Michael Fassbender’s latest film, the disastrous serial-killer thriller The Snowman, has already become legendary for all the wrong reasons. Woefully inept to the point of parody, the adaptation is sitting at a cool 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, and has gotten more publicity out of Fassbender’s ridiculous character name – Harry Hole – than anything of substance in the movie itself.
It’s another misfire for Fassbender, at one time one of the greatest and most exciting actors in Hollywood. In his earlier days, Fassbender appeared in some incredible indie flicks like Steve McQueen feature debut Hunger, and the domestically underseen drama, Fish Tank. He broke through stateside in Tarantino’s WWII fantasy Inglourious Basterds, and was off and running. He continued to challenge himself in small films (A Dangerous Method, Shame, Frank), he was phenomenal in 12 Years a Slave, earning an Oscar nomination, and he managed to competently take the mantle of Magneto from Ian McKellan in the X-Men prequels.
Fassbender was peaking, a compelling actor who could balance blockbusters and small character studies with deftness and skill. Then, for confounding reasons, the bottom dropped out. After 2015’s Macbeth and Steve Jobs – the latter which earned him his second Oscar nomination – Fassbender’s next eight films would average a 37.5% on RT, the highest of which was Alien: Covenant (which I will forever defend). From X-Men: Apocalypse, to Assassin’s Creed, to the nadir of Terrence Malick’s career Song to Song, to this past weekend’s The Snowman, the Michael Fassbender we all came to love for a decade has virtually disappeared.
This is not an attempt to bash the man. That’s shortsighted and a little beyond this reporter’s scope. Michael Fassbender is a tremendous talent, one of the best actors in the business when things are going well. Its’ just that things have not gone well for the past two years; a misfire or two will happen to everyone, but eight in a row is a disturbing trend.
Perhaps Fassy changed agents, or maybe he’s simply trying out a handful of things that aren’t quite landing. Assassin’s Creed made sense given his Macbeth director Justin Kurzel at the helm and Marion Cotillard co-starring. But it was a video-game adaptation, and if this trio can’t make them work then they will never work. Starring in a Terrence Malick film certainly seemed like a good idea, but the elusive auteur lost his fastball a few years ago and things are only getting worse. It seems as if Fassbender’s best intentions have all missed their respective marks.
Whatever the case may be, perhaps The Snowman is the perfect opportunity for Michael Fassbender to wipe the slate clean and get back to the type of work that made him incredible. Teaming up with Steve McQueen might be the perfect antidote, as his three best roles were (arguably) in Hunger, Shame, and 12 Years a Slave. The only thing coming down the pike for him is another X-Men film, which really doesn’t seem like it’s going to fix anything.
The Fassbender turnaround will come eventually, let’s just hope it doesn’t take him as long as, say, Matthew McConaughey or Vince Vaughn.