The Old Guard

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Poster for the movie "The Old Guard"

The Old Guard

Forever is harder than it looks

20202 h 04 min

Ok, so The Old Guard wasn’t a bad movie. Its fatal flaw is that it couldn’t decide what it wanted to do. Is this an action movie? Kind of. Is it a superhero movie? Sort of, but not really. This movie is trying to do a half dozen different things at once and pulls itself in so many different directions it never really accomplishes any of them. The audience is bombarded with tropes and clichés in every sense. From the dialogue to plot structure it feels like everything is…not half-assed, but just running on low battery life.

Now granted, I have not read the comic book The Old Guard was based on. I can’t comment on how much (if anything) they changed for the movie. But if it’s like most movie adaptions, stuff probably got left out.

I mean, I didn’t think any of the actors were bad. They were all clearly trying their best. But when you take someone like Charlize Theron and cast them as the lead, your audience is going to be picturing a high bar. We know that she can portray a total badass from films like Fury Road and Atomic Blonde. And that level of awesome just doesn’t happen in The Old Guard.

Now I will say that the action scenes are fairly well done. The gunfights are realistic, and the hand-to-hand combat was choreographed amazingly. Not to mention how well it was all edited together. None of that shaky camera work where you can’t tell what the heck is going on (I’m looking at you, The Expendables). But as cool as the action sequences were, it can’t make up for everything else the film is lacking. Cause that’s really what The Old Guard did wrong. It’s not so much an issue of “what’s there is bad”, it’s an issue of “what isn’t there”.

Think about any truly great action movie. Terminator 2, Kill Bill, Aliens, take your pick. Are the action sequences awesome? Of course they are! Is that what people remember the most about those movies? No, usually not. Now there are exceptions like The Bride slaughtering her way through an army of mooks at the end of the first Kill Bill. But that is an exception, not a rule. We remember things like the young John Conner bonding with the good Terminator. Or Ripley hopping into the mecha suit to save the little girl from the Alien Queen. We remember the characters being people. Doing the right thing for the sake of what’s good or just acting like genuine human beings. Going through some kind of personal, emotional struggle on top of the physical turmoil. Things that feel real.

The Old Guard tries to do this, but how relatable are immortals? The whole thing about immortals in any story involving them is that they’re removed from society. The fact that everyone else ages and dies makes them forever outcasts. It’s hard to relate to a character like that. They’ve got their own little happy band, but they function alone. And it doesn’t seem like they get all that much character development to get away from that throughout the film. It’s frustrating because The Old Guard is almost a great movie. The ideas were there, but the execution fell short.

September 27, 2020

Kubo and the Two Strings

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Poster for the movie ""

Kubo and the Two Strings

20161 h 41 min

In the epic fantasy, scruffy, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living while devotedly caring for his mother in their sleepy shoreside village. It is a quiet existence – until a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta. Suddenly on the run from gods and monsters, Kubo’s chance for survival rests on finding the magical suit of armor once worn by his fallen father, the greatest samurai the world has ever known. Summoning courage, Kubo embarks on a thrilling odyssey as he faces his family’s history, navigates the elements, and bravely fights for the earth and the stars.

Director Travis Knight
Runtime 1 h 41 min
Release Date 18 August 2016
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Masterpiece

Kubo and the Two Strings is one of the few movies that can be described as perfect. Everything about the film comes off as flawless; from characters to story to art to music. Of all those aspects, it is the story that is perhaps the strongest of all. Kubo himself is a storyteller and his film possesses as much magic as the character himself. You will not see overused tropes such as action for the sake of action or the need to explain every little detail like the audience is unintelligent.

The story also features everything you would expect from a fantasy tale. A group of heroes that has to battle monsters and villains on a quest to find legendary, magical items that are their only hope. The world these characters live in is a mystical place full of danger and mystery, but also excitement and adventure. Each and every character grows and changes as the audience learns more about them and as they learn more about themselves throughout their journey. No character remains stoic or is simply brushed to the side; everyone reveals the reasons for their actions and that makes them feel less like characters and so much more like people.

Visually, the film is absolutely stunning. This is the 4th stop motion animation film that Laika has put out. While their style has not changed too much since their debut film (Coraline), it is nonetheless stunning. The music is much the same way; it fits the Japanese setting of the film and is tailored to match each scene. The combination of all these factors will make you want to weep with sadness and joy throughout the film.

Going into too much detail about the film would be too much of a spoiler in any regard, but the film just feels so…rich. Viewers are thrown into a world that has its own rules, culture, history, and magic but you never really feel lost. The characters are at home in this world and it is presented in such a way that you can love what is there without the need for detailed explanations that so many other films feel like they have to include these days. And of course, Kubo and the Two Strings has the benefit of being an original film. Not a remake, not a prequel, not a sequel, not a superhero comic book adaption. It is its own story and the best film of 2016 thus far. It will not be surprising if it is still the best film when the year comes to a close.

November 27, 2016