Released: February 2017(Russia)
Director: Sarik Andreasyan
Run Time: 88 Minutes
Distributor: Shout! Factory(USA)
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
Anton Pampushnyy: Arsus
Sanjar Madi: Khan
Sebastien Sisak: Ler
Alina: Lanina: Kseniya
Stanislav Shirin: August Kuratov
For decades, the superhero film has essentially been lorded over by Hollywood and western film makers. It makes sense in a way, since the first superhero comics were written in the United States. DC/Warner Bros. and Marvel essentially have a stranglehold on the superhero film, starting with Superman: The Movie and continuing on with movies like Batman and X-Men. But every so often, we see stuff from other countries like India, Japan and China. The problem is that those movies are not very good and aren’t taken very seriously by the people who made them. But the one country that we really don’t see superhero movies come from is Russia. Russia is known for many things like vodka and gorgeous woman as well as a language that is difficult to learn. Enter The Guardians, the first real Russian superhero movie.
The film opens with an explanation that during the Cold War, the Soviet Union had been secretly experimenting on people to create superheroes to defend the Union against any possible aggressor. When the Cold War ended, the project called “Patriot” was deemed classified and shut down. However, during the experiments, one scientist who was scorned by the Soviets, took his own projects to the extreme, which ultimately ended up exploding in his face, literally. The chemicals that were released in that explosion changed him physically, making him super-strong. Decades later, the scientist, Kuratov, has resurfaced and began taking control of tanks and robots using a machine that he created. To fight this evil, the government has been tasked with locating 4 people that were successfully experimented on: Arsus, who can transform into a werebear(you read that right); Khan, who can teleport and is an expert martial artist with two curved swords; Ler, who can telekinetically manipulate rocks and soil, and Kseniya, who can become invisible and can control her own body temperature. Story-wise, this plays out pretty much like almost any other superhero movie that we’ve seen in the past 40+ years. To be fair to the folks that made this movie, it’s extremely difficult to stand out in a genre that’s VERY over-saturated. And yet, the makers of The Guardians managed to do just that.
Aside from being Russian, what actually makes this particular superhero film stand out from the rest is in its design. While somewhat familiar in design, I’ve never seen characters designed like this before. The real standout here is the guy that can turn into a bear wielding a minigun. If I’m lying, I’m dying. It’s bizarre, and yet it’s really cool at the same time. Thing is, this character, Arsus, can transform at will at any time. Ler can manipulate rocks and create stone armor around himself to protect himself and beat the living daylights out of the opposition. Kseniya’s character is basically the Russian equivalent of The Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four, except she can manipulate her own body temperature. She’s also a martial artist, so she can kick all sorts of butt. Khan is very interesting. He’s not only super-strong, but he’s also super fast. He also wields these two really curved swords that he can actually combine to make a single double-bladed weapon. The villain, though, is not that impressive. He’s basically just super-strong and he has a backpack that he can use to manipulate electronic devices including tanks and robots. He’s about as bland as a villain as you can get. His ultimate goal? World domination, what else? The villain is strictly by-the-numbers and not even memorable. The acting is a bit of a mixed bag. From what I understand, some people had issues with the acting while watching the film with the English dubbing. That is almost always a bad idea. If you’re going to watch a foreign film, watch it in its original language with subtitles. It’s a better performance every single time. That being said, even in its original language, the acting in The Guardians can be pretty awful. Thankfully, the four main leads do a decent enough job, but everybody else is just…meh.
The action in the film is surprisingly pretty decent. The camera-work is mostly wide enough so that we can see what’s going on. Some of the hand-to-hand choreography is decent enough, but lacks the punch of some other action films. You’ve got big explosions, a guy that manipulate rocks, mass destruction and a guy that can turn into a fucking bear wielding a fucking minigun! How awesome is that? The film moves at a pretty decent clip and running at just 88 minutes, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. The CGI on the other hand, ranges from decent to “what the fuck was that?!” Again, I want to be fair. The film industry in Russia is nowhere near as robust as ours, so they don’t have access to the equipment that we do, nor do they have the money to really craft something truly epic in scale, at least not for superheroes at this point. That being said, it’s still visually interesting and quite enjoyable to watch. The final battle on the tower is really cool and the destruction sequence is something to behold.
When it comes to superhero movies, I always enjoy watching something new. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t really give a damn about originality. As a result, I have to look elsewhere for originality, even Russia. Thankfully, The Guardians is original enough for me to enjoy, even though it tends to follow similar tropes that you see in other superhero films. The Guardians has gotten a lot of bad press not just in Russia about around the world. I’m not entirely sure why. I found it to be a breath of fresh air in terms of visuals. It’s a pretty spectacular film. Does it always work? No. There are issues with the dialogue and the fact that the whole thing is taken way too seriously. That being said, if you’re looking for something a little different and new, give The Guardians a shot. It may be what you’re looking for.
My Final Recommendation: Did I mention that there’s a man that turns into a bear that wields a fucking minigun? 8/10.