THE OLD GUARD is good–and here’s what could make the sequel even better

Yes, there will be a sequel to THE OLD GUARD, which is crushing the competition on Netflix right now. Click with your mousity mouse thing to watch the trailer.

Cool, right? Furiousa is back and she’s kicking butt.

If you haven’t watched the movie, spoilers ahead. If you have watched it, let’s talk about what worked, what didn’t, and how they could amp this thing up in the sequel.

The general feel of this movie worked well. It’s a fun time, and the acting is great for an action movie.

I like the premise–immortals who may randomly lose the ability to heal–though if you called this HIGHLANDER WITH GUNS, that feels pretty accurate, too.

The trouble with any type of immortal hero is you run into The Superman Trap, which is the fact the audience never worries about the hero being in danger because they basically can’t die. What’s good about HIGHLANDER and vampire movies is there are clear rules of how this all works. Vampires are vulnerable to sunlight, garlic, and such. Highlander and his fellow immortals die when they lose their heads, gaining the power of whoever they vanquish, except it’s not clear what power they really get. Are they faster or tougher after the light show? Can’t tell. Can they fly or do card tricks? Dunno. We’re just told they get more power, which is defined as the ability to do work, except we never see Highlander and his fellow immortal sword fetishists do anything other than swing blades at each other.

It is a nice twist for the hero, Furiosa (okay, her name in this movie is Andy, but does it really matter?) to lose her immortality toward the end. Because it raises the stakes and makes us worry.

What I didn’t like was the villain, who’s a dweeby pharma bro CEO, and yes, he’s despicable, but not scary. And certainly not a match for Furiosa and her fellow immortals.

The ending if an action movie should always have the main character, not a sidekick, take out the villain. That villain had better be just as skilled, powerful, and scary as the hero. Otherwise, snooze city. Check out the ending fight of HIGHLANDER, which featured a great bad guy, totally imposing and scary. Loved him.

There are two real villains in these Furiosa with Guns movies, which is plural on purpose because there will be more. First up is the bearded dude immortal frenemy who betrays his friends, then helps beat the bad guys only to get banished for 100 years as punishment for the original betrayal that you should have figured out ten minutes into the story. Who set up the first job that went wrong? Oh, that guy. Yeah, he’s it.

THE OLD GUARD neatly sets up the top villain in the next film, the woman who Furiosa hung out with for centuries but couldn’t save when they drowned her in an iron coffin at sea, thinking she was a witch. Then she spend hundreds of years drowning, dying, and coming back only to die again. Dreadful, right?

There’s a great stinger ending scene where the Bearded Frenemy, spending his 100 years in exile drinking all the alcohols in Europe, is surprised by the Big Bad Frenemy of Furiosa who somehow escaped the iron coffin at the bottom of the ocean. She’s certainly set up to be scary, with a totally understandable motivation for revenge and a license from the French government to do wacky psycho villain things, seeing how spending all that time drowning and coming back to life, endlessly, would warp any of our minds.

What bugged me is compared to the Big Bad Immortal Frenemy, all the little villains who died in the previous two hours feel insignificant. Especially the dweeby pharma bro.

So I hope and pray the sequel sticks with a villain who is as powerful, or more powerful, than Furiosa and her immortal friends. Because this should be the First Law of Storytelling: a movie or novel is only as strong as the villain.

Is the hero so skilled and amazing that it requires an entire division of bad guys to slow him down? Is the villain equal to that or even more skilled? You see far too many movies and novels where the villain is no match at all for the hero. And it makes it boring.

A series that completely tilts the playing field in favor of the villains, and does it incredibly well? THE BOYS on Amazon Prime (I swear this sounds like a planet in the Degobah System or whatever). The superheroes everybody worships are actually villains, and the small band of people trying to take them down are–with one exception–average people with zero powers. They’re total underdogs and it makes every victory they have so worth it.

VERDICT

Yes, it’s accurate to say THE OLD GUARD is sorta HIGHLANDER with guns, but it’s a fun time, and well worth watching.

On a related note: EQUILIBRIUM is pretty much THE MATRIX crossed with FAHRENHEIT 451 and 1984, and you’d think that mix wouldn’t work, but it does. They overdo the gun-kata nonsense a bit, sure, yet there’s a lot of great action scenes in this Christian Bale movie.

 

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