It’s easy to suffer from the fatigue of superhero movies.
Even as someone who’s seen every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least twice and attended an entire Nolan Batman Trilogy marathon in a theater with a broken AC, it’s exhausting to keep up with every sequel, origin story, and blockbuster reboot that gets pumped up at least every year. It’s got to the point where even the slightest deviation from the traditional comic book movie formula immediately earns movie points for resurrecting what has otherwise become a tired, cookie-cutter genre.
To this end, The old guard (realized by Gina Prince Bythewood) is a shining example of an extremely entertaining origin story that brings something new to the table without sacrificing any of its comic book charm.
Andy and Booker have fought side by side for centuries.Netflix
The plot follows Andy (Charlize Theron), the Eternal Leader of an underground group of highly skilled Immortal Warriors (Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Matthias Schoenaerts) who have lived through the ages and protect humanity in every way possible. After being chased and ambushed by a former CIA agent (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who works alongside a pharmaceutical company that seeks to perform inhumane experiments on them, Andy and his team are forced to flee in an attempt to resist capture.
Meanwhile, they must train one of their new recruits, a young US Navy (KiKi Layne) who has just awakened to her immortality and is struggling to come to terms with her new fate.
With the author of the original graphic novel Greg Rucka in charge of the script, The old guard is a prime example of why comic book writers should be involved in adapting their own work for the screen. In a cinematic genre that often undermines its source material with eerie realism and an avalanche of jokes and lines intended to replace genuine dialogue, The Old Guard plays shamelessly in its comic book roots. If you’ve ever read a modern comic before, you can practically see the pages and panels forming in your head during the film’s most crucial scenes.
Compelling character arcs, smooth action, and charming, campy dialogue – hallmarks of any decent comic book – are on full display throughout the film. While the film tends to drop a lot of exposure and character history that could be better paced within the pages of a graphic novel, the diverse cast of Immortals shares the spotlight without the group dynamic becoming never too unbalanced.
Between Charlize Theron’s hypnotic performance as a badass warrior jaded by his long existence, the loving and moving portrayal of two gay superheroes in a dating relationship spanning centuries, and the dichotomy between a new immortal who wants to return to his old life and seasoned immortals who have survived multiple identities, no actor feels lost or superfluous inside The old guard.
Nothing more bulletproof than immortality.Netflix
The film also flourishes from a technical point of view. Almost from the start, The old guard features some of the most elegant and authentic action sequences ever presented in a genre that typically relies so heavily on faceless CGI armies. With each of the actors doing a significant part of their own stunt work, their dedication pays off in fluid ax fights, intimate fist fights, and a variety of martial arts and shooters scenes presented in a stunning way. so thoughtful that they might just make John Wick blush.
If there is any criticism to be made about the film, it is the fluctuating quality of its writing and its dialogues. The exhibition of heroes recounting their long and tragic tales can often be gripping and moving; it is impossible not to be touched by a character’s speech about how their homosexual romance transcends the very idea of love (a remarkable first for a superhero movie).
On the other hand, the villains are so ridiculously, insanely bad that they wouldn’t feel out of place in an old-fashioned Saturday morning cartoon. Wanting the heroes to win is less the eternal battle of good versus evil than it is just wanting Harry Melling (yes, the villain is Dudley Dursley) to be quiet about his evil CEO antics. But even then, there’s something to be said for a comic book adaptation that’s not afraid to be outspoken with its eccentricities.
If you’re caught between Marvel’s decade-long relationship with superhero movies and the random bets of the DC Extended Universe, The old guard offers a refreshing happy medium to the genre, fully embracing its nature as a live-action version of a graphic novel. It’s not only a wild and entertaining movie in its own right, but it’s also a fascinating argument for why you should start reading comics.
When it comes to Netflix exclusive movies – even when it comes to superhero movies –The old guard is the one you absolutely shouldn’t miss.
The old guard | Official trailer | Netflix
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