Centurion (2010) Review (R)
Can I call a ‘time out’ like we used to do as kids? What’s that? “It’s YOUR blog, moron. You can do what you want to…” I guess you’re right. I can, so… “Time out”.
I almost forgot that it’s Friday. That’s the day that I post movie reviews, whether they be current or not. Since I have not been interested in what has been offered in theaters (since John Carter, I guess), I’ve been stuck with watching older films sans theater. I almost went to see the much hyped ‘The Hunger Games’ a week ago, but it looked like a Battle Royale/Running Man ripoff empowerment chick flick filled with political rhetoric for tweener girls, so I decided against that. This week, I was so disinterested in seeing the new ‘Titans’ movie that I didn’t even know it was being released. If you don’t know, the original… make that the remake that spawned the 2010 film… was so unspeakably horrendous (to ME), that it made the #1 spot for my Worst 10 Films of 2010. I REALLY despised that film, not just because it was incompetently written, acted, edited and directed, but because thay also insulted Ray Harryhausen within the film. If you insult Harryhausen, you’re not going to endear yourself to me. The new ‘Titans’ flick may make a gazillion pesos this weekend, but they won’t get my money. I don’t support crap… At least, I try not to support crap when I can avoid it. What was I saying? Oh, right… So I’m watching flicks on classic film channels, streaming services, and on disc at the moment AND I have a backlog of about 900 reviews (I wish I was exagerating). The hardest thing is just to pick one to post. I almost posted my first (and probably) last comic book review. I still may do that (with a little bit of a twist). The comic book was only 12 pages, but I can be a complete blowhard when I’m writing a review in an excited state… I know. You’re nodding.
So, to get back to the purpose of this blogpost. Out of all the reviews I have in line, I picked ‘Centurion”. It’s a (British?) stinker from 2010, a really good year for really bad films. It wouldn’t even my my ‘Worst 10’ list, but it’s right down there. “Time In”.
Just to begin with, this was one of those films that had ‘character posters’. That’s never a good sign. These even have descriptions of those characters. LONG descriptions… The art of the one liner to sell your film is lost in the modern era, it seems. But I did pick my favorite one to represent the movie with the lovely Olga on it. I think the director wanted to make the film about Olga and the other warrior woman, anyway. Why else would you have an extended fight scene between a ‘henchperson’ and a character destined to be killed very early in the film, with the protagonist nowhere in sight?
I realized about 25 minutes in that this was a comedy. The trouble with that, wasn’t that it was a comedy with too few laughs, but that it was intended as… I dunno… an action/period piece based on a myth about one particular regiment of the Roman Empire that disappeared fighting a faction/tribe in England known as the Picts. It was SUPPOSED to be that, but it’s more like an unintentionally humorous fantasy film with some not so hidden propaganda. It’s no accident that the members of the Roman army are the ones speaking English and the Picts (in England) speak a ‘foreign’ language. Michael Fassbender is a Roman centurion, leading the charge against the Picts. He has doubts about invading yet another foreign land and the Picts are more formidable than any other group they’ve ever faced. Obviously, director Neil Marshall is comparing the Roman Empire’s knack for conquering foreign lands to Great Britain’s role in ‘invading’ foreign lands in recent times or just attacking the US solely as the modern empire, but either way it was the wrong choice. Forget about whether you agree with him or not in his political views; it’s not a recipe for film success making the central character part of a group that would ordinarily be viewed as the bad guys, whether you make him sympathetic or not. Fassbender’s war weary hero amongst the Romans is sort of like making a villain such as Darth Vader the protagonist of the Star Wars series. Wait. Lucas did that, didn’t he? Well, it was Luke’s story for the first three films, but if you look at the last three… Or the prequels, I mean… Okay, forget I’m going down this road… If this was Fassbender as an officer in the German army circa the early 1940s and they… wait…. They did that in Das Boot didn’t they? Okay, well, in that one , I think if you’re of sound mind, you’ll be like me, and you’ll be torn watching a movie about a German sub where you’re supposed to be rooting for them. They’re Nazis. How can you root for Nazis?! The filmmakers wanted you to cheer for them every time they triumphed in some sea battle, but the entire movie I was hoping the Allies would sink the damn submarine. Centurion is basically Fassbender as that Nazi U-boat captain, but instead of fighting the Americans, the British and the rest of the Allies, they’re fighting another army that’s every bit as bad as they are. Have I digressed too far? Probably…
I should state up front, I’m not a fan of Marshall’s films. ‘The Descent’ was the horror flick he hangs his hat on, but I thought that, too, was laughable (and EXTREMELY overrated). Time Out!
The Descent was on my ‘Worst of 2006‘ list. I hated it so much, it’s one of the few films that brought a mild ‘curse word’ out of me on my blog. It was a feminist empowerment film… No, it was a wannabe Rambo with boobs movie just like Marshall’s seemed to want to do with this one. But I’m digressing, again. Time In.
Just like Marshall’s ‘The Descent’, the story of Centurion has an overpowering feminist thrust that sidesteps reality. Having a comic book villainess (Olga Kurylenko) that probably could have taken on the Romans by herself, barehanded even, just doesn’t work when you’re trying to be ‘grim and gritty’ as Marshall is desperately trying to be here. Having wafer thin models overpowering hulk-like men just isn’t my idea of ‘edgy’. If you’re going to try to do that with a straight face, though, then I guess casting a hot model like Kurylenko isn’t such a bad thing… And I kid (sort of)… I think Kurylenko is better than you would expect of the ‘model turned actress’ cliche.
That’s not the worst part of the movie, though. Far from it. The various characters speak and act with a contemporary vernacular (and posturing); another huge mistake in my opinion. I can’t stand films set in the past where the main character has contemporary values. It’s like historical ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ syndrome. I also don’t think most audience members are that stupid.
The battles were hilarious. I’m sure the director had the intent of making this a hardcore, gritty, bloody film… the trouble with that is that sometimes if everyone dies in the most extreme violent way, then it starts to become self parody, as this did. The battle scenes, especially early on, were cut together like one of those skatepunk videos where you see one stupid kid after another racking his balls on a rail or performing a face-plant onto concrete. I mean ONE AFTER ANOTHER. The intent was to depict brutal violence, but it ended up more like a Monty Python skit. There isn’t much of a story. It pretty much amounted to the Roman Army gets destroyed by the Picts in like 5 minutes. Then, three or four survivors escape and are chased for the rest of the film by a handful of Picts, including two crazy superwomen.
As soon as the ‘witch’ turns up, you can figure out how the film will end. The witch in question is Imogen Poots and she’s about as far from the traditional idea of a witch as you can get. She doesn’t even have a mole as far as I can tell. When you combine her situation, the fact that she’s really hot while being alone in the woods and that Fassbender’s character is constantly whining about the Roman Empire’s ethics while not being hooked up with anyone he cares about… Well, I could have written what this writer was going to write for him (or her). I wanted something that would surprise me. Sometimes you don’t get what you ask for. The film did have some decent cinematography, but nothing I haven’t seen done better in other films. This isn’t Marshall’s worst work, but maybe the worst I’ve seen with Fassbender or Kurylenko. They both deserved better than this.