Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Amok From Alita Battle Angel Looks So Familiar

It's been over a year since Robert Rodriguez unleashed his sci-fi spectacular Alita: Battle Angel on the masses. Released in the heat of the 2019 summer movie season, the effects-heavy feature didn't really land with critics or set the U.S. box office ablaze. Alita did, however, play quite well in foreign markets. As for U.S. audiences, those who did buy a ticket to Rodriguez's wild cinematic ride continue to beat the drum of Alita: Battle Angel being an unheralded modern sci-fi classic, that should be getting a lot more love (and even a blockbuster continuation).The jury is still very much out on that potential sequel, but if one thing's for certain about Alita, it's that Rodriguez crafted an eye-popping cyperpunk fantasia with the film — one that's undoubtedly best experienced on the big screen.

Set in a desolate future 300 years after Earth was decimated by a great war, Alita: Battle Angel follows the tale of the titular young cyborg (Rosa Salazar) whose human brain, fierce combat skills, and unexpected military background uniquely qualify her to challenge the authority of the world's wealthy rulers, and possibly even restore the balance of power on Earth itself. Anchored by a fiery turn from rising star Salazar (largely delivered through motion capture), Rodriguez surrounded his young star with a killer cast of supporting players including Oscar winners Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, and Christophe Waltz. 

Some savvy fans might've noticed another familiar face in the Alita cast, though. He was admittedly hard to recognize behind a cybernetic eye, but that was indeed Casper Van Dien portraying the murderous cyborg Amok in the film. But if you're still having trouble placing his face, here's why Amok from Alita: Battle Angel looks so familiar. 

Casper Van Dien battled really big bugs in Starship Troopers

If you have been following Casper Van Dien's career over the decades, you likely know the actor has more than a few B-movie credits to his name. You probably also know that among those B-movies there's a legitimate genre masterpiece directed by one of cinema's more peculiar talents.

That director is big screen rabble-rouser Paul Verhoeven, who's made a career of crafting compelling, if sometimes campy, cinematic confections that tend to push the boundaries of good taste (see RobocopShowgirlsBasic Instinct, and Elle among others). In the fall of 1997, Verhoeven turned his singular vision to outer space to tell an alien invasion story the likes of which movies had never seen before, or even since. As for the film, it was called Starship Troopers, and it found mankind under siege by a vile faction of gigantic insects from another planet. It also found a group of overeager teens signing up to wage war against the bugs by land, air, and mind. Casper Van Dien was front and center for much of the gore-tastic action in Starship Troopers as Johnny Rico, an idyllic upper crust kid who struggles to survive, conquer, and maintain a sense of self first in a fascistic human society, then in alien landscapes overrun by vicious gargantuan arthropods.

Those battles are as epic, gory, schlocky, and giddily melodramatic as one might expect from a Paul Verhoeven film. The satirical film is also steeped in searing political commentary that's probably more relevant today than it was upon release, all of which has helped Starship Troopers earn serious cult cred, and a fiercely devoted fanbase as a full-tilt, deeply misunderstood masterpiece.

Casper Van Dien lost the girl (and his head) in Sleepy Hollow

As out there as they can get, the films of Tim Burton are probably a touch more mainstream than those of Paul Verhoeven. Still, Burton was pushing buttons as well as any left-of-center filmmaker throughout the nineties, scoring unexpected hits in offbeat ventures like Edward ScissorhandsEd Wood, and Mars Attacks!, to name a few. The end of the decade found Burton re-teaming with his frequent star Johnny Depp for an adaption of Washington Irving's classic horror short The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Burton shortened the name to Sleepy Hollow, but the director (along with Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker) fleshed out Irving's intensely eerie world in ways the author never could've imagined, making a most human delight of a tale consumed by supernatural frights. Depp is, naturally, the star of the show, as Ichabod Crane, a mercilessly teased big city constable dispatched to the small titular burg to use his unusual methods to solve a series of vicious murders, all of which have left the victims without their heads.There he meets the woman of his dreams (Christina Ricci), and also the roguish local who only has eyes for her. Van Dien, then, is that very brawny bloke. 

And the actor delivers one of his best performances as the detestable Brom Van Brunt — even when he meets his inevitably brutal end.

Casper Van Dien tended every bar in town for Con Man

Casper Van Dien has worked steadily on the fringes of Hollywood for decades, but not many filmmakers have ever hired the square-jawed actor for his comedic chops. Anyone who checked in with Alan Tudyk's deliriously funny, Emmy-nominated Hollywood satire Con Man were likely kicking themselves for not seeing Van Dien's comedic potential. And Tudyk (FireflyTucker and Dale vs. EvilDoom Patrol) makes glorious use of Van Dien's presence throughout. 

If you've yet to catch up with Con Man, the series (about an actor from a beloved, short-lived sci-fi series struggling to move on from the role he's best-known for) was essentially Alan Tudyk's baby, with the actor writing, producing, and starring in every single episode, and even directing half of them. The crowd-funded series is also obviously more than a little biographical for Tudyk, who's still largely recognized for his work as Wash in Firefly, and has spent more than his fair share of time on the convention circuit. As it is, Tudyk has more than a little bit of fun skewering the absurdities of the entertainment biz, the sci-fi convention scene, and even himself. In doing so, he called in favors from a rogue's gallery of his former co-stars and convention pals for appearances, with the likes of Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Wil Wheaton, Sean Astin, Felicia Day, Joss Whedon, Summer Glau, and Stan Lee joining the fray.

As for Casper Van Dien, he made eight uproarious appearances on Con Man, portraying the dashing, mostly silent bartender John, who hilariously happens to be the bartender of every disparate bar Tudyk visits in the series. 

Casper Van Dien broke through as a hunky 90210 bro

The small-screen realm was, is — and will likely remain — ground zero for any young actor trying to break into showbiz. That was as true in the 1990s as any decade, with networks big and small earning robust ratings from a trove of dramatic shows featuring hot, young stars doing the sorts of things hot, young stars do in such generically engineered TV shows. Of those teen-centric series, few were quite as popular (or polarizing) as Fox's iconic high school drama Beverly Hills, 90210. Likewise, not many series launched quite as many careers, with the likes of Hilary Swank, David Arquette, Walton Coggins, Matthew Perry, and Aaron Paul making early appearances on the show.

Casper Van Dien joined their ranks in the fifth season of Beverly Hills, 90210, which found the core group of players all having left the hallowed halls of West Beverly High, and entering their sophomore year of college. It also found Donna (Tori Spelling) dating one of Steve's (Ian Zeiring) KEG frat brothers, an absurdly handsome lad named Griffin Stone, portrayed by a fresh-faced Casper Van Dien.

Van Dien appeared as Griffin in seven of Beverly Hills, 90201's season five episodes, eventually working his way out of the group's orbit after a Christmas rave organized by he and Steve literally goes up in flames, nearly killing series regular Kelly (Jennie Garth) and another girl. And as far as short-term arcs go for Beverly Hills, 90210, Casper Van Dien's turn as the despicably self-entitled smarm-meister Griffin still ranks among the most memorable.