Let me start this off by saying that I was weary when I first saw the Old Guard trailer. It was already billed as the next Extraction. For those of you that are unaware, Extraction is the most watched Netflix movie and is currently nominated for Emmys in a bunch of categories. It stars the magnificent Chris Hemsworth and it literally is just action. And I completely hated it. From the perspectives to the lack of actual words to the blood – so much blood. So yeah, I figured, if it was anything like that, I would definitely hate Old Guard too.
Luckily the trailer also included hints about:
Action. Mythology. A band of loyal misfits. Assassins. Immortality. Badass females.
You know me, I love all of these things. And I know that Charlize Theron does action like no other – well, like few others, I’m not here to discredit Scarlet Johansson or Angelina Jolie ever. So, I gave Old Guard a chance. And I am glad I did. So glad that, I actually rewatched it after only three months because a) I felt like it and b) I didn’t post about it the first time around and really felt I should.
I think I fell in love within the first five minutes and by the end, I immediately used my IG story to tell all of my friends to watch it. I also drafted this post and went to look for pictures online. But life happens and I ended up not writing the review at all. But here we are, at the end of this insane year and Old Guard remains one of the best things about it. So here we are, once again not very current but with a lot of passion instead.
Old Guard is based on a series of comic books I had never heard of – as much as I love comic book based genres like superhero sagas, I’m not actually one for reading them. It just goes too fast and I get too wrapped up by devouring text to appreciate the pictures. But with Old Guard, I might be obsessed enough with the story to actually give the comic books a try to figure out how the story continues. Not that I won’t learn about it on Netflix eventually – it was purchased as a possible trilogy and I think the numbers might be good enough to actually make that happen. But anyways, this is movie is, where we meet the Old Guard.
The Old Guard is not what you might expect from the distinguished name – there is no big secret society guarding some ancient artifact or something. It’s just a bunch of warriors. They are not affiliated with any organization or government in particular and see their calling as interfering and ending conflicts, battles etc. all over the globe for the greater good. There aren’t many of them – just four in fact – but that is plenty as all of them are basically immortal. They don’t age and they heal from any wound in a matter of seconds, coming back to life instantly, even if their guts get blown out. Each of them started life as a normal human being before essentially turning invincible suddenly. They don’t know the why or how and they are not interested in it. They are warriors and they know how valuable they are as such.
The four are a tightknit team, bound together by their fate. Charlize Theron’s Andy (really: Andromeda) is the leader of the gang, older than the rest by actual millennia and currently keeping the style of every badass female: Dark jeans, heavy boots, black tank top and a leather jacket – obviously preferably with a bunch of weapons including a kind of double sided battle ax that is as old as she is. She has been joined by the other three members of the group centuries ago. Booker joined after fighting for Napoleon but still grapples with immortality and the implications for any relationships and social life. Joe and Nicky joined somewhere around the crusades, where they first fought each other and then fell deeply in love, still acting like adorable cheesy, deadly honeymooners all these centuries later.
Their routines get shaken up twofold in the beginning of the movie. First, they all get the kind of premonition they haven’t had in centuries: A new one like them has been killed – and come back to life as one of them. Nobody knows why now or why her but Andy flies to Afghanistan to retrieve the American Marine that has just become immortal. Nile is, in many ways, a puppy version of the badass warrior that Andy is: She is highly trained and very proficient in combat already but still essentially a young woman in her mid-twenties who has to come to terms with her new life and all that comes with it. As she is introduced to the team, the second shake-up happens.
Essentially, this is no new kind of adversary to comic book heroes: Some rich pharma guy with questionable morals but a ton of money and influence has learned of their existence. They are hunted down and betrayed. And then they fight.
I won’t go into more of the plot for spoiler reasons but there are some more things I want to mention before I finally tell you to just go watch it yourself.
Of course, it is about something fantastical and it is very clearly a comic book adaption. But, here is the thing, it doesn’t feel like it. The Old Guard feels way more gritty and realistic in way that most comic book superheroes lack. Maybe that is because they aren’t superheroes in that they don’t seek the limelight. But then again, that’s pretty much only Tony Stark, most others would like a bit of privacy… but anyhow, the movie lacks all of the more placative superhero insignia, which makes it more of a regular action film in the best way possible. There is no flashy tech, inexplicable money or colorful armor. It’s just a bunch of people in practical clothing that conceals a bunch of weapons.
The same goes for the fighting. The movie has some truly spectacular fighting scenes with an extraordinary body count but it still feels believable in a way. You keep thinking, well she had millennia to train and was a great warrior to begin with, so it makes sense. Equally, they obviously fight with little concern for personal safety because they don’t need to. But again, they do so in a way that makes sense, still using tactics and caution because dying still hurts – even if it isn’t fatal. They also have a great team dynamic that becomes apparent especially in combat, and you can just feel how long they’ve been on the road together. It’s a joy to watch if you like action.
But what makes the movie special to me is the group of immortals themselves. Sadly, it’s still not the norm to have action movie characters that are anything other than cis white guys or the token woman, person of color etc. And here we have like all of them. The group is undeniably lead by Andy, a woman, who is never questioned in her ability to lead or in her superiority as a warrior. Joe and Nicky – two of the three guys – are not only openly gay, but in a loving relationship that is not just implied but the explicit topic of conversation in multiple scenes – and they are such a realistic couple too. They are soulmates that you still ship even though that ship has happily sailed centuries ago. And then there is Nile, a proud young woman of color, who might be the baby immortal but is still already super badass in her own right and I’m sure she will become the second in command in no time. Of course, there is also a token (apparently) cis white guy but hey, why not.
The other element that I really liked is hard to explain because it is more of an underlying theme and plays mostly in the background. The mythological element. The immortals are old. Very old. Especially Andy. And they have been busy. They have interfered in history for centuries, and in Andy’s case, for millennia. Their deeds were always inexplicable and thus have not gone unnoticed. Stories of the warrior have been told again and again. They have gone the way of folklore. They have become legends. Gods, even.
There is just something about the grandiose implications here. The unbelievable span of their travels and influence, that I find amazing. I am a sucker for myths, legends and history and it’s great to imagine a single being not only living through all of these times but also becoming important and revered enough over and over again to become part of the collective memory. It’s difficult to put in words and we only get glimpses of it in this installment but I hope that the past is explored much further in future movies.
Old Guard is a heady mix of very inclusive badassery with mythological elements and a lot of insane fighting that still feels very raw and believable. Of course, Charlize Theron does a brilliant job but I also liked basically everyone else doing their thing, bringing out character nuances that made them much more than video game avatars despite their skillsets and weapons. You can watch the movie on Netflix – be sure to watch out for the last scene – and you’ll find the trailer HERE.