The latest Netflix original film makes for the perfect cure to superhero movie fatigue.
It's easy to suffer from superhero movie fatigue.
Even as someone who's seen every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least twice and sat through 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 get pumped out every year at least. It's gotten to the point where even the slightest deviation from the traditional comic book movie formula immediately earns a movie points for resuscitating what has otherwise become a tired, cookie-cutter genre.
To that end, The Old Guard (directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood) is a shining example of a wildly entertaining origin story that brings something new to the table without sacrificing any of its comic book charm.
Andy and Booker have fought alongside each other for centuries.Netflix
The plot follows Andy (Charlize Theron), the undying leader of a clandestine group of highly-skilled, immortal warriors (Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Matthias Schoenaerts) who've lived across ages and protect humanity in any way they can. After being pursued and ambushed by a former CIA agent (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who works alongside a pharmaceutical corporation that seeks to perform inhumane experiments on them, Andy and her team are forced to go on the run in an attempt to resist capture.
Meanwhile, they must train one of their newest recruits, a young US Marine (KiKi Layne) who only recently awakened to her immortality and is struggling to accept her new fate.
With original graphic novel author Greg Rucka helming the screenplay, The Old Guard is an excellent example of why comic book writers should be involved in adapting their own work for the screen. In a film genre that often undermines its source material with uncanny realism and an onslaught of quips and one-liners meant to replace genuine dialogue, The Old Guard unapologetically plays into 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 movie's most pivotal scenes.
Compelling character arcs, slick action, and charmingly campy dialogue—the hallmarks of any decent comic—are on full display throughout the film. Though the movie tends to drop quite a lot of exposition and character history that might be better paced in the pages of a graphic novel, the diverse ensemble cast of immortals share the spotlight without the group dynamic ever becoming too lopsided.
Between Charlize Theron's hypnotic performance as a badass warrior jaded by her long existence, the loving and moving portrayal of two gay superheroes in a centuries-long romantic relationship, and the dichotomy between a new immortal who wants her old life back and seasoned immortals who've outlived multiple identities, no actor feels wasted or superfluous within The Old Guard.
Nothing more bulletproof than immortality.Netflix
The film also flourishes from a technical standpoint. Nearly from the get-go, The Old Guard features some of the most stylish and genuine action sequences ever to be featured in a genre that typically relies so heavily on faceless CGI armies. With each of the actors doing a sizable portion of their own stunt work, their dedication pays off in fluid axe combat, intimate fist fights, and a variety of martial arts and gunplay scenes featured so thoughtfully that they just might make John Wick blush.
If there are any complaints to be had with the movie, it's the fluctuating quality of its writing and dialogue. The heroes' exposition relaying their long, tragic histories can often be gripping and emotional; it's impossible not to be touched by one character's speech about how his homosexual romance transcends the very idea of love (a remarkable first for a superhero movie).
On the other hand, the villains are so laughably, outlandishly evil that they wouldn't feel out of place in an old-fashioned Saturday morning cartoon. Wanting the heroes to prevail becomes less about the eternal battle of good versus evil and more about just wanting Harry Melling (yes, the villain is Dudley Dursley) to shut up about his cliched evil CEO antics. But even then, there's something to be said for a comic book adaptation that isn't afraid to be upfront with its eccentricities.
If you're caught between Marvel's decade-long affair with superhero movies and the hit-or-miss gambles of DC's Extended Universe, The Old Guard offers a refreshing middle ground to the genre, fully embracing its nature as a live-action version of a graphic novel. It's not only a wild and entertaining film in its own right, but it also makes for a riveting argument for why you should start reading comic books.As far as Netflix-exclusive movies go–even as far as superhero movies go–
The Old Guard | Official Trailer | Netflix youtu.be
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