A Valiant Display in The Guardians

Russian superheroes, created in a secret lab are the last hope for humanity before an evil master mind takes over the world. The Guardians is a fast paced action movie that proves that Hollywood isn’t the only superhero makers in the world.I’ve been looking forward to this movie for well over a year now. Despite the horrific English subtitles I was able to acquire, it didn’t seem to hurt the eye candy. Nightwatch & Daywatch are two of my favorite movies and proves that Russians know how to tell a story and stretch a budget when making thought provoking movies. Even reading broken English, I found myself more than excited to delve into the superhero mythos of another country.

In a fast series of open credit montages, we discover that scientists of the Patriot project created super beings. While one geneticist seemed to create these powered beings, his cohort had other plans and in the wake of embarrassing failures, vanished. Of course he returns as our antagonist, a man able to control any electronic device (including some pretty bad ass arachnid style mechs.)

Mayor seeks out the super beings, she finds four. Arsus, with the ability to transform himself into a bear. Khan, a speedster and teleporter with deadly blades. Ler, a geokinetic (he moves rock with his mind.) And Kseniya a woman with the ability to go invisible when wet. None of them have aged in forty years since the experiment and they want to find the man who took part in making them. Motivation here is minimal, they simply “do” because they can. It’s glossy.

The fight sequences are spectacular. Khan’s ability to fight, teleport and use super speed are one of the most graceful fight scenes I’ve seen in a superhero movie. It manages to make the opening sequence in X2 with Nightcrawler look like amateur hour. We also have a beautiful scene with Kseniya in which we first discover her abilities. Blending art with her power, it makes for some beautiful effects. Arsus spends the majority of the movie in his half-man, half-bear form and while the effects don’t quite make the cut for him, I believe it at least makes the cut. It’s only when Ler uses his abilities that the rock becomes overly CGI and we see where the budget fell short. However, beyond any superhero movie up to this point, Ler find interesting ways to utilize his abilities beyond simply making rocks move. I do wonder though, if he can make rock move, why doesn’t concrete count? There are some superhero powered plot holes I want answered.

While I’m singing the praises up to this point, I do so with the an understanding that this budget is 1/36 of the Avengers and 1/41 of Batman v. Superman. Clocking in at just over 6,000,000 dollars, they never had a chance to reach blockbuster status. While the CGI is not up to snuff by modern-day standards, it doesn’t hurt the best action scenes. In fact, I think they got creative with how they filmed, making it overall better in many ways. Do you hear the “but” coming?

This movie suffers not from the lack of budget, but from the storytelling. Remember how I said Nightwatch is a superb film? This doesn’t even come close. While Nightwatch evokes a sense of dread, and the characters motivations are cryptic, we find every action they make believable. In Guardians however, I kept asking myself, is the female military lead really having a heart-to-heart with each of them before their big mission? Will they hug? Did a professor who started the experiments show up in the middle just to save a Guardian? Wait, is he also the bad guy? Or does he get a pass? And did the power of friendship save the day? What the hell happened to this plot? I want to remove the speaking. I want to ditch about 20 minutes of the plot, cause for the life of me, I can’t figure out what is happening, and the final fight scene? Yeah, I WOULD MAKE THAT A THING. Power of friendship my ass. And while we’re at it, the villain is boring and I’m okay with that, but he gets so much screen time, I would spend more time on his makeup/costume. He looked like a giant on steroids.

Overall? Russia has potential in the superhero market. But with their inability to match U.S. budgets (I mean, look at the demographics) they will have to rely on something other than effects. This means tightening the stories, focusing on the acting, and developing believable relationships between the cast. We know they can pull off special effects, now they need to get to the roots if they want to be contenders.

I can only imagine what would have been capable with a budget identical to the Avengers. How would I rate it? Even with its janky script, questionable motivations and at-times impossible to comprehend subtitles, it’s still better than Batman v. Superman.


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