What’s the deciding factor in whether or not a movie is “good”? Is it the sum of its parts? One or two standout moments? Yeah, no one knows, because people are dumb. Besides, it’s subjective and varies from person to person. That’s why I’m going to make this nice and simple: Because the movie as a whole ranges from not so good to tearing your eyes out of their sockets to escape the stupidity, Centurion is only for those who can enjoy a movie for those one or two standout moments.
To start with, many of the blood effects are a joke. Some of them work well enough, usually in the slower scenes, but in the fast-cut battle scenes, of which there are plenty, they become absolutely ridiculous. It’s hard to say exactly what’s wrong with them. It could be that the blood is too light a shade of red and seemingly unaffected by the lighting, as though it was added after the rest of the scene had already been post-processed. Whatever it is, it looks remarkably Youtube-y and amateurish. That’s hardly the only problem with fight scenes, however. The fast, Bourne-like cuts combined with the movie’s (overall) desaturated post-processing makes it difficult to get an idea of what’s actually happening in a number of scenes, meaning that for significant portions of fight scenes you’re just watching a bunch of stuff fly around randomly. There’s lots of gore, but it completely loses its impact when there’s no ability to tell who’s getting killed.
Not that it would matter much. The characters, especially those introduced early on, are thoroughly unlikable and unmemorable; with one or two exceptions, I couldn’t really tell who was who until halfway through the movie. An obvious exception to this is Olga Kurylenko, who plays a significant role in the story. Sadly, that role is one where she doesn’t speak. Like… at all. She still manages to carry the first half-ish of the movie well enough, but her character soon after hits a wall as her inability to communicate through anything but stares keeps her from being as scary/tormented as she was obviously written to be. At a certain point she becomes less of a character and more of a plot device, and this keeps her from having the kind of impact that she could have had.
The story, while pretty dumb overall and with moments where characters manage to escape certain death solely because of the convenient stupidity of their enemies, actually manages to achieve a certain amount of tension. Unfortunately, this isn’t really enough to carry the movie. Michael Fassbender’s character picks up when Kurylenko starts to fade, but he can only carry the whole movie so far. Fortunately, somewhere between halfway and three-quarters of the way through the movie, a new character is introduced who’s actually legitimately interesting. She’s played by Imogen Poots, and she steals the movie away from even those who had been there from the start. Her character brings out Fassbender’s best as well, and suddenly the two of them are the only ones acting. Everyone else becomes decoration at that point, and yes, it really does feel like that. Some might say that her character was tacked on and that she’s unnecessary to the story, but it could be argued that the opposite is true since her presence is basically the only thing that kept me from feeling like this movie was a complete waste of time. I mean, she’s in something like a fourth—maybe even as little as an eighth—of the overall movie, and yet you get more of a feeling for her character’s personality than everyone else combined. A large part of this is everyone else getting a little matter-of-fact back story while she actually acts out the subtleties of her situation. It’s truly unfortunate that she’s in so little of the movie, because she’s really one of the few bright points.
So there. It’s not perfect, but it definitely has some shining moments. Would I recommend it to the average person? I honestly don’t know. The first half or so switches from “so bad it’s good” to “that’s actually interesting” and back far too often to be enjoyable as either a serious or bad movie. Beyond that, there are some notable issues with the post-production, especially concerning the audio. The dialogue is way too quiet (I swear, the actors are just mumbling at times) in many sections compared to the background noise and music, meaning it’s possible to have to go back and re-watch certain sections just to have any idea what people are talking about. This is especially prevalent in the beginning, making it difficult to get a good handle on the characters and overall story early on. Strangely, this seems to be less of a problem in the “good” section I mentioned above. There are also some scenery shots that linger too long and that are obviously present just to pad the still-short runtime. Honestly, I’d recommend this only to those who can enjoy (or endure) a flawed movie long enough to get to what makes it worthwhile. So… stubborn people with lots of free time, I guess. Whether that’s the average person or not remains to be seen, though the popularity of cat videos on Youtube certainly seems to indicate that people at least have the prerequisite free time.