This movie wants to be so much more than it is, which is probably Centurion‘s fatal flaw. It steals material from previous films of the same subject matter. The fire mothballs from Troy? Check. Running away from pursuers through diverse landscapes from Lord of the Rings? Check. A femme fatale with a similar backstory to Eva Green’s Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire? Check. A lead actor from 300? Check. Lead character named Quintus and mention of Gladiator to make us think of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece? Check.
References to other films can be fun if they’re done right, although it’s harder to make them fun if you’re trying to delve into an action epic. The above checklist provides no entertainment nor productive material. It only distracts us from the hesitant product we’re being introduced to.
Director Neil Marshall’s screenplay has some glaring problems with plot and character. In terms of plot, Fassbender’s Quintus Dias is just kinda there at the right time. He doesn’t have to be there, he just..is. He’s a pretty uninspiring character. No defining features other than the want to survive and the brotherhood spiel, which isn’t portrayed adequately enough to arouse much emotion. As talented an actor as Michael Fassbender is, Centurion is perhaps the quintessential opposite: a leaking, poorly-made bucket that has not enough range or need for such a talented cast. Michael Fassbender alone overfills this bucket and that’s without including The Walking Dead‘s David Morrissey and Game of Throne‘s Liam Cunningham. Something tells me Dominic West, who also starred in 300, and Olga Kurylenko are probably above this, too.
In terms of story, we have no moral obligation or reasoning for why we should support Quintus. Yes, he’s a Roman being attacked by Picts. Thing is, he wouldn’t be attacked by Picts if he wasn’t invading their land and pillaging their villages, things we never see but we can safely assume occurred. We don’t need to know about the Roman cause but I suppose for the want of historical honesty, Marshall wants to give us a full plate. Wouldn’t be a big deal if it didn’t interfere with our character alignment. It does.
For example, this is a bit of a spoiler although I found it spotlighted early on. Kurylenko’s Etain is a tracker and ruthless hunter, who is given the task of leading West’s Virilus and Fassbender’s Quintus to the Picts headquarters. Instead, she leads them into an ambush.
Marshall throws a
curveball palmball right down the middle when it’s revealed Etain has sided with the Picts, which none all of us saw coming. Virilus feels betrayed and asks why this is the case and Gorlacon, the leader of the Picts, explains that as a young child, Etain’s father was murdered by Roman soldiers and her mother was raped countless times until she begged for death. Then Etain was raped herself and to tap it all off, she had her tongue cut out so she could never speak ill of the Romans who did this. The Picts brought her in as one of their own.
Then Virilus is like, “Traitor!” and Marshall spends the remainder of the film trying to paint Etain as a heinous she-devil. Virilus is freed and duels with Etain and during the short exchange, you can tell Marshall’s trying to be the puppeteer of our emotions. I was not going to have my mind twisted with.
I’m not saying I didn’t give this movie a chance. I felt I was giving it chances left and right. What I am saying is that I’m not going to let someone tell me what I’m allowed to feel and what I’m not. How can you expect to breed hate in me for someone who watched her parents murdered and tortured and was raped herself and had her tongue cut out? I found myself questioning whether Marshall thought he was that manipulative or if he thought everyone in the world was as merciless and twisted as the Romans and we’d just go along with it because he said so like a child ordered to bed after a spanking. This is not a reprimanding lecture from our parents, Mr. Marshall. This is a movie, and if you would like to remain in this profession, you might want to take people’s minds into account when you make a film that not only insults your audience’s intelligence, but their conscience.
It was that scene, which occurs roughly 30 minutes in, that hinted as to how bad this movie was going to be. Some may say, “Well if you don’t go with the agenda of course you aren’t going to like it.” From my perspective, agenda means plot points, not trying to magnetize my sense of good and bad and flip it upside down.
My disgust with this screenplay was evident but there was a saltine cracker or two along the filthy roach-infested motel floor that made me want to stay with this film till the end. Perhaps I have become more lenient to watching putrid films since starting this blog. On the other hand, maybe it was two in the morning and I just really wanted to watch a movie.
Morrissey and Cunningham were the proponents that kept me around for this. They tried the hardest. By the halfway point, I think Fassbender started to wither a little inside as he came to the realization that he should have never done this film.
Yet, with all of its hassles, Centurion still managed to be a mediocre film until it gave up on itself at the end and just pissed everyone off.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Young Guns, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Expendable 3, Homefront, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Vantage Point, The Starving Games)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Billy Madison, A Haunted House, 300: Rise of an Empire, Cowboys and Aliens)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice, The Contract)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Safe, Watchmen, Clash of the Titans, A Haunted House 2)
My score for Centurion: 35.
Centurion remains pretty bland and uninviting for all of its compressed running time but managed to retain a score in the 40’s before it ended by collapsing in an agonizing mess.
Also, this is my 200th blog post guys and gals! CHEERS!!!