The Old Guard (2020)
July 10, 2020 6:33 PM - Subscribe

I enjoyed this - good cast, good stunts, good direction. Hope they do the sequels, I may have to check out the comics in the interim.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:00 PM on July 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this far more than expected - I thought it would be just a pleasant Friday night diversion, not a movie I got invested in.

Charlize Theron continues to impress.
posted by nubs at 9:39 PM on July 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

This movie made me very happy (as the comics have for some time). I love good fun action fare that has some emotion and fully realized relationships at its core, and to get a diverse cast with multiple queer characters is just the proverbial chef's kiss. I am so glad Greg Rucka was committed to not letting his work be straightwashed, and I love the adaptive changes that Gina Prince-Bythewood made. She was absolutely the right person to preserve and further develop the drama, romance, and friendship in the source material.
posted by northernish at 9:43 PM on July 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Charlize Theron kicking ass and killing fools is one of my favourite film genres and this does not disappoint. Legitimately keen to see a sequel.

As others have said, there's a surprising amount of character depth and all the supporting roles are played well and with considerable charm.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:56 AM on July 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite bits is how they subvert the old superhero trope of "they lose their powers when exposed to one thing and it's (kryptonite, salt water, daylight, the colour yellow, silver bullets, their batteries run out etc etc etc)" - the superheros in this film lose their powers at complete random and for no reason that they can figure out (although a few have hunches), so there's absolutely no way for a lazy writer to telegraph that to the audience beforehand.

Chekov's kryptonite is literally impossible, and I couldn't be happier.
posted by Mogur at 9:15 AM on July 11, 2020 [6 favorites]

posted by rmd1023 at 11:36 AM on July 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Got them pre-first death, I'd say.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:00 PM on July 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Rated on the 100% objective Fallable-Scale of Charlize Theron Butt-Kickings:

Fury Road: 11/10
The Old Guard: 8/10
Atomic Blonde: 6/10
Children of the Corn 3 - Urban Harvest: 1/10
Æon Flux: stares at camera blinking "please send help" in morse code
posted by FallibleHuman at 12:20 PM on July 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

I also wondered about the ear piercings. Also wondered why they had to eat until I realized that they don't - it's just vastly preferable to continually starving to death and coming back to life.
posted by Mogur at 1:05 PM on July 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I too was distracted by the ear piercings in the modern-day scenes, much like TV's Supergirl - though at least I don't think Andy's ears were visible in the flashback sequences so as least the fan-wank of the piercings being pre-first-death is somewhat plausible.

Forgot to say before - I really loved the soundtrack choices.
posted by oh yeah! at 1:50 PM on July 11, 2020

Loved this, am on board for more. As TV Guide said, it is the rare action movie where the talking, emotional bits are even better than the action bits. (Marvel once had this but has dropped it in many films in order to lean on quips instead.) The world building made me want to find out more, and I too am thinking of picking up one of the comics.

I liked what they did with Chadwick Boseman's character a lot. His rationale for doing what he did made sense, and in the future he'll play a role with the team that they desperately need. I wondered why they hadn't gotten assistants/Renfields before; it would seem like the sort of thing one should do.

I was disappointed by the way everyone shied away from Nile after she died and came back to life. If a friend or loved one of MINE came back to life, I would be so happy! Maybe I'm not most people. I thought Booker's unpacking of what it's like to stay in the lives of your loved ones, and how it becomes a mess, was really interesting.

As worldbuilding, I thought the punishment for Booker made a huge amount of sense. That's exactly what you do.

Side note: this is getting brigaded on IMDB's reviews for being "woke" (used as a perjorative in this case).
posted by rednikki at 3:16 PM on July 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Chadwick Boseman's character

I think you mean Chiwetel Ejiofor's character?
posted by oh yeah! at 3:52 PM on July 11, 2020 [9 favorites]

I found it odd that their plan for making the world a better place was through constant slaughter. The bloody stream of disposable men made me think of that issue of The Invisibles. I also didn't really get a sense of why - seeing as how they're so disconnected from mortals and can destroy them so casually - they bother doing what they do.

The direction seemed a bit... I'm trying to think of the word for it - effective action movies seem to me to be built around moments of heightened intensity (all films, actually. All time-based art, come to think of it), and the moments stick in our mind and that's how we reconstruct our memory of the film. There didn't seem to be very much heightened intensity - there were a lot of kinetics, but little that demanded attention.

Far too much people explaining things to other people, too. Perhaps that's why it made less of an impression than I expected - so much of it was contained in things people tell other people, which I tend not to absorb as well as I might.

Oh, here I am moaning, I'm sorry. I certainly don't consider it to be a waste of a Saturday evening. It's always a pleasure to watch Charlize Theron do this sort of thing.
posted by Grangousier at 4:37 PM on July 11, 2020

FallibleHuman: I'd flip Atomic Blonde and Old Guard - the late-film fight in the apartment building is just *chef-kiss*. I've not seen either of the bottom two, and it sounds like that's a good thing so I'll just go watch Fury Road Black and Chrome or something instead...
posted by rmd1023 at 6:20 PM on July 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Where did Martin Shkrelli get all those mooks from?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:58 PM on July 11, 2020 [8 favorites]

I found it odd that their plan for making the world a better place was through constant slaughter.

I think is both a little too simplistic a take and one of the mostly-unspoken elements of world-building that elevates this flick above standard action super fare.

The context pretty strongly hints that they were all soldiers in their original lives - Joe, Nicky, and Booker definitely were, we aren't given any origin details about Andy, Quynh (the woman trapped in the iron box under the sea), or the unnamed Old Guard member we see dying. but it's certainly no stretch to believe that they all have an origin like Nile's; they first discovered their immortality when they were supposedly mortally wounded in battle and then . . . they didn't die.

And for all of the time they've been alive war of some type has been pretty damned constant - for most of us watching this right now war and armed conflict are things that happen mostly to other people far away, but for an awful lot of human history being involved in some kind of armed conflict was often a matter of "when", not "if."

So now you've got folks who know how to fight who can't be killed. But they don't have any other powers - they're not super strong, they can't fly, or shoot laser beams out of their eyes, or read minds, or whatever, and they're not more intelligent than any other random person. (Like, sure, they could devote centuries to studying physics or whatever, but there's certainly no guarantee that they'd contribute anything useful to the field, and "academic" is the kind of endeavor that's probably harder to just appear in and disappear from than mercenary or regular soldier or even small shopkeeper, so even if they were inclined to do that they'd have to construct and maintain a whole complex cover story to live in regular society and actually be an academic.)

I mean, what else are they gonna do? Their superpower is "get stabbed, shot, bludgeoned, heal, get back up." That's it. About the only place that's a useful power is in the middle of battle. (Again, especially in pre-20th century history.) So that's what they've done.

It's clearer if you watched the end credits, which show lots of the research Copley did tracking them down, but I wouldn't call their plan "constant slaughter" - yes they've been involved in lots of wars, but for a lot of history wars were how things got changed; you wanna do good with what's really a fairly limited "immortality" superpower, you join the war on the side you think is right. They've also clearly had some involvement, especially in the 20th century onwards, with things that you could certainly call "humanitarian missions." For example, the phony mission that kicked all this off was supposed to be a rescue of a group of kidnapped young girls - the slaughter didn't happen until they were trapped.

I also didn't really get a sense of why - seeing as how they're so disconnected from mortals and can destroy them so casually - they bother doing what they do.

Well, yes, this is one of the core existential questions of their lives, especially for Andy. At the beginning of the movie as the group gets together they note that it's been a year since their last mission, essentially because Andy was suffering from burnout. As the oldest member of the Guard and their leader, she's the one who has to shoulder the moral and philosophical burden of deciding why they do what they do, and which missions to take, and how to cover their tracks; everyone else will just follow her lead. It's clear to a large extent that she is essentially operating on "autopilot" - the larger question of "why act to help humanity" was decided in her own mind so long ago that she hasn't thought about it in years, and now she's simply examining each potential job case by case, without considering any larger picture.

What happens to Andy over the course of the rest of the movie - the need to deal with and mentor Nile as a new immortal (something Andy hasn't had to do for centuries); the way Nile reacts to this and makes her own decisions; a classic "ends justify the means" multi-layered conflict with Merrick; the loss of Andy's immortality; the new perspective she gains from seeing Copley's history of the Old Guard - is both the cause and the process of Andy having to consider "Why do we bother doing what we do?" for the first time in a long time.

(Side note - none of this is from reading the comics, which I haven't done. I didn't know Rucka was involved until the end credits, but I wasn't surprised when I saw his name - this sort of examination of the lives of people deeply involved with violence is kind of his territory, especially in his novels (which I am far more familiar with than his comics work.))
posted by soundguy99 at 9:47 PM on July 11, 2020 [16 favorites]

Oh my god, I didn't realize it until someone on tumblr pointed it out - Merrick is grown-up skinny Dudley Dursley actor Harry Melling. Ha!
posted by oh yeah! at 5:10 AM on July 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

Watched this last night and really enjoyed it.

Was convinced they were setting up Quynh to be the villain in a big reveal, having spent hundreds of years drowning to death and now insane, pissed off, and looking for revenge. I was glad that didn't happen. Could have done without the end bit too, really. Either make a sequel or don't, we don't really need a cliffhanger. Kind of interesting that now they can do a sequel either with or without Theron.

The flashbacks to historical battles were really cool and it looks like they involved a ton of work for very minimal screen time.
posted by ODiV at 11:36 AM on July 12, 2020

So is the sequel “the band gets back together” or is it “insane + pissed off semi-immortals Quynh and Booker seek revenge on rest of the band”?
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:24 PM on July 12, 2020

I loved this, it's straight to my action-movie-lovin' id. Canonically gay couple! Femslash! The lonely sad guy! The grizzled or world-weary vet mentoring the bright new young one! FOUND FAMILY! And then you get Charlize kicking ass with a double-bladed axe plus scenic locations that are not the US, and I'm like, aaahhhh.

Man, I wish I could have seen this in a theatre. I would have gone back at least a few times in the Before. I want fix-it fic now where Booker doesn't get kicked out of the fam or betray them... But of course, that sets up an interesting tag there at the end.

I appreciated that Copley's history and grief are what informed his choices, and that he understood what bad choices they really were but was conflicted until the end with making those choices--a lot of movies have that character come to the conclusion too swiftly and change sides, and I liked that he was seeing English Martin Skrelli be awful but still thought something good might come of it. Chiwetel Ejiofor is just the best.

My only complaint really was that I'd have loved to see some more of those ancient fights, and the immortal who died. Am definitely watching this again soon, and hoping it makes it into the Yuletide fic exchange.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:11 AM on July 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I mean, what else are they gonna do?
Professional Crash Test Dummy. cough or stunt man, or really long term investor.

Was convinced they were setting up Quynh to be the villain
There was a strong attempt to not have super villains, even the CEO scumbag wanted to make billions on medicine rather than his volcano lair.

It felt more like an extended pilot than a movie, this would make a good 'network' series with a bunch of intertwined episodes with just a bit of martial arts at the highlight of each episode, few expensive special effects.

There was just enough cleverness, ha telling the pilot to play dead, so why not stay clever and get through the corporate lab maze with less killing and more smarts and snark, would've been much better and set up the jump out the building better.
posted by sammyo at 11:14 AM on July 14, 2020

Kind of blows my mind that I watched this, Palm Springs and then Ghost Stories (also on Hulu) in the space of a weekend and they were my three favorite movies this year by far. This movie was just satisfying and I loved that.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:31 PM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

As worldbuilding, I thought the punishment for Booker made a huge amount of sense. That's exactly what you do.

Oh, I have to disagree. When that happened, I yelled "that's how you make a supervillain, damnit!"

You've got an immortal guy who has been so desperately lonely that he sold out himself and his only loved ones to possibly endless torture just for the hope of dying... And how do you respond? Why, by making him even more lonely! What could go wrong!

This is why we need restorative justice: for all them lonely immortal dudes.
posted by meese at 9:54 PM on July 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

I was glad they set out to kill the evil pharma guy at the end. I feel like a lot of action movies have the heroes passionately cutting through the mercenaries and then...they just...stop before killing whoever hired the mercenaries. It drives me nuts every time! Obviously henchmen aren't the real problem.
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:43 PM on July 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I liked this a lot, the worldbuilding, the plot, the character development. Cool (and interesting) fight scenes, too.

Yes sammyo! The writing was clever but never so much as to be twee. Lots of non-flashy bits showing Andromache's experience and skill. But, I suspect the usual corporate meddling in the end.

Theron had a (cutely self conscious) interview on 'A Late Night with Stephen Colbert' recently.

I noticed that the immortal dudes weren't roid-ed out body-sculpted/ built supermen, but rather more realistic representations of (non-USA) special forces soldiers.

Can't remember where this analysis of irl special forces types came from, but I recall one that commented that the Brits tended to lanky long-distance endurance types compared to Americans that tended more towards beefy/ show-off big.
posted by porpoise at 7:15 PM on July 17, 2020

For whatever it's worth, thriller author Lee Child (who I suspect has done the research) has suggested multiple times that "special forces" soldiers tend towards the short and wiry, even in the US. (With the point that hauling around 50 to 100 extra pounds of muscle that needs lots of food and water is not exactly practical in soldiers that are supposed to be able to move quickly and quietly and spend weeks or months living off the land in hostile territory. His own series protagonist, Jack Reacher, is a big dude, over 6 foot and 250 pounds, and was never even considered for special forces in his military career.)
posted by soundguy99 at 7:52 PM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do the comics explain:
1) What happens when one of immortals is decapitated or blown to pieces? Surely, that’s been done to them or to themselves over the centuries and hasn’t killed them yet. Does a decapitated head grow a new body, or vice versa?
2) Why all but one of them speak English with a modern American accent?
posted by ShooBoo at 10:05 PM on July 17, 2020

I have not read the comics, but the immortality is purely supernatural. There is no possible mechanism to explain the type of regeneration that is depicted.

Salamanders may lose part of their tail and regrow it, but the tail isn't able to regrow on its own. If a salamander breaks a bone, it will not set itself - if it heals, it will heal in the position it was broken in.

In the case of a worm cut in half, the part with the head has it easy. The part without the feeding parts would have to rely on stored cellular energy and nutrition (nucleic acids for cell division, amino acids for proteins, lipids for cell membranes) to regenerate the feeding parts in order to acquire for energy/ nutrition.

As shown with Booker (?) large amounts of damage (probably a grenade in the chest?) just takes longer to heal.

As stated, there is no mechanism for Nile's broken arm to set itself, so the self-reorganizing is part of the supernatural process. I'd suspect that severed limbs would be regrown, but there isn't enough information to say what (and which) the smallest basic unit of the body is required for total regeneration (ie., is decapitation lethal, like in the 'Highlander' universe).

If there is a "which," it'll depend on where it is to determine whether a body regenerates from the head, or the body regenerates a head.

Another unresolved question is 'being burnt alive.' Would that be lethal? Only if that smallest basic unit is also destroyed?

On that note, its implied that every time Quynh (?) recovers from drowning, it looks like she screams and lets out a lungful of air, so there's the question of where that air's coming from, also.

Also, when she is originally discovered, she has been repeatedly being dead from exposure but regenerates (and rehydrates).
posted by porpoise at 12:08 PM on July 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Loved it; I haven't seen enough of Rucka's adapted work to compare this to them (Whiteout wasn't reviewed very well, I haven't seen Stumptown yet, ditto the first season of Batwoman which seems to at least partially follow Rucka's early work on the comic. But this was quite good. Following up on a few points mentioned:

Children of the Corn 3 - Urban Harvest

I'm going to pretend that I didn't read that. Hey, has everyone heard that Atomic Blonde is getting a sequel? Let's think about that instead.

I was disappointed by the way everyone shied away from Nile after she died and came back to life. If a friend or loved one of MINE came back to life, I would be so happy!

Maybe less if you were there when their throat got cut and you watched them bleed out in your arms. Not sure how much combat these Marines have seen, but they probably know when dead is dead. (The thing that stuck out for me was the gold cross that Nile was wearing when talking to the Pashtun women, who were probably not Christian. That was probably not the best idea.)

Agreed that their healing is no more scientifically plausible than Wolverine's, which just added to the improbability of Grown-Up Dudley/British Shkreli's plan to sequence their genes and make everyone immortal and healthy. (Although I suspect that that Wolvergene probably would have ended up as the exclusive property of the 1%, which is also where I suspected Dr. Rice was going with Logan's X-factor in Logan.) Also that, absent any other mental or psychological propensities, having super-healing is probably going to nudge someone toward the combat arts, and eventually into their own very exclusive club because everyone else would ask questions.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:10 PM on July 18, 2020

Could the *other* supernatural element be their choice of people to help? As Copley discovered, they are often rescuing the parents or grandparents of people who will do a major good in the world. I know, this could be a coincidence (if you rescue tens of thousands of people over centuries, at least a few will be related to famous medical researchers etc). But what if it isn't? What if they're being nudged into places where they will change the future for the better?
posted by Mogur at 3:05 AM on July 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

choice of people to help

My read was that was a bit of "feel good-ism." Like, the original idea was that they made good choices of who to help and it inadvertently led to happy coincidences down the road - however, someone in production/ rewrite almost certainly juiced the idea to insert some kind of supernatural/ karma “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

And these immortals are helping bend it that way.

I think that the original idea was good enough. Good people tend to be better parents kind of thing, and those good people would have perished without their intervention, so the crew's good choices are helping accelerate human progress. No need to insert additional supernatural intervention.
posted by porpoise at 10:53 AM on July 19, 2020

I thought it was okay - I think maybe it's been overhyped for the last week or so, because I was a little disappointed by the character work - it felt kind of standard. The action sequences were good, I found it interesting that the general concept of the movie meant that they had justification to make the action scenes more gruesome than usual - not only towards to heroes that could heal, but also towards the people trying to kill them (that one flip/neck snap, for example, and Nile healing from the skyscaper fall in the end). It reminded me of Deadpool, of all things, even though it had a much different tone.

But yeah, I'd watch a sequel.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:00 PM on July 19, 2020

I super enjoyed it. I actually liked how the betrayal by the French immortal guy was totally obvious from the beginning, but what was unexpected was his good intentions for doing so.

The one part I didn't catch was how Nile figured out from the unloaded gun that they were in danger? Did French immortal guy purposely unload the guns or something?

Also hoping they make the prequel. Not everything has to be done like the mega-budget superhero franchises.
posted by polymodus at 10:38 PM on July 19, 2020

Nile and Andy switched guns just before that, so Nile knew that someone was trying to sabotage Andy. The part *I* didn't get was why Andy didn't realize her gun was empty. Wouldn't it weigh less, enough that someone with her experience would check it to make sure?
posted by Mogur at 1:33 AM on July 20, 2020

From Twitter: "The end of Old Guard except Paul Rudd meets the crew out at the bar and they all give him shit for using his immortality to play the same 38 year old character for the last 25 years"
posted by Pronoiac at 7:55 PM on July 22, 2020 [9 favorites]

Alison Willmore at The Vulture: The Brutal Pleasure of Watching Charlize Theron Turn to Action
... That sense of having lived through some shit is, if The Old Guard is any indication, now Theron’s signature. As Andy, née Andromache of Scythia, the longest-running member of the film’s collective of nearly unkillable soldiers, she wears the years in counterintuitive and considered ways.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:20 AM on July 30, 2020

I have a bone to pick, namely the survivorship fallacy with respect to the team’s legacy. Of course there would be beneficial descendants among those saved, that’s the law of numbers. It’s impossible to know how many descendants of the people who were killed by the team would have been beneficial, and given how many are killed vs saved, well... it’s hard to say they have a net positive impact.
posted by domo at 10:11 PM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just finished watching this and loved. The opening is a 20-minute ad for Charlize Theron in sunglasses and I am HERE FOR IT.

Right the end I said, "We better see an Old Guard 2..." and then there was that stinger! YES!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:32 PM on August 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

There were parts I liked better when they were backed by a Queen soundtrack and the old guy was a Spaniard with a Scottish accent, but it was still pretty good.
posted by Kyol at 6:26 AM on August 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Finally got around to watching it and it was fine for a Netflix movie. Theron and KiKi Layne
are great but I had trouble even remembering which of the three dude immortals was which. The fight scenes were better than usual for such things but the gunning down of an endless parade of black-clad nameless baddies got kind of gross after a while.

Here's a thing that kind of bothered me; in the ambush at the beginning, the bad guys don't seem to know about their healing ability despite the fact that they're trying to capture them for just that reason.
posted by octothorpe at 4:17 PM on September 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

octothorpe, I put it to you that the objective of the ambush at the beginning was not to capture the immortals, but rather to produce evidence of the existence of the immortals. The mission produced video of the four immortals being killed and then returning to life. Further, I put it to you that the black clad baddies are perfect dupes of Chiwetel Ejiofor. They didn't know they were being sent to gun down immortals.
posted by chrchr at 11:43 AM on September 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

I could buy that. Just went and read the Wikipedia plot description which says the same thing. So, OK.
posted by octothorpe at 4:27 PM on September 3, 2020

When you say you couldn't tell which of the three immortal dudes was which, do you mean their modernized names weren't clear? Or their plots lines of French man takes actions that lead to capture of his colleagues, the married gay Muslim and Italian couple? Cause I found the men to be physically very distinct and there are many action films where I never learn, much less remember, the name of guy#3, much less guy#4 and 5.
posted by beaning at 5:39 PM on September 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm really not interested in being personally interrogated on what I got from the movie.
posted by octothorpe at 6:12 PM on September 3, 2020

This reminded me of the Saint-Germain novels in a way. I spent a lot of the draggy/predictable action parts wondering if it was intentionally playing in that corner of vampiric fiction or if it's a case of convergent evolution. I suppose maybe the pharma company is the real vampire of the story though.
posted by joeyh at 8:08 PM on April 8, 2021

Just won the 2021 Hugo for best dramatic presentation long form
posted by Gorgik at 7:29 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

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