Since the trailers first appeared out of nowhere, expectations for the Russian superhero film, Guardians, have been relatively high. It’s got “spider tanks”, a cool looking version of The Flash with giant sickle-like blades, some massive destruction and a guy with a bear’s head toting a mini-gun! How bad could it be?
The answer is pretty bad. They say first impressions last and Guardians fails to make a good one. It’s probably bad form to criticize a foreign film for its dubbing work, but even ignoring the issue of trying to match English to Russian mouth flaps, the English dub of Guardians lacks any kind of wit, humour or sense of fun.
Anyone who’s experienced bad video-game dialogue will know exactly what to expect, even from the very opening moments.
After a trio of “spider tanks” are stolen by a mysterious figure, it’s revealed that Soviet Russia had its own super soldier program during the cold war. Called Patriot, it’s ageless, mostly miserable, former members are still around and are the only thing that can stop August Kuratov, a former Patriot scientist who wants to rule the world.
Yep. That’s actually his stated goal, to take over the world. It’s a mystery why he wants to do this now, seeing as illegal experiments and his own hubris lead him to be mutated into a cross between The Toxic Avenger and the Nemesis from Resident Evil Apocalypse, 40 years ago.
He’s chosen to resurface now though, so Maj. Elena Larina, who we never get to know beyond her pout, needs to seek out these Patriots and enlist their aid. The obviousness of the script means that she actually says this out loud; “I have 2 weeks to search all of the former soviet union for the super-humans that can stop a super-villain?”.
In fact, it only takes about 5 minutes to locate Ler, a man who can control rocks; Khan, a speedster with those sweet swords; Kseniya, a knock off invisible woman and Arsus, who can turn into a bear. Yes, a bear. With magic Hulk-style pants that disappear when he goes “full bear mode” and reappear moments after he changes back to human form!
With her team “assembled” it’s off to stop Kuratov, but as this all took place rather hurriedly in the first act, there’ll be a few obstacles and botched plans along the way.
Slice n’ dice
While those obstacles are well realised visually, everything else about Guardians doesn’t quite hold together. The special effects look decent for the most part, but the story they’re telling is unexciting, the characters tedious and the pacing odd. it feels like the film may have been recut for this English version as some scenes play out in a way that seems to defy logic.
One minor character seems to be left dying on a floor for a number of long scenes before being returned to, while later on the heroes engage in the expected training montage but do so while there is absolutely nothing stopping Kuratov from completing his plan. It may look cool but it makes absolutely no sense. If Kuratov had pushed himself a bit harder he might have been able to take over the world while the Guardians were still posing in their new outfits.
While the Guardians themselves look good, the same attention that went into their design clearly didn’t extend to their characters. Near the end of the film there’s a line about them all being friends but nothing in the film leads you to believe this. Everything the audience learns about them, and that they learn about each other, comes from ham-fisted exposition dumps with Major Larina.
“Have you got a suit? Then suit up“
As for the villain, Kuratov looks incredibly weird and misshapen, all fake latex muscles and metal attachments. The poor actor appears to be quite uncomfortable inside his suit and is more reminiscent of some kind of overgrown baby than an imposing villain.
That said, Guardians doesn’t quite fall into the “so bad, it’s good” bucket. While the acting/voiceover is bad it’s not “laugh out loud bad” except perhaps for the scene where Arsus shares his fear of being stuck in “bear mode”
Guardians occasionally looks “cool” but not often enough to remain entertaining. Despite some brazen attempts to set up sequels during the ending and the mid-credits stinger it’s doubtful The Avengers, or even the Justice League, need to watch their backs any time soon.
Starring: Anton Pampushnyy, Sanzhar Madiyev, Sebastien Sisak, Alina Lanina, Stanislav Shirin, Valeriya Shkirando
Directed by: Sarik Andreasyan