Charm might not be considered a superpower, but if it was then Chris Pine would be in charge of a Justice League-style romance squad. Nuance and versatility in the roles he picks and the subsequent performances that result are two of his special abilities. It is why he has been referred to as "The Thinking Woman's Action Hero" and has many vocal supporters in the Battle of the Best Chris. He plays a traditional cad in Star Trek, Wonder Woman’s supportive boyfriend, and a dreamy dad-type in A Wrinkle in Time. Romantic subplots are expected in big franchise movies, but what makes Pine so interesting as a performer is that these characters often subvert the romantic tropes we have come to expect from a leading man. To celebrate Pine’s birthday, we are going to explore some of his softer roles and how these choices breathe new life into big blockbusters.

Steve Trevor is the first man Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) has ever seen, setting a high bar for every other dude she will encounter in the Patty Jenkins-helmed Wonder Woman. Steve is a spy and WWI hero, but he plays second fiddle to Diana. After all, this movie isn’t called Steve or Captain Trevor. As the first female-led superhero movie to come out of the DCU — beating Marvel — the role he plays is one traditionally fulfilled by a woman supporting our hero. 

Concepts like marriage are alien to Diana, as she is the fish-out-of-water in the romantic side of their dynamic. Steve gets flustered when he talks about sleeping with women, while awkwardly letting her study his naked body when she walks in on him bathing. The scene that results is both incredibly chaste and super steamy.

They tiptoe around each other, which culminates in a fireside rendezvous after a slow dance in the snow. It's a scenario straight out of a romance novel. Every other superhero movie is lagging behind this particular pairing. “You did this,” Steve tells Diana while they take in a brief respite before the next battle. Despite his bravado, he is also more than capable of giving her credit for this achievement — a massive turn-on, which leads to the fireside hook-up. Also falling into this appealing category of acknowledgment is Pine himself. Earlier this year in an interview with Variety, he talked about how he did struggle at times on the set of this movie:    

“As a leading man, it’s the male actor’s job in the pieces that I do to inhabit the role or do the job that Gal did so wonderfully in Wonder Woman. Being in the film and supporting a woman doing that job is kind of a dance between ego and soul. I’m not too proud to admit it and say that at times, I’d have 30-minute conversations with Patty; I’d look at her, and she was wonderfully patient. I’d realize it had abso-f*cking-lutely nothing to do with me.”


Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Entertainment

Steve has probably spent his entire life being the best at everything, so it is a lesson for both character and actor to learn in Wonder Woman.

He is pretty woke for the 1910s, although he loses points in the shopping sequence as he thinks adding a pair of glasses is the perfect finishing touch to make Diana look ‘normal.’ Etta Candy speaks for us all when she says, "Really? Specs? And suddenly she's not the most beautiful woman you've ever seen." This is a nod to the original Diana of the comics, but Jenkins reframes (excuse the pun) it for a contemporary audience. 

In movies, glasses are often used as costuming shorthand to disguise someone or play down hotness — from Clark Kent to Pine in the 2006 magic-infused comedy Just My Luck. Jake is a struggling band manager who can’t seem to catch a break. He wears unflattering clothes and glasses, but a smooch with a stranger (played by Lindsay Lohan) turns his bad luck into good. This movie ticks a lot of cliché boxes, but the specs makeover is something that is usually reserved for women (while men wear glasses to protect their superhero identity). He’s also a real sweetheart and it is hard not to fall for him in this movie. 

Pine's romantic genre roles range the gamut, however, from a hapless band manager to a hot science dad. In A Wrinkle in Time, Pine's Dr. Alex Murry and Dr. Kate Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are a dream team until Alex disappears, seemingly into thin air. Before this devastating event tears this family apart, they present their out-there ideas together, eye-banging on stage while talking quantum physics. Not only does Dr. Murry rock the hot salt and pepper speckled beard, but he’s wearing tweed with sneakers. He’s an academic, but a cool one. A star pin on his lapel is an on theme accessory that only adds to his cute dad vibe.  

Love is what the Murrys believe is the key to traveling through time and space, which is met with jeers from the scientific community. There is no doubt that Alex is alive; both his wife and their daughter Meg (Storm Reid) think his theory proved to be correct. His intelligence is a turn-on, but it also gets him into trouble as ambition comes between Alex and his family. In the end, love will also save him when his daughter comes to his aid.

Again, Pine is playing a role that has been gender-flipped, given that he's technically the damsel-in-distress. For Alex to get home, he has to rely on his daughter in a fun twist on this particular narrative arc. 

Paramount Pictures

Credit: Paramount Pictures 

Pine typically gets the girl, but in the 2009 Star Trek reboot Uhura (Zoe Saldana) ends up with Spock (Zachary Quinto) instead. It is not that Kirk doesn’t try, but he just isn’t particularly smooth in his attempts. Arrogance is part of who James Kirk is. He is very sure of himself, both in his abilities with women and at work. A character like this can fall into jerk territory pretty quickly, but thankfully, there is enough humor and rejection of his brutish ways. In short, he is a cad who quite often fails to score.

These movies are far from perfect when it comes to how women are presented as objects to lust after — see this very bad scene from Star Trek: Into Darkness — but it is refreshing that Kirk is not the smooth operator he believes he is, even if that particular signature smirk would be hard to ignore.

Part of Pine’s versatility is the fact that he can play against type, but in the Disney adaptation of Into the Woods, his portrayal of Cinderella’s Prince is purposefully on the nose. The best moment of this entire movie is his duet with Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel’s Prince. For every trope Pine avoids in the other roles discussed here, strong comedic chops are required to sell this purposefully over-the-top version of a classic archetype. A waterfall provides the stage for this epic sing-off as both princes believe their situation is unique. Shirts are ripped open, hero poses are made, and each sells the narcissism of their character. This song is anything but "Agony." Prince Charming is far too arrogant to ever be soft, even if he would love to be viewed as a guy who understands women. 

One thread that runs throughout most of these romantic examples is humor, whether in Pine's portrayal or in the character knowing the value of being able to laugh at himself. Charm and an ability to peel back the emotional layers is another repeated theme, which is what makes him not only a great leading man but also a wonderful supporting character. Ultimately, Chris Pine's softness is just one of the reasons he is the Best Chris (and not just because today is his birthday).    

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.

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