Comic book movies come in all shapes and sizes. Most are adapted off of the more popular books put out by Marvel and DC, but lately the more obscure titles from smaller publications like Dark Horse and Image have found their way into the spotlight. Living on a streaming service allows these smaller projects more freedom to not cut corners or downplay a more mature rating. The superhero “formula” has been perfected by Marvel Studios and Warner but as of late both studios along with lesser-known IP have been shying away from being generic and predictable to keep the genre feeling fresh and new.
A group of four centuries old warriors who have the ability to heal themselves and come back to life have now become mercenaries who take jobs to save people who cannot fight for themselves. Led by Andromache of Scythia or Andy (Charlize Theron) the group consists of Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) & Nicky (Luca Marinelli). Taking a job given to them by James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the group learns that the mission was just a ruse to capture their abilities on camera which Copley would sell to Pharmaceutical CEO Steve Merrick (Harry Melling). The immortals learn of a fifth who came back to life after being killed in Afghanistan on duty.
Netflix is the perfect home for properties that have a cult following to be seen by the masses. The Old Guard created by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez is published by Image Comics. With its more mature content only The Boys, The Umbrella Academy & Deadpool can rival The Old Guard rating wise. With its home on a streaming service, a project like this usually aided by the original creator. In this case, Greg Rucka wrote the screenplay. Having the screenplay done by someone so familiar with these characters and the world they inhabit makes for better transparency when introducing a new universe.
“You can’t tell me you don’t remember what it was like. Whoever she is, she’s confused, and she’s scared, and she’s more alone than she has ever been in her entire life. We all remember what it was like. She needs us.”
Rucka’s script is one of the strongest for a comic book movie in recent memory. When the characters are introduced, their deep-rooted connection with each other is felt immediately and part of that should be credited to the strong performances by the core group. What they are able to tap into is special from their banter to their tactical jargon and choregraphed movements when on a mission. I imagine it could be difficult trying to pull off an emotional connection with characters that are this old, but the actors and actresses respectfully pull it off flawlessly.
Even with the addition of Nile (Kiki Layne) to the team the chemistry between all characters works so well within the story. Enough backstory is added for the group that hits on all major points to get a detailed sense of their personalities and motivations for continuing on for so long. Character development is one of the biggest keys in determining the success of a comic book property that majority have never come close with. That’s why Rucka’s involvement and script is so vital to the final product.
With a new universe comes new mythology. The Old Guard is a perfect blend of the lore and narrative with kick ass action sequences. Often the action can force the narrative to follow its footsteps causing the narrative to get lost in the chaos but, that isn’t the case here. The action has purpose and is well thought out based on where the story is leading it. The pinpoint precision and choreography are pulse pounding led by Theron who can pull off the action stunts without much effort involved. Being able to connect with these characters gives the ability to understand their motivations and why they are the way they are. Immortality can be tough – outliving every single person on the planet including your loved ones can weigh on anyone’s mental state. When the pressure to stay immortal is presented to Andy, we can accept her decision to lose it.
“I dreamed about a woman locked in an iron coffin, under the sea. She kept drowning, and then coming back to life. She was hammering her bloody fists and knees against the iron. She felt like something insane, something furious. But she kept fighting, and she kept drowning.”
The Old Guard although well rounded does suffer the same comic book movie trope – the weak, poorly developed, zero motivation villain. At first James Copley would appear as the villain but his intentions and motivations are pure and expanded upon. When it comes to Steve Merrick, that’s where things loosen up a bit. Steve is an entitled Silicon Valley villain ala Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman. His character feels out of place like he doesn’t belong in this universe. That’s not to take away from Harry Melling – he had a career year in 2020 appearing in two other Netflix properties.
It’s clear The Old Guard is set up to be a franchise – absolutely no complaints about that given what is set up at the end with Booker. Instead of more modern villains that hold no weight to them give us a century old villain that can hold their own against the group that explores more of the mythology set up in the first two acts.
The Old Guard is a perfect blend of heart and blood pumping action. From the connections each character shares with each other to the strong development and action sequences, having the creator involved in any capacity is the way to go for lesser-known comic book properties. The Old Guard does lack in its villain department and there is a questionable line given by a soldier that is shrouded in ignorance but overall, The Old Guard is a welcomed comic book movie in a year that had all the major ones delayed to 2021. If I were to rate The Old Guard, I’d rate it a 4.3 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen The Old Guard and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
The Old Guard is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood is Rated R and has an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Old Guard was released on July 10, 2020 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 5 minutes. The Old Guard can be streamed on Netflix.