Even if I didn't enjoy the rest of Magic Mike and Savages, I'd say they're worth seeing solely for Matthew McConaughey and Benicio Del Toro, respectively. This is a common response for me these days, as we have more great actors than great movies to go along with them. But often we get an otherwise so-so or bad movie that becomes watchable simply by having a stand out or performance by, say, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges or Bill Nighy. Character actors getting leads, movie stars doing crazy things in supporting roles, it all amounts to a lot of fun at the movies, screenwriting be damned.
Two more guys who can easily transcend the mainstream and arthouse audiences are Michael Fassbender -- to many, the only saving grace for Prometheus -- and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who certainly lent some favor and flavor to Along Came Polly and Mission: Impossible III that wouldn't have been there. Today I saw people separately talking about these two master thespians being wasted in the video game adaptation Assassin's Creed and Hunger Games: Catching Fire (see our reports on each here and here), respectively. We'll see, I guess, but for now it's worth defending the castings as at least adding something to the appeal of each blockbuster project.
One sad thing, though, is that while it's easy to claim the "one-for-them, one-for-me" angle in hoping that Fassbender and Hoffman will balance these mainstream tentpoles with something more respectable later on, way too many people fall into the trap of signing on to too many "for them" movies. Look at Depp as a major offender in this regard. All we need is the day when Fassbender and Hoffman are only playing hammy villains in talking animal movies. It can happen like that so fast.
What are people saying about Fassbender and Hoffman's latest film choices? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:
Why is everybody pretending that starring in a video game movie is a GOOD thing for Fassbender? - Devin Faraci
Is Assassin’s Creed a wise move for him? Videogame adaptations are hardly ever (OK, never) good, but with Fassbender involved, we’ll follow this one closely. - Matt Maytum, Total Film
We've already proven that superhero movies and long-belated franchise entries can be improved with the involvement of Fassbender; now, time to find out if the same is true for the similarly-maligned video game genre. - Mark, I Watch Stuff
It’s pretty goofy stuff from a story standpoint, but a perfectly good narrative framework for a game where the main action involves sneaking around and killing people. How does that work as a movie? Not easily, but landing Fassbender is a pretty great way to start. - Russ Fischer, Slashfilm
Michael Fassbender is about to rescue the videogame movie - Ed Holden, MSN
At the very least, he’ll bring a touch of class and dramatic heft to a sub-category of filmmaking not known for its exceptional quality. - Ryan Lambie, Den of Geek
There's no question that Fassbender will be good in the movie-- he's good in everything. But recent history is littered with video game adaptations that fell completely flat, be they high-profile stinkers like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, or more low-key stuff like Hitman. - Katey Rich, Cinema Blend
There is only one message this news sends to fans of Assassin's Creed, of Fassbender, or of the idea of great ideas in general: rejoice. The sync up is perfect. Fassbender not only looks remarkably like the stealth game protagonist, he has also proven himself adept as an action hero in Haywire and X-Men: First Class, as a master of stealth in Inglourious Basterds, and as a soldier in Band of Brothers. - Michael Arbeiter, Hollywood.com
The legitimately high quality of performances in X-Men: First Class and Prometheus notwithstanding… I just don’t know if I want to see him turn away from the smaller, artier fare to take on a video game adaptation. (I know that sounds snobbish. Sue me.) But, hey, you know what? I’ll follow the man anywhere; he’s earned my basic trust by this point. - Nick Newman, The Film Stage
Although it’d be great to see Fassbender portraying [the lead], only his involvement in the film is confirmed, leading us to think there just might be a better part for him to play instead. Ezio Auditore da Firenze, for instance, is a mainstay in the second ‘Assassin’s Creed’ game, as well as in the third installment set for release this October. - Nick Romano, Screen Crush
Not sure how a talent like PSH wasting his time on garbage like Catching Fire is good news - David Ehrlich
PSH will spend like 2 weeks making Catching Fire and use that cash to fund theater. Win-win - Katey Rich
It’s somewhat of a surprise to see this actor take a supporting part in such a major film, but I’ll never complain about Hoffman getting more exposure. - Jordan Raup, The Film Stage
It's a nice bit of a prestige name added to the cast, particularly from an actor who doesn't do blockbuster roles very often (his last one being the villain in "Mission: Impossible III" back in 2006) and it will be interesting to see him mix it up with the eclectic cast. - Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
Hoffman is a great catch for this franchise, especially since his last foray into blockbusters resulted in an awesome turn as the villain in Mission: Impossible 3. - Ethan Anderton, First Showing
Twitter Poll: Are Fassbender and Hoffman wasting their talents on Assassin's Creed and Hunger Games?
Yes. - Mel Valentin (@FyodorFish)
Only as much as they did in M:I 3 or X-MEN or PROMETHEUS. - @adam_the_k
Yes, but if it gets younger audiences aware of their work, that's fine with me. - @Josh Spiegel (@mousterpiece)
When I was a kid, I discovered Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, etc. through their comic book roles... - Scott Mendelson
Admittedly they're 'mainstream' projects, but those guys can raise the 'esteem' of them, and it's nice to see them in projects - @Sam_Moore1994
No. Genre and/or projected box office success aren't indicators of quality. Cast, though, may be, which bodes well for these! - @dordotson
Not if they can use the nice payday to leverage for freedom to do a smaller passion project. Though I'm skeptical of the Fassbender choice. There has never been such a thing as a good video game movie. - Brandon Rohwer
Nope. They do plenty of film work, actors gotta act, why not a few fun movies? Plus, if you've ever played the game, AC is actually a pretty cool story. - @WAxelFoley
I think it's selfish of us to label fun fare a waste for actors who pepper serious films with lighter work. If we can enjoy fluff, can't they enjoy a break as well? A little fun, or a wallet-padder between practically no-pay gigs? - Monika Bartyzel
Depends on what you mean by 'waste'. I have no problem with class-acts giving indie-anguish a rest to have fun every so often. - Brendan Foley
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.