If you have seen any of the trailers for the Russian superhero movie The Guardians, then you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect. If you know absolutely nothing about it, basically a Russian production company told some filmmakers to make a superhero movie that resembled the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And did they run with that idea, creating a hodgepodge of characters, plot, and imagery that is literally plucked from the films that they are imitating. The end result is a sometimes utterly cool, sometimes laughable and totally ridiculous big budget version of the poorly received 1990’s Marvel movies. But hey, there is a big bear with a machine gun.
The story is simple; a super-hero squad must reunite after being in hiding for many years in order to defeat a former enemy. That’s it. They join up and fight the bad guy, an easy formula. Yet the plot is a significant hindrance, as the characters get into some highly questionable moments that closely resemble the 1966 Batman TV series. Seriously, if you’ve seen Batman and Robin easily get caught at the end of one episode and then miraculously escape at the beginning of part two, then you understand what I’m talking about.
Instead of The Guardians, they should have been called The Russian Fantastic Four X-Men Avengers. They are literally American versions of various comic book characters that have been modified, altered, or combined together in some fashion. First, the group is a collection of scientific creations similar to either the Weapon X program or the super-soldier serum in Captain America. Then there are the various characters. You have the scientist Arsus that can transform into a man-bear, which is a riff on The Hulk. Ler looks like the Kryptonian bad guy Non from Superman II (1980) and can levitate rocks, a combination of The Thing and Magneto. Kseniya is the female member whose power is invisibility like Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl. Khan wears a mask and uses these crazy looking swords, resembling The Winter Soldier. The government agency running things bear a resemblance to S.H.I.E.L.D and they are complete with a female leader that combines elements of Black Widow and Nick Fury, minus the eye patch of course. Finally, there is the crazy looking practical effects laden baddie that resembles Bane from Batman & Robin (1997).
For the most part, the overall look of the film is excellent. Director Sarik Andreasyan does his best Michael Bay impersonation, making boring sequences interesting and delivering the camera placement and movements that Bay has become known for. The locations, set designs, and costumes, are all nicely done and have the appearance of a big budget movie. The huge letdown is the special effects, which range from almost looking realistic to downright horrible. This is something that you have to expect with most foreign productions, but better CGi would have greatly enhanced this picture.
The Guardians treads somewhere down the middle. While it has its moments where it could be Transformers or The Avengers, there are also those times where it is more like a Syfy production or a parody. If anything, this could become one of the new drinking games, where you drink every time that another comic book movie has been referenced or whenever the bear shows up.
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