Out next week on Netflix is The Old Guard a film described as a superhero film but I would describe as a mundane supernatural film. The story follows a bunch of immortals who have travelled the world saving people utilising their supernatural gift/curse.
The film stars Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli. This group of immortals are of varying ages and historical backgrounds and are lead but Charlize Theron’s Andy. They are mercenaries for hire because nothing can stop them but they never divulge their secret otherwise they could be captured and experimented on.
Unfortunately due to the way the modern world is it is harder to hide from prying eyes. Not only do the team have to hide but in the first act of the film a new immortal has “awoken”. They have to find this baby immortal before the forces of evil get their greedy hands on them.
Nothing lives forever
The Old Guard is a film filled with ideas that could work but don’t. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood doesn’t know what to do with these characters and even though the screenplay for the film is written by one of the creators of the graphic novel (Greg Rucka) there is nothing particularly interesting here.
The main reason for me is immortality by itself is an uninteresting ability. You need other supernatural elements to add on top of it to make it engaging for an audience.
For example, the immortality of the characters is never showcased beyond bullet wounds and some stabbing. Which means that you never feel the full impact of their power. There is one cool scene towards the final act of the film which the team clearly blew their whole budget on. Even that though is one 10 second scene in a film that is 124 minutes long.
When you have a character or characters with the power of immortality you have to make sure they are incredibly interesting or the immortality is utilised in a fashion that has never been seen before. I would have loved to have seen someone explode and how them coming back from that is explained.
Other engaging visual elements would have been someone who is on fire or is drowned and stuck down in the ocean for an extended period of time. Sadly the film sets these moments up and then doesn’t follow through with them.
The film doesn’t even seem to have a focused story-line. It flips between the new immortal Nile (KiKi Layne) being told about the mind-numbingly boring rules and the rest of the team dealing with a nefarious force after them. It never focused long enough for me to care.
Now the film could have recovered with a decent set of rules explaining the wondrous nature of their gift or the terrifying curse they have all received. Instead, the characters shrug and say they don’t know how or why they are immortal.
I could go on and on about the lack of compelling action set pieces, the poor character development and the lack of anything engaging from Charlize Theron which is deeply surprising (seriously how does that happen?) but I don’t want to. I want to talk about what I liked in The Old Guard now.
Who wants to live forever?
When I came away from The Old Guard there were few positives but I have to mention them. The positives mainly revolve around Andy’s team of immortals. I already stated that Theron is sadly on autopilot but the rest of the team are actually interesting.
There is Booker (Schoenaerts), the youngest of her team. He was found when he was serving under Napolean. He was a father of three and Schoenaerts is giving a vulnerable and charming performance.
Along with him are Joe (Kenzari) and Nicky (Marinelli). These two are long-living lovers and their relationship is appealing and full of heart. Kenzari has a particular speech about his relationship with Nicky and it’s quite sweet.
When I look back at The Old Guard all I can think is this should have been a Netflix series, not a Netflix film. There is little that works for these immortals and the mundane world they inhabit.
After The Old Guard ended all I could think of was this single thought. When you make the supernatural feel natural and boring what is the point?
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