The Old Guard (2020) is a comic adaptation about immortal warriors who fight for a just cause, oppose evil and devote their lives to saving humanity – all the while making a constant effort to go without being noticed throughout world history.
Although that premise is already interesting in itself – and the main warrior is played by Charlize Theron which is epic –, there still is some nitpicking left to do.
The Old Guard is undoubtedly worth watching. My question remains, however: Is this a truly great movie, or just a solid effort?
The market is quite saturated these days when it comes to action sequences, comic adaptations and superhero movies. Thus, the bar has been set high for the genre, and the fact that Guard came out on Netflix and not in movie theatres might have been a bad choice – pre-pandemic.
Considering current events and their impact on movie releases, a Netflix release is the perfect fit.
Let’s give some recognition to the positive aspects of this action flick first. Although there are a few commercially typical elements in the set-up – the superhero genre is what it is –, The Old Guard is solid on most accounts. It comes with an interesting back story for the whole premise of events, and consists of thoughtfully crafted individual character portraits.
Sure, there might be a pinch of cliché to be detected here and there, but the movie does not take itself wholly too seriously, either – another good choice.
What raises The Old guard above other movies of the same genre are the various outlets for introspective depth. The movie takes its time with all of the characters, delving into their psyche, their fears and the ways they cope with the loneliness that comes with walking through time alone. This gives their human core a prominence – it also seems the movie rather tries to focus on the fact that these are not necessarily superheroes, but rather just regular humans who simply carry a vast load of experiences and memories with them.
The fact that The Old Guard chooses not to overdo it with special effects and ridiculous stunts, that the heroes die every now and then – and that, ultimately, they aren’t immortal after all, gives the entire plot a much more vulnerable and interesting side.
So – at this point it could be concluded that this is an intelligent, introspective, higher-than-average-level existential and/or philosophical type of superhero movie.
Another element is added by the fact that the protagonist and Boss of the Guard is Charlize Theron, who looks like she is about to kick some ass in real life already – so obviously there are about to be some fights, epic beatings and high-stakes races. Theron excels in her role as always, but (as she did remarkably well in Atomic Blonde, too) manages to show all the complex layers and emotional vulnerability her character possesses, while inducing some serious injuries to hordes of trained killers.
To elaborate on that: Andromache the Scythian would just mercilessly kill those who dare to oppose her, and that would be enough if the fights were well-choreographed and brought the plot forward. In addition to those aspects, however, the viewer learns quite a lot about the nihilism, the rage and the deep sense of bereavement she carries with her throughout the centuries of her very long life.
The only deeply disappointing aspect of the plot is the villain – which is pretty shocking, considering all other characters are well thought out and original. As fun as it is to see Dudley Dursley play an allegedly evil Zuckerberg-type tech guru planning his way to world domination, none of his scenes, lines or plot devices have any charisma, originality, substance or suspence.
On the contrary: any plot point that comes into contact with the villain story suddenly becomes dull: The very spottable inside job and the internal rift causing betrayal; the rather shallow struggle of the newcomer to accept a new identity; and the very poor instalment of a flip-flopping Bosley type character. (I’m keeping all of this vague to avoid spoilers, you are welcome.)
Nevertheless, I am more than willing to go for the second movie as well, since The Old Guard ends on a cliff hanger, leading into the sequel. And since the initial story really is very interesting, I am more than excited to see the places this movie can go as a franchise.
To summarize: Albeit the positives are plenty, I would still call The Old Guard a solid effort. I do, however, believe that the sequel will be no less than excellent.