2017 was not a good year for Michael Fassbender; The Snowman melted into a puddle of slush at the box office, Assassin’s Creed should have been assassinated before it got made, and it was lights out for The Light Between the Oceans. What was the reason for all these duds, bombing at the box office one by one like a set of dominos falling?
Can the fault lie solely with Michael Fassbender or is it down to poor management and several films being released all at once (for example Alien: Covenant and The Snowman were shot in 2016, Assassin’s Creed in 2015, Trespass Against Us and The Light Between Oceans in 2014 and Song to Song as long ago as 2012.) Perhaps audiences have got a little sick of seeing Fassbender turn up in every other film being shown at the theatre?
It’s not that Fassbender is a bad actor. In fact, if he is given the right material he can churn out an excellent performance like the ones seen in Hunger, Shame, Fish Tank and 12 Years a Slave, and Steve Jobs. Michael Fassbender has a way of disappearing into his characters and his willingness to take on any character whether they be a sex addict or psychotic planation owner, is something to be admired. He gives off a sense of menance and danger, which makes him quite marketable as a bad guy, or a character with questionable motives.
Even where Fassbender is playing the ‘good guy’ he still gives off this impression that his character is going to snap at any moment, which adds another layer to his performance. His performances have already proved that he is award worthy, with his potrayal of obsessive workaholic Apple chieftan, Steve Jobs earning him his second Oscar nomination (the first being for his performance as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave).
However, there seems to be a lack of good material which Fassbender can sink his teeth into. Too often, Fassbender is asigned the role of the tortured bad guy, whether that be in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Alien Convenant as that sneaky andorid David, or as Magento in Fox’s mind boggling and messy X-Men saga.
Franchises are where it’s at nowadays (look at the success that Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Jackman have had playing the same character for well over a decade). So, one can excuse Fassbender’s eagerness to grab onto a franchise and laugh all the way to the bank with the money it makes at the box office.
However, Fassbender is far too eager to get involved in several franchises instead of just one. He’s been upfront about his hopes that The Snowman would mark the start of a new franchise for him, and Assassin’s Creed was meant to be the first part of a trilogy. Both these films flopped massively, and the reviews for The Snowman were painful, with Hollywood Reporter calling it “cold and lifeless” and The New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis decarling that it was “leaden, clotted, exasperating mess.”
Fassbender is a risk taker, jumping from one project to the next whether that be Hollywood blockbusters such as the X-Men series or the Alien films, to more low-budget indie flicks like Slow West, Frank or Macbeth. It is these indpendent and art house films which don’t seem to be finding an audience, however it is in these films that Fassbender really shines.
Although, it is understandable why Fassbender may be turned off by doing smaller pictures: an actor has to eat, you know. However, he is being wasted in films like X-Men (which sees the next installment Dark Phoenix being released next year), and he becomes lost among all the other actors fighting to have their couple of minutes of screen time.
By examining Fassbender’s career, we can reach the terrible and somewhat alarming conclusion: actors just don’t matter to audiences anymore. It isn’t the actor who is pulling in the crowd, but rather the spectacle and special effects that seem to be attracting the audiences, hence the reason why Marvel films are so popular. Actors just don’t have the same appeal as they did two decades ago.
There are still actors who manage to pull in an audience with their name and persona alone, Tom Cruise is an excellent example of this. However, Cruise has been at this job for years, working hard to remain at the top. Becoming a star doesn’t happen overnight, and maybe Fassbender’s eagerness (or rather his agent’s eagerness) to make him a star is leading him down the wrong path?
So how does he get out of his mess? Well, Fassbender should take some time out of the spotlight, and maybe take on less projects and read the script before signing on (because seriously, he must have skimmed over the screenplay for The Snowman). Fassbender has it in him to be the next Daniel Day Lewis, and if he simply devoated more of his time to one film, then he could reach the same level of greatness of Day Lewis or De Niro.
Or if Fassbender wants to become the next Hugh Jackman or Tom Cruise, then he’s going to have to commit to one franchise. Simply put, Fassbender can’t have his cake and eat it. Only time will tell, whether Fassbender can learn from his mistakes and decide what path he wants to take.