Movie Review: THE OLD GUARD

Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

The Old Guard is a fun and exciting new action movie starring Charlize Theron, that premiered on Netflix this weekend. Based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez, set in the present day (with some flashbacks), the story follows a group of immortal warriors led by Charlize Theron’s Andy, short for her real name Andromache The Scythian. Andy’s team/army/surrogate family includes Booker, the youngest member of the team at a little more than 200 years old, as well as Joe and Nicky, a devoted couple who met fighting on opposite sides of The Crusades. Andy’s age is never definitively revealed, but she’s ancient, at least several thousand years old (according to IMDB, in a recent interview Charlize Theron revealed that her character is at least 6,000 years old). 

   For reasons they don’t fully understand, Andy and her team are among a very small, but very formidable group of people, who have all woken up one day to find that they’re no longer aging and cannot be killed. Riddled with bullets from an assault rifle, burned alive, drowning, explosions, it doesn’t matter how they die, but whether it takes a few seconds or a few minutes they always come back. They even have accelerated healing which will rapidly repair smaller injuries. There’s one catch though, despite the fact that these individuals have lived for thousands of years, one day for seemingly no rhyme or reason, they will get killed and not wake up. One day it is simply “their time”, as they put it.  It’s different for each of them, but whether it’s after 500 years or 5,000 years, one their immortality will simply end. They learned this lesson first hand. The team has had other immortal members who’s time has run out. So each time they die, they wonder if this is the time they don’t wake back up.

The immortals have a tenuous psychic link to one another, causing them tooccasionally share memories of past events through dreams. Most importantly, this link allows them to become instantly aware of when another immortal is activated. It’s an extremely jarring and vivid psychic experience because an new immortal is so rare. They’re all given mental pieces of an image that they collectively put together to identify and locate their latest brother or sister in arms. 

In this case, the new immortal is a young African-American woman in her early twenties named Nile (played by Kiki Layne), serving in the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Afghanistan. While on a mission to find a dangerous terrorist, Nile’s throat it cut open and dies in the arm of one of her fellow soldiers. When Nile wakes up in a medical tent, having recovered from a mortal neck wound without a scratch, she doesn’t know what the fuck is happening to her. Fortunately (I guess?) Andy, heads off to find Nile, get her the fuck out of Afghanistan, and give her the 411 on how her life as she knew it, is over. From there we’re off to the races.

Charlize Theron (“Andy”); Kiki Layne (“Nile”)

I haven’t seen the actress who plays Nile in many other projects, but I liked her a lot in The Old Guard. Nile, naturally, has some serious questions for Andy and she expects to get answers. Because the audience will have many of the same questions as Nile, this is a decent way for the film to get some exposition out of the way. It’s not the most creative storytelling method in the world, but it works well enough. Plus, I enjoyed the scenes  of the relatively idealistic Nile bouncing off of Charlize Theron’s much more jaded Andy.

   There were two aspects of this film that I thought were particularly well done. The first was the surprising amount of time that was spent on character work. Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t gonna be winning any awards, but for what it is they spent more time investing the audience in the characters that I thought they would. One of my favorite things about this movie was the existential crisis Charlize Theron’s character deals with through in the film. Andy is by far the oldest of all the immortals, thousands of years at least. For their entire lives Andy and her team, both living and the ones they’ve lost, have been warriors who fought for what they believed to be right. Mankind’s blood soaked angel on it’s shoulder. After all the death, all the fighting, the wars, the people she’s lost, Andy has just had enough. She’s walked the earth for thousands of years, trying to protect humanity to make it something more. But when she looks around at the world she sees today, it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse. This is the dark side of immortality, the other side of the coin that people don’t think about. Sure, it sounds great on paper, to never die, to live forever. What good is living forever if you have nothing worth fighting for, nothing to live for? Everything and everyone around you eventually dying and leaving you alone again. Immortality can be a prison worse than death (and without going into spoiler territory here, believe me there are seats far, far worse than death).

This is a great video about adapting the comic book to film

This movie also answers one of the greatest questions in all of fiction: what happened to Dudley Dursley after the Harry Potter movies? Apparently he became the evil head of a pharmaceutical corporation focused on slowing (or stopping) the aging process! He’s looking to cell in mortality in a pill form to the richest of the rich. I love the Harry Potter films and I want to see the actors do well, but actor Harry Melling as Merrick, the films villain doesn’t stand out among the 10 million other versions of the “Evil Billionaire CEO”. This is by far the weakest and most least interesting aspect of the film. However, Nile, Andy and her team of bad-asses needed to bunch of guys to kill at the end of the movie and who better to supply that than a piece of shit pharmaceutical CEO who looks like Harry Potter’s abusive cousin?

 There is one bright spot in the evil pharmaceutical company storyline. Chiwetel Ejiofor in small role as a former CIA operative who hires the team for a job that goes real south, real quick. His character provides the only heart in his part of the movie and like several characters in the film, is more morally complex than you think.

Joe and Nicky. Two immortals who are deeply in love with each other, who met fighting on opposite sides of The Crusades.

   Like I said before, there were two things in this movie that I thought were done particularly well, the second being the action and fight choreography. In fact, most characters in this movie are more fleshed out than you might expect going into it. It’s one of the things that helps The Old Guard stand out from the pack. Andy’s team of fellow immortals could have been just 3 bad-asses it’s one or two lines covering their backstory. The fact that they took the time to put just a little bit more effort into it, makes this a cut above the rest of similar films. Things like Joe and Nicky‘s deep and passionate love for one another that still burns bright despite the millennia they’ve spent together. When Booker tells Nile that attempting to stay in the lives of the people they love, will bring her and her family only suffering, heartbreak, and ruin, his anguish makes it clear he’s speaking from experience. The film wisely gives it’s characters enough meat on their backstory and their personalities to make them interesting to watch, so you actually give a shit about what’s happening to them. It’s a lesson that way too many action films have forgotten. The difference between a decent or good action movie and great action movie, is cast of characters that you care about.

    This is an action film after all and the fight and combat sequences stood out to me as the second big thing that really impressed me about The Old Guard. With so many fantastic examples of innovation and creativity in action and fight choreography, it’s can be difficult for any movie to stand out from the crowd and show the audience something that feels fresh and unique. The Old Guard has multiple impressive fight scenes, using a combination of modern guns and old world weapons like swords and axes. What’s so cool about the way the immortals fight, is that over centuries of combat, they’ve become masters at virtually every weapon and fighting style. So they don’t just use multiple weapons, they use those weapons to complement one another. Assault rifles, swords, and fists whirl together in a way that each weapon’s is enhanced by the use of the other. A gun is perfectly used to take out a target in one move while also setting up an ax to take out another target three moves later. It’s a really cool style of fight choreography that really makes this team feel dangerous. These people have been fighting the worst armies in the history of mankind and they fucked them up on a regular basis. Your best bet would encountering one of these mortals would be to drop your weapon and run like hell on the other direction and even that might not be enough to save you. There’s a scene less than half hour into the film where we see the team really cut loose for the first time in combat and we get to see exactly what these people are capable of and it’s fucking awesome.

This is a great behind the scenes video showing how those incredible fight scenes for the film were achieved.

A sequel to The Old Guard is already in the works. Apparently this was envisioned by Netflix and Co-creator/writer Greg Rucka been talk of making this a trilogy of films on Netflix and I hope that story turns out to be true because I enjoyed the hell out of The Old Guard. I definitely recommend giving this one a watch.

The Old Guard: 8.5/10

NEW TRAILER: The Old Guard starring Charlize Theron!

Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

   With movie theaters being closed, it’s been a pretty lackluster (or more accurately, nonexistent) summer movie season. However, there have been a few cool movies released digitally or directly to streaming services. There are two kinds of Netflix Original Movies, the first are mostly pretty shitty movies that couldn’t find a distributor, so they were sold to Netflix. The second kind of Netflix Original Movie is a film produced through Netflix’s in-house production company and is a real attempt at making a great movie. It’s this second kind of Netflix film that will be talking about today. Netflix has released successful films before through it’s in house production company,  but one of their more high profile movies will be hitting the streaming service later this month. The Old Guard starring Charlize Theron is based on the comic book series by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez about a team of immortal soldiers who seemingly can’t be killed. Greg Rucker is a fantastic writer and I read the first volume of The Old Guard graphic novel when it first came out and I thought it was very good. This movie sort of flew under my radar, but it looks pretty damn cool. I know I’ll be watching it when it starts streaming on Netflix next week. Take a look at the trailer right here:

The Old Guard premieres on Netflix on 7/10/20

Batwoman Season 1: The Good, The Bad, and What to Do in Season 2


Written by Michael Cole

*Note: This article was written before the announcement that Ruby Rose, the actress who plays Batwoman, has left the series and will be replaced in Season 2.

Batwoman Season 1 ended almost two weeks ago, and I had intended to write a review on here when that happened, but I hadn’t realized the season had ended because it was an abrupt, COVID interrupted season. I won’t hold that against Batwoman obviously, and please don’t hold my tardiness on this subject against me.

I’m going to be frank with you, and tell you that while I might be in the minority, I really enjoyed Batwoman. I think there was a ton of things that were done really well. I also recognize that it had several faults, and I’m not blind to those. I think, for the sake of redemption, I will start us off with the parts that I don’t like, and work towards the things that made this show work for me.

What Fails:

I think it was back before the mid-season break, I had a conversation with Paul about the show, and one of the things that he pointed out that made no sense what-so-ever was the idea of The Crows. As I watched the second half of the season with this in mind, I realized he was completely right. The Crows, are Gotham’s premium and private ‘police’ service. They don’t exist in place of The GCPD, but in addition to it. They’re essentially independent contractors acting like Police, but with less restriction, and seemingly less self-restraint. A local law enforcement version of Blackwater.

At best, their existence doesn’t make any sense. With the appearance of Batwoman, a vigilante acting outside of the law, of course The Crows declare her to be a dangerous criminal who must be brought to justice. Complicating matters, The Crows are lead by Commander Jacob Kane (Batwoman’s father, who has no idea that his daughter is the vigilante). In similar situations like Arrow, Batman, or even Spider-Man, if a hero or vigilante is seen as a criminal, they’re usually being accused as such by the police. While there is room for argument on the morality of vigilante justice on either side, the legality of the situation is clear because The Police Dept., The D.A., are all part of law enforcement that governments put in place to protect the public. It all makes some sense. This isn’t the case in Batwoman with The Crows because they’re a private company, not operating with any kind of government oversight. The potentially interesting morality/logic of that dynamic isn’t really touched upon until the last episode or two, and even then only in passing.

Along with The Crows and their non-sensical existence, is Commander Kane. I think he fails on pretty much every front. I think the performance, with him trying to sound grizzly and hardened comes off as two dimensional and uninteresting. As for the characterization, he’s written to have the same black and white moral code that someone like Quentin Lance on Arrow had, but again Lance existed within a real Police Dept which made much more sense. Also, while Lance may have been tough on his children and perhaps a bit too rigid, he never really wrote them off. Whereas Kane’s love is barely existent at best, and far from unconditional. Do I think we need to portray every parent as having unconditional love for their children? No, but in these types of characters and stories it leads to some interesting inner conflict. Trying to justify your unconditional love for your children, when your children test your own moral code, makes for fascinating character drama. Commander Kane doesn’t do that. There are very few, if any, moments when it appears that indicate if he finds out his daughter Kate is Batwoman, that he’ll hesitate to treat her like any other criminal.

My last complaint about the show will probably be more controversial and this is way more a matter of opinion, but Kate sporadically write’s letters to the missing Bruce Wayne. It’s not the idea that she’s writing them that doesn’t work for me, it’s more a matter of delivery. There is something about it that comes across as awkward and unnatural, it interrupts the flow of the show. I think it is possible that it’s Ruby Rose, who is Australian, trying to do an American accent in these long slow, uber-articulated monologues, that doesn’t work.

What Works:

Three characters work perfectly for me on this show, there will be some mild-spoilers.

I think The Big-Bad, Alice, head of the Wonderland Gang, works perfectly. I would make the argument that she may be the best villain in The Arrowverse this season. Alice, as we learn very early on, is Kate’s twin sister, Beth. Beth was believed to be killed in a car accident when they were both 12 or 13. As the season plays out, we get to see how Alice isn’t just a menacing thug, but a deeply troubled (and for good reason) woman, who is trying to get reconcile a sense of normalcy with her sister and revenge with her father, step-mother and sister. Every emotional twist and turn is believable within the circumstances, and the performance by Rachel Skarsten rides those emotions completely and makes you feel genuine empathy for her, while also understanding that she must be stopped. I would argue that her character’s complexity exacerbates how poorly Commander Kane’s character is developed.

Alice’s right-hand man, is Mouse, who we learn is the son of the man who took Beth from the accident, and through neglect and abuse, turned her into Alice. Mouse is himself a very damaged man from his father, in addition to some physical scarring. Mouse has the ability to mimic any voice, and with Beth’s help, to make skin masks. He can turn into nearly any one within the show. It’s not Mouse’s abilities that make him interesting though. It’s his relationship with Alice/Beth. He starts off as her best friend, trying to help her exact her revenge. But as soon as Alices plan shifts from revenge to reconciliation, he begins to fear she’ll abandon him for not being enough. As well as expressing his own desire to eventually get away from Gotham and the chaos and pain he sees as being a symptom of the place.

Lastly, is Mary, Kate’s step-sister. Mary starts the show off appearing to be a vapid socialite, but its quickly revealed that she’s actually running an underground clinic for those who cannot afford emergency medical attention. She helps Batwoman early on, making something of a connection with her. Even as she struggles throughout the season with her relationship with Kate, which is strained by Kate’s distance, and Kate’s inability to let go of Beth. Mary’s feelings of inadequacy and longing to bond with Kate are well developed and expressed, and it comes to a head when she finds out Kate is Batwoman and Kate still refuses to tell Mary her secret.

How to Move Forward

The other three main characters in the show are a bit of a mixed bag for me. I think Ruby Rose as Kate is very good at the aloof part of the character, but in the genuine moments of connection, I think she’s still seems to struggle. It’s likely that they are trying to draw a parallel between her and Bruce Wayne, (but as someone who knows very little of the comic version of Bruce Wayne, take that with a grain of salt). However when you have so many characters who do have an emotional connection with Kate, like her sisters, her father, Luke Fox , or Sophie (her ex-girlfriend who works for her father on The Crows) the performance doesn’t work as well for me.

I think Luke had a pretty good second half of the season, but he didn’t start off great. There was a flatness in the character or the performance and it just didn’t work. What eventually won me over, is two-fold, Luke is very clearly the voice for the absent Bruce. As his relationship to Kate developed, he even shares things that perhaps he never would, about his loneliness, his responsibility. We also see Luke’s own dedication and search for justice by finding his father Lucius’s killer, and how he will risk his own life in order to protect his father’s secrets. As a small side note, Luke is the guy back at HQ role, so I like that he is very different from similar characters in The Arrowverse like Cisco, Felicity, and even Winn.

Sophie probably would have made the first section, except that I’m not sure she’s made enough of an impact on the show yet to say she’s failing. Sophie is kind of a bland character, who’s at her most interesting as we see her and Kate struggle throughout the beginning of the series. With Sophie being closeted and Kate being out, how this tore them apart in military academy, and is married to a man. On top of all that she also works for Kate’s father, it’s impossibly complicated between the two of them. The writers seem to have trouble picking a lane with Sophie, she’s not bold and empowered, nor is she timid and weak. She kind of flip-flops back and forth.

Going forward, into season 2, I think that these three characters can all be improved and really work for the show. I think with Kate, they were starting to work on the aloofness problem in the last couple of episodes, (maybe if they’d been given the whole season run I wouldn’t have this complaint at all). The same can be said with Luke, I think he was a slow start, but they’re getting there, and I hope that they go even further with him. With Sophie, I think she kind of has to embrace herself more in season 2, even if she goes a bit overboard at first, it would make sense, and propel her forward.

I think they should find someway in season 2 (and I kind of think they may have been working toward this at the end of season 1) of getting rid of The Crows. They just don’t work. Getting rid of them wouldn’t be difficult from a writing stand-point, and I would argue that if you just put one character in (a Mayor or something) who realizes how ridiculous they are, dismantling them could take a couple of episodes tops.

As for Commander Kane, there are three options that I see, they could kill him off, try to turn him into a human with emotions (I don’t really think this works without ignoring some of what we already have seen of him), or lastly make him outright a villain. The series could dismantle The Crows and Kane could become a vigilante hell bent on avenging them, it’s the only way I think you can keep him on the show and have him work. I just really think the dude is broken beyond repair.

The letters to Bruce Wayne are maybe the toughest fix. I think the series has been fairly inconsistent in doing them to be completely honest, I think maybe they should just get rid of them altogether. At the end of the finale, Alice has transformed the villain Hush, into a doppelgänger of Bruce Wayne. I think having a few episodes of ‘Bruce Wayne’ around will make the letters redundant. Unless Kate knows right off the bat (I swear that wasn’t intended) that he’s not the real Bruce.

The Verdict:

The show has a lot of potential, and needs a lot of growth, but I think it’s a worthy inclusion to The Arrowverse. If they work out the kinks in Season 2, there could be some really cool opportunities for interesting character work. Don’t go in expecting a finely tuned machine, but a diamond in the rough.

Article by Michael Cole