Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Prometheus" marks end of arrival for Michael Fassbender

I always feel robbed when an indie film star finally hits a stride of mainstream hits, and very quickly ceases to be mine. Michael Fassbender wasn't a cinder of non-existence at the start of last year, having had plenty more than memorable roles in the few years prior. His winning single-chapter stint in "Inglourious Basterds" was my first brush with the transformative actor, playing a charismatic connoisseur of cinema. Indeed he has taken in cinema of a rather wide branch, from his less known, but far more devastating work on films like "Hunger" and "Fish Tank", Fassbender is now one of the latest exciting commodities in mainstream film.

"Prometheus", which released recently to high buzz followed by declining critical and box office returns, does mark a certain climax in terms of this massive arrival party for Fassbender. It seems all too appropriate, given he's playing a corporate robot of massive intellectual properties who defies rational behavior to achieve his goals. The fact that Fassbender has had such a dynamite reception as of recent is some kind of oddity, though he has honestly been silently paving the way for a boom of activity that rushes him into the public interest. His work in mainstream cinema actually goes all the way back to 2007.

Fassbender had somewhat anonymously constructed role in a little film called "300". While Zack Snyder's film may be utterly lacking in originality, quite obviously, Fassbender added a stunning degree of grounded masculinity, all summed up in his "Then we will fight in the shade" moment. Just a year after "300", Fassbender truly saw his opening to the greater world in the form of "Hunger", a powerful and jarring study of human frailty made all the more potent by his calculatedly physical and emotional draining throughout the film. It's given so much more vigor by the passion and energy he displays in a single long discussion with Liam Cunningham's character. For a film so fantastically steeped in visually cinematic qualities, this moment is where everything runs to a hault, and we're focusing so attentively to movement and voice.

After "Hunger", Fassbender had the weighty job of following up a confronting performance in a way that doesn't disprove the talent he showed potential for. He made quite a good decision in pairing up with director Andrea Arnold for "Fish Tank", which gave him quite the morally ambitious role to tide over the physical ambition he had previously displayed. The following year had Fassbender filling out a portfolio of sorts, taking the aforementioned role in "Inglourious Basterds", but also a small role in comic book western flop "Jonah Hex". Though the film didn't pan out, Fassbender made it rather safely through the ordeal, less scathed than the higher profile actors on the film.

Fassbender also found the time to headline Neil Marshall's action thriller "Centurion", which would go on to later gain a sort of cult following amongst male-centric viewers. Then came 2011, which was the year he truly arrived in the mainstream eye. Starting things with "Jane Eyre", a gloomy and airy adaptation which found bountiful enough reasons for existence through the strong performances of the cast, quite specifically Fassbender, whose presence was so magnetic and fixing as to keep me attached to the screen through the duration. I admittedly didn't warm to the film until late last year, not to the point of adoration, but understanding.

"X-Men: First Class" is the film that more publicly heralded his public arrival, and he admittedly is as strong, magnetic, and weighty as usual in the film. I don't take issue with his performance, and it makes me wish the film weren't so utterly obnoxious and blatantly misogynistic in its tendencies. The year's end brought two potential Oscar bids, one being the honestly rather too grounded and somewhat dull performance he gave in "A Dangerous Method". Not truly terrible, but not quite appreciable. And then there's "Shame", which rather wickedly and creepily twists Fassbender's usual charm to terrifying depths of humanity, alongside an equally entrancing performance from Carey Mulligan, I might add.

Coming full circle to 2012, Fassbender seems to have another year of portfolio building this time around. He had a very short stint in "Haywire", and really felt like he was just there to be thrown away. "Prometheus" represents a similar effort as "X-Men: First Class", where Fassbender does much more than simply astonish, and in fact builds a character that's above the drivel of the film, and he knows it. It sets a strong standard for where to go from here, and to that effect he is reuniting with two directors. "The Counselor" brings him quickly back to Ridley Scott, but more promisingly to a script by Cormac McCarthy, and "12 Years A Slave" has him reuniting with his most frequent collaborator, Steve McQueen.

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