Pros: Interesting comic book at the heart of the film; Charlize Theron Cons: Secondary nature of the idea itself; deviations from the original comic book plot that did not benefit the film; poor staging of fights and shootouts; inexpressive visual component; poor choice of actor for the role of the villain The Old Guard / “Immortal Guard”
Genre: Action, comic book film
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Starring Charlize Theron (Andy), KiKi Layne (Neil Freeman), Matthias Schoenaerts (Booker), Marwan Kenzari (Joe), Luca Marinelli (Nicky), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Copley), Harry Melling (Merrick), etc.
Skydance Media Studio, Netflix
Year of release 2020
The Old Guard is a film adaptation of the comic book of the same name by Greg Rutzka, more precisely, his first volume, subtitled Opening Fire. This is the story of a group of immortal warriors who have lived to this day and are very tired of the burden of the past years and the losses they have experienced. For some reason, Western critics compare The Old Guard with another film adaptation of the comic book – Logan / “Logan: Wolverine”, but this is wrong, rather the film looks like an updated version of Highlander / “Highlander” (1986), with the only difference that the members of the Immortal Guard there is no need to cut off the heads of competitors so that in the end there is only one left. There are already very few of them, only four, and their main task is simply to survive, not to get hooked by the powers that be, and not to expose their immortality.
Actually, the film, like the comic, begins with the Immortal Guard revealing its essence to some hostile force and almost simultaneously with this, a fifth immortal fighter appears somewhere in the world, whom the Guardsmen feel. They must deal with the leak and find the newcomer before he attracts unnecessary attention.
The script for The Old Guard was adapted by the author of the original comic, Greg Rutska. It would seem that this is a guarantee that the original source will be correctly transferred to the screen… but something went wrong. Despite the fact that the film generally follows the events of the first volume of the comic, some small changes that the author made to the script did not benefit the film. Yes, so is the final battle, and some of the decisions of the immortals seem a little more logical, but they lack the reckless swashbuckling of the comics.
Perhaps one of Rutska’s main mistakes is completely ignoring the erotic scenes with Andy, who, in the comic book, is obsessed with sex, temporarily distracting her from her dark thoughts. By the way, the immortal Andromache of Scythia in the comic is bisexual, if anyone cares. We understand that it would be expensive to undress Charlize Theron on camera; no budget would support it, but still. The second mistake is the reduction in the number of flashbacks in which the Guardsmen remember the past. Yes, a few scenes from the original remain, but they are very few. What’s missing is the epic scene where Joe and Nicky meet during the First Crusade. By the way, the two men in this film love each other, so if you have problems with the perception of same-sex love, feel free to skip The Old Guard, because in fact this love, passing through centuries, is one of the cores of the comic book and the movie. The scene of Booker’s first death during the Napoleonic Wars is missing. The scene of the loss of Noriko, who for some reason turned into Queen in the film, became completely different, much less romantic, although more tragic. Etc. We understand that filming such short flashbacks would definitely be expensive, but the film would only benefit from them.
Another big problem with The Old Guard is its weak visuals. The original comic featured, among other things, very stylish art by Leonardo Fernandez and stunning coloring by Daniela Miwa. Alas, the filmmakers found neither a cameraman matching the artist’s talent nor a good post-processing specialist. As a result, The Old Guard looks very pale, like any standard mid-level action movie in a modern setting. It hurts.
It’s even worse. The staging of shootouts and fights in The Old Guard is head and shoulders above both the recent Extraction and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. For a film about immortal warriors who know thousands of ways to kill a person, this is simply a fiasco. It would be worth inviting Sam Hargrave or Chad Stahelski at least as consultants.
Well, one more minus, if the above were not enough for you – a very weak villain. Merrick in the comics is an uncontrollable, charismatic madman like Vaas from Far Cry 3, but in the film version he turned out to be more of a capricious, stupid child. I wonder, by the way, if you recognize the actor chosen for this role.
The bottom line is that all that The Old Guard can attract viewers is a far from original story of immortal warriors tired of life, and… a love story of two former enemies that has passed through the centuries. Plus, of course, Charlize Theron. The actress seemed to enjoy starring in action films – Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, The Fate of the Furious, now The Old Guard, and soon the new Fast and the Furious – F9. Well, she looks really good in them, whatever.
Despite all the disadvantages listed above, The Old Guard as a whole is watchable, although you shouldn’t expect much from it. This is a one-time movie, but if it gets you interested in Greg Rutzka’s original comic, that’s a good thing.
PS Yes, the scene in the finale is a piece from The Old Guard: Force Multiplied, which began to be released in 2019. So “To be continued.”
A film for one time, a comic is definitely better