Movie Review | The Old Guard
Alive and kicking...
Movie summary: A covert team of immortal mercenaries is suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. (IMDb)
In a year lacking superhero blockbusters, The Old Guard offers up a comic-book adaptation (still on-going if you want to know more) that fills in a gap missing in movies thanks to the global pandemic that helped make 2020 one of the worst in living memory. Saying that, even if Marvel Studios and DC had put out the movies they'd planned to, this would've been an enjoyable watch regardless.
Hell, my biggest criticism for this movie is that it feels very much like a part one of a bigger story, serving to set up a number of subplots that don't really go anywhere here - and with an ending that absolutely lays the groundwork for a sequel. The film still works on its own, but it does feel like it's only just avoided the same mistakes DC did when launching their shared cinematic universe.
It helps that I'd put The Old Guard above Man of Steel (just), Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (very definitely for both) in terms of quality as a movie. While there's still a heavy dose of weariness and cynicism present, they mainly factor as part of Andy's (Charlize Theron) character, rather than saturating the entire movie, with Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) far more positive in their outlooks and providing a great contrast to their team leader.
The movie does raise a great point that was also a brought up in The Incredibles: why bother to keep saving a world that seems intent on tearing itself apart? That's a thought that plagues Andy throughout, especially as she's been fighting 'the good fight' for thousands of years - even if we never find out exactly how old she is. It's the arrival of a new immortal warrior in the form of KiKi Layne's Nile that helps her work through that particular dilemma, along with other developments that shall go unmentioned because they would be spoilers.
It's also nice that the 'superpowers' side of things here is effectively 'just' immortality - albeit with the required secondary superpowers of healing faster than Wolverine or Deadpool to keep them kicking. This keeps the action fairly grounded and there's no real need for flashy VFX work as they're otherwise regular people. Well, regular people with centuries/millennia of combat experience that is.
And that experience is put to good use, with some great action that is only 'let down' by some of it being so good that it makes you wonder why all the combat in The Old Guard (which is a lot) isn't as good. How's that for criticism of an action movie? Some moments are so outstanding that it makes other sections - which are still very good, it has to be said - feel relatively disappointing in comparison.
If there is one other let-down to bring up, it's that the antagonists aren't particularly great, never feeling like a genuine threat to people who can heal from practically anything, with the fate of another immortal in a flashback set centuries earlier coming across as far more horrific a fate than what the present-day setting conjures up. I think this is yet another weakness of this being a 'part one' story, with the focus being far more on establishing the heroes above and beyond anything else.
Ultimately, these complaints are relatively minor and even the secondary stories left unfinished were interesting enough that The Old Guard's quality left me very much wanting more rather than being annoyed at not getting as much as I would've liked in this outing. I can only hope that Netflix agree to a sequel (and a third film as apparently planned) to see some of this stuff pay off.
The Old Guard is a highly-enjoyable action film that I thoroughly enjoyed, although the frustrations of it being a clear first instalment in a larger story-line mean that some subplots don't get any closure here. The action is a little inconsistent in terms of quality, although even the weaker parts are still good, but it's the interactions between those form the titular group that make it all work better than it should.