Photo: The Old Guard/Netflix
Charlize Theron is easily one of cinema’s best action stars of the past decade, among men and women both, including Mad Max: Fury Road, The Fate of the Furious, and Atomic Blonde to name a few. And she’s proved that once more at the start of the next decade in The Old Guard, as she leads a team of immortal beings who secretly keep the earth intact from the shadows.
Though the story feels every bit like a typical comic-book film, director Gina Prince-Bythewood uses her gifts in creating characters you connect with that make the ride totally worth it. It’s a unique premise based on the comic book of the same name and Netflix has delivered another refreshing action film aside Extraction within one year, thus continuing its dominance as a streaming service.
Theron Strikes Again with The Old Guard
You thought she couldn’t be cooler as a cyborg-like heroine in Fury Road with her stoic gazes and willingness to fight for what’s right. She was as evil as ever in the seventh Fast and Furious film. And she was at peak action leader as a spy in Atomic Blonde.
In The Old Guard, we get a rounder role from Theron that feels like a protector type to the rest of the group. She continues to impress with incredible action but as a character is clearly the biggest reason for this movie’s success. The fun and not so fun aspects of being immortal are shown as she layers different emotions together while connecting with her cast members, which makes certain twists and turns in the story more heartfelt or painful.
Comic Book Thrills Paired with Sharp Action in The Old Guard
Each of the main warriors gets a chance to shine throughout the film and work together with great chemistry. Though each performance in and of itself is fine, it’s the team that truly shines. Like every big movie these days that all have a team of some sort (and most fail), this one gives you different personalities and traits that give the group a special flavor.
The action sequences are super intense (unlike most superhero films) but Old Guard does however bring a sense of familiarity from the genre to the story which is a great way to bring people in. I was genuinely impressed with the gritty action that is grounded in contrast with the immortal premise to the story. The action harkens to that of The Winter Soldier in the best possible way with gunfire and plenty of back-breaking moments to get the adrenaline pumping. It’s real enough for non-comic book lovers, but fantastical enough to satisfy die hard’s of the genre.
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You won’t be wowed by the plot (more on that in a bit), but you will be enthusiastically entertained by the energy and pace of each scene, and that should be noted.
A New Franchise?
The Old Guard does what most other first films in a superhero franchise does: start simple.
The classic plot of some scientist or businessman trying to take the power from heroes in order to make an army or money is a road well taken. And while that may disappoint some (hey, we can’t all be Batman Begins), the simple origin that is character-driven is actually a smart way to get you invested in the story (think Deadpool, The Avengers, Iron Man, or Guardians of the Galaxy). By doing so you allow audiences to be invested so when more complicated storylines come along the road, it flows better. No one likes complexity when you don’t know who the heck to root for or why you should care.
There are many beautiful aspects in this franchise, and of them being the central love story being between two men, a happy gay couple that continues to live together forever happily ever after.
Simple is best.
And that’s exactly how Old Guard goes about its business here. The team that secretly worked in the background has their presence threatened to be revealed by various sources which leads to a desperate attempt to keep the balance while fighting the latest villain.
The film clearly wants to shake things up for these characters just in time for a tease at the end which is obviously for a sequel. And the film is good enough to get folks everywhere to start getting excited about the idea of a new franchise.
I’ve said it before I’ll say it again: with Endgame now having come and gone, it’s a new era for comic book films, and every new franchise has the possibility of being the next “it” series.
Yes, it may not be the most risk-filled movie out there, but The Old Guard is held together by a fantastic Charlize Theron, heart-pounding action, and a refreshing enough premise to get many excited for the possible complexities and overall future of this newly born action series.
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
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