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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