What I'm Watching: The Old Guard

A 'flix adaptation of a Greg Rucka comic; I haven't read this one, but his series Lazarus and Queen & Country are also headed to adaptations. I'm more interested in Lazarus, post-apocalypse feudal lords with engineered female super-soldiers. Greg's got a similar "type" to mine, and buff women is it.

I'm not going to spoil this much, but I need to talk about the first scene.

The Old Guard starts dumb.

These guys are immortal soldiers, like four little Deadpool experiments but not funny, must have dealt with thousands of clients, and they can't figure out that transparently treacherous CIA guy is playing them? Even after walking into an obvious trap, the goons who kill them in the first minutes don't keep an eye on the corpses, search them? Even with non-immortal victims, combat praxis is to remove weapons, flip them over to make sure they're really dead. "No, it's fine guys let's huddle over here with our backs to the corpses." SIGH.

Show doesn't understand that suppressors are not fantasy "silencers", you can't shoot someone "thwip thwip" and it's not heard, suppressors just make guns less incredibly loud. The actual melees are pretty standard but well-choreographed vampire/superhero fights. There's nothing here you haven't seen in Blade 1-3, Deadpool 1-2, every damned Marvel flick, the Punisher series, the Nolan Batman movies, Red, Polar, etc etc, but it's competent enough. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to bullet counts, but they do run out of ammo, and regularly stop and scavenge guns from enemies, which I see too rarely in these things.

Any time a scene is a little bit dark, it goes full cyan/orange filter, forget about being able to see colors. Then the camera moves anywhere lit, and it has mostly unfiltered color. It's super jarring, but I guess I should be happy it wasn't cyan/orange all the time.

There's a wafer-thin backstory exposition for the ancient Scythian "Andy" (Charlize Theron; she's still very cute); Crusader Nicky (Luca Marinelli) and Arabian Joe (Marwan Kenzari) who are in love, there's a good scene with them and some stupid snickering soldiers, but I don't believe love lasts years let alone centuries; Napoleonic soldier Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts); joined by newbie US Marine Nile (Kiki Layne, barely capable of hitting marks and saying lines, her fighting is poor).

No explanation for their ability is given, "that way lies madness" says one of them, and the magic/psychic dreams are unexplained even though Andy mocks religion and magic. I must say I'm always glad when atheists get heroic representation in movies. It's just a scene, but thanks, Greg.

The little bad guy, ex-CIA spook Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is pathetic, and has implausible moments of morality; nobody with morals becomes a spook. It's just kind of insulting. His Zodiac-conspiracy/Andy-stalker whiteboards are full of stuff, but he behaves like an accountant, not a motivated crazy person or soulless spook. Terrible writing, acting, or both?

The big bad guy, Merrick (Harry Melling, aka Dudley Dursley; but he's twice as ugly skinny as he was fat), is a jackass: Scene-chewing, Shakespeare-quoting, openly admitting he just wants money for saving lives, openly sadistic. There's a partial violation of Chekov's Law, he poses with Andy's axe, but then doesn't use it; holding it keeps it from being forgotten before the next scene, but it's still a tease not delivered on.

The plot is linear, most of the twists are obvious. When they're not, it's always revealed in low-stakes environments, and then you just wait out the development of the twist. There are zero surprises if you're paying even minimal attention.

Actual plot ends with 15 minutes of denouement and team-building, like a superhero "Pose as a Team Cuz Shit Just Got Real" scene. Words cannot express how tedious and commercial the ending is. I feel a couple thousand years old like I've seen every possible story when I see a scene this badly written.

Then it has a "post-credits" scene, but of course Netflix makes it hard to watch credits, so they moved it up before even the star credits, let alone the technical credits and classical music. Sit thru your goddamned credits, people. That's when I write these posts, I've just got some notes until then.

★★★☆☆

You know what I liked in this genre? The Losers (2010). Andy Diggle & Jock's comic was well-adapted, the fights were higher-stakes and weirder, the characters had massively more personality & development, and were much more aware of being double- and triple-crossed. Zoe Saldana is a fucking magical special effect all by herself. It didn't do great in the box office, I dunno why.

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