“The Old Guard” Review!

I think I should inform you upfront that Netflix’s The Old Guard was always going to be my cup of tea, no matter what. Five immortal warriors from various historical time periods come together to fight the powers-that-be? That has me written all over it. So forgive me if I’m a little bit biased, but yes – The Old Guard is just as good as I had hoped it would be. It doesn’t necessarily exceed my expectations (and in certain places, it did let me down a little), but there’s no doubt in my mind that this will be a movie I rewatch time and time again while I wait for the sequel that director Gina Prince-Bythewood clearly wants to make, based on this film’s very unsubtle ending.

The Old Guard
ew.com

The Old Guard was marketed as a nonstop action movie, and that’s definitely not untrue – but I think what was left out of the trailers and promotional material for this film is the extent to which this is actually a drama. If you’re going into this expecting something comparable to Netflix’s Extraction, with brutal fight scenes filling every available moment of runtime, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. And while that might sound strange, considering this film’s entire concept, it actually pays off in the end: The Old Guard delivers on action when it needs to, but it still tells a complex and thoughtful character-driven story about people trying to find meaning and purpose in their overextended existence. We’ll see if that tactic pays off with audiences, but I truly hope it does because did I mention this film sets up a sequel?

If audiences are looking for the next Extraction, however…well, the action scenes in The Old Guard do leave something to be desired. The characters’ fighting styles lack any noticeable sense of finesse or historicity – though they each come equipped with their own weapon of choice from their respective centuries, they’re more often than not just carrying guns, which does feel a bit underwhelming: especially considering how much the huge, double-bladed battleaxe that Charlize Theron’s Andy (short for Andromache the Scythian) wields was played up in the trailers and posters. And though the action scenes get better as the film goes along, there are several that feel relatively middle-of-the-road: not bad, but not cleverly choreographed or visually interesting enough to capture attention. Apart from the climactic third act battle, the strongest fight is one in a drug-smuggler’s plane where Andy and her new recruit, U.S. Marine Nile Freeman (Kiki Layne) wrestle in a battle that requires their wits just as much as, if not more than, their physical strength. Is The Old Guard perhaps too clever for its own good occasionally? Perhaps.

The Old Guard
vanityfair.com

That being said, each of the five members of the team does possess healing capabilities that allow them to walk away from any injury, no matter how fatal, without harm – and that is something which is incorporated very well into the film’s writing. It can sometimes rob the tension from action scenes, but it drives the entire plot: it’s the reason why the team has survived as long as they have; it’s the reason why they’re on the run (because pharmaceutical corporations want to capture them and harvest their powers); and it’s, ironically, the reason why they can never be free from pain – unable to die, they have been forced to watch as humanity continues its self-destructive cycle of violence, as their families, loved ones and descendants grow old and perish around them. One of the team members, Napoleonic War veteran Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), tells a heartbreaking account of how his youngest son, dying of cancer, became consumed with jealousy of his immortal father. I’ve seen the concept of immortality tackled countless times in film and TV, but never as well as it is here.

But the film would never have succeeded at selling its hard-to-swallow subject matter without the efforts of its flawless cast. Charlize Theron, unsurprisingly, brings her all to the lead role of Andy, who has lived for so long she’s almost forgotten where and when she came from – but it’s not hard to figure out that she was once one of ancient Greece’s most fearsome war heroines. Kiki Layne, who comes into her own later in the film, shows the makings of a true action hero – and she just happened to do so at the best possible time, considering that the internet is currently fiercely debating who should play Storm in Marvel’s upcoming reboot of the X-Men franchise. Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli play opponents in the Crusades who, after having had to kill each other many times, ended up falling in love – not only did I greatly appreciate the genuine and meaningful LGBTQ+ representation (they actually kiss and show affection for each other!), but I was pleased to discover that Kenzari isn’t anywhere near as bland an actor as his role in Aladdin seemed to suggest. Chiwetel Ejiofor has a smaller role in the film as the team’s constant stalker, CIA agent Copley:¬†who is very clever and very dangerous…but also very offscreen for most of the time.

The Old Guard
dailynews.com

Time is something our immortal protagonists have in plenty, but the film itself doesn’t have quite enough, in my opinion. The Old Guard is just a little over two hours long, but those hours seem to fly by at an alarming rate, and it sometimes feel like we reach certain story beats too early. But while I would criticize that aspect of the movie, I also have to admire that it made me want even more. I’ve mentioned the sequel bait twice already, but third time’s the charm, am I right? Don’t worry, no spoilers here – but let’s just say, there’s a lot of potential for this franchise going forward, if Netflix chooses to go forward.

Will they? Hard to say, what with coronavirus still turning the world upside-down every few minutes and forcing studios to prioritize like never before. But there’s definitely no reason not to, unless the film massively underwhelms audiences – but as someone who doesn’t want to see Extraction ripoffs from now until the end of time, I appreciated this more clever, introspective type of thriller, and I wouldn’t object to another one.

Movie Rating: 8.9/10

“The Old Guard” Trailer Review!

In the first trailer for her upcoming, action-packed Netflix thriller The Old Guard, Charlize Theron brings her star power, intensive martial arts skills obtained from a career of similar projects, and her talents as a producer – and the result looks fresh, innovative and exciting.

Already, comparisons are being made to Chris Hemsworth’s recent thriller Extraction, which debuted on the streaming platform to a record-high view count. The Old Guard would be lucky to enjoy even half of that film’s success, but I’m personally hopeful – and confident – that Theron’s take on a Netflix thriller, working with a more experienced director, will be miles ahead of Extraction in terms of quality: and whereas the former film drew criticisms for what many perceived as a glorified white savior narrative and stereotypical portrayals of Southeast Asian people and culture, The Old Guard doesn’t appear to have any such problems just yet – the cast is authentically diverse, and the film highlights several different cultures from all around the world.

How could it not? The plot of the film revolves around a group of five soldiers from various historical time periods who are unable to die naturally or be killed. Led by Charlize Theron in her new role as battle-axe wielding warrior Andromache of Scythia (who now goes by “Andy” in the modern world), the team also includes Marwan Kenzari, Aladdin‘s Jafar, as a Medieval Muslim warrior who appears to have fallen in love with his former opponent, a Crusader played by Luca Marinelli. Matthia Schoenaerts rounds out the group as a Napoleonic soldier. But the team’s newest recruit, a U.S. Marine named Nile Freeman, is the character who sets the plot in motion, as the audience surrogate with whom we first encounter this strange, close-knit group of battle-hardened immortals. Freeman is played by KiKi Layne, who is moving quickly towards mainstream stardom – and hopefully, after a couple more roles like these, toward the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where she is my first choice to play the mutant goddess Ororo Munroe.

The Old Guard
vanityfair.com

But the Old Guard doesn’t just have to look out for the newest member of their team – now, they also find themselves hunted by the powers-that-be, who want to weaponize their rare ability and use it to create entire armies of immortal soldiers. Chiwetel Ejiofor, here playing a CIA operative with a passion for history, leads the villains from the sidelines, but hopefully he has a chance to get in on the action as well. Still, one gets a sense of brooding menace from several scenes in the trailer – particularly one in which Andy, after realizing she was accidentally caught in a passerby’s selfie, has to swipe the person’s phone and delete the photo. As she explains to Nile, the technological advancements of the modern world make it harder than ever for the Old Guard to remain a secret: and the longer Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character knows about her, the longer he poses a threat not only to their existence, but to the fate of the world itself.

As one would expect, there’s a ton of action: much of it utilizing weaponry one doesn’t typically see in a thriller, including the aforementioned battle-axe, and Kenzari’s character’s scimitar. For me, being somewhat of a military history buff, this looks like my kind of movie: guns, grenades and even bazookas can get repetitive after a while, but an ancient Greek warrior swinging a battle-axe? That never gets old.

So what do you think? Are you intrigued by the film’s premise, or are you just here for one particular member of the Old Guard team? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Ghost Rider” Coming To Disney+! Will The “Midnight Sons” Follow?

Though he’s probably among the most popular characters in the Marvel comics roster, Ghost Rider has had a hard time on screens both big and small. His first film adaptation came at a time when neither DC nor Marvel had yet figured out the magic formula for how to craft a comic book movie, and his appearance on TV, while still the best take on the character, had only limited appeal due to being on a TV show that far too few people actually watch – but now, it looks like Ghost Rider is heading to an even smaller type of screen (though, at the moment, a far more profitable one), and there, with the help of the established Marvel brand name and the tried-and-true Disney+ marketing strategy, he may finally get the success he deserves.

Ghost Rider
tvline.com

Ghost Rider is one of several dark, edgy characters who operate on the fringes of the Marvel Comics universe: the Rider in particular has always been one of the most unabashedly violent – he literally sells his soul to Satan himself (technically Mephisto, but whatever), so how could he not be? Whether the name belongs to stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze or car mechanic Robbie Reyes, a few key details always remain the same: he rides around at night with hellfire burning in his skeletal face, wielding whips, chains and a variety of other spiky weapons which he uses to harvest the souls of the damned, while fighting some of Marvel’s most powerful mystic villains – and occasionally, heroes, as he is rarely ever solely good or evil. It’s hard to imagine this character peacefully co-existing on the same family-friendly platform as other Disney brands.

That’s exactly why he was supposed to be heading to Hulu, with Gabriel Luna reprising the role of the Robbie Reyes version of the character – which he had already played, phenomenally, on the fourth season of ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., often said to be the series’ best. An idea for a spin-off following his character on more brutal, bloody exploits had already been written, but, sadly, the entire series was scrapped by Marvel president and producer Kevin Feige – at the time, it was believed that Feige had his own plans in store for the character, and now that has seemingly been confirmed. It looks like a version of Ghost Rider (probably Johnny Blaze, since it’s been strongly suggested that it’s not Reyes) will be going straight to Disney+, instead.

But whether Ghost Rider arrives on a motorcycle or in a muscle car, he won’t be alone. In fact, he could easily herald the creation of a new kind of superhero team in the MCU, one that is grittier and riskier than anything we’ve seen before. A couple potential members of this team are already popping up, though they will likely have to wait until the Rider arrives before they can actually form. I am, of course, referring to the infamous Midnight Sons.

Ghost Rider Midnight Sons
comicbook.com

In the comics, this team consists of a small, close-knit group of supernaturally gifted antiheroes, who usually work alone but come together in dire circumstances to protect the world from threats like demons, vampires and magic-users. Unsurprisingly, they’re closely affiliated with Doctor Strange, and his associate Doctor Voodoo. Membership changes on a regular basis, but characters like Ghost Rider, the Moon Knight, Blade and Elsa Bloodstone are all regulars at this point. And thankfully, almost every character on the team has a pretty good chance of showing up in the MCU in the near future, meaning that we could see them come together just in time for a third Doctor Strange film.

Ghost Rider Moon Knight
looper.com

Ghost Rider, obviously, is the very reason why this team would and should be assembled, so he’s a lock for a spot in the team’s line-up. Moon Knight, a mentally unstable CIA mercenary possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian moon god, has his own Disney+ series on the way – some of his supporting cast, such as Werewolf By Night or even Stained Glass Scarlet, could make good Midnight Sons candidates. Mahershala Ali is set to play rogue vampire assassin Blade in an as yet undated solo film, which will probably also introduce the world to feisty British monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone. And Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, the Sorcerer Supreme’s long-awaited sequel, is heavily rumored to feature Doctor Voodoo, as well as Strange’s love interest Clea – the niece of primordial demon Dormammu – whose horrific heritage should be enough to land her a spot on the team. With those specifics out of the way, all that remains to be done is to find them a proper villain to fight – and there are quite a few already lurking in the depths of the Fear Dimension, and elsewhere.

One of the most obvious and natural choices to take on the team during their first outing would be Karl Mordo, who was set up as a villain in Doctor Strange but hasn’t appeared since. His whole mission is to wipe out all the sorcerers in the MCU, meaning he’d have good reason to want to take down an entire team of powerful magic-users. The only problem I see with this idea is that Mordo doesn’t seem to have the strength to take on all the Midnight Sons at once, so he’d probably need to recruit several other…well, sorcerers, to his own cause. And that could work, if Mordo had been shown to be a hypocrite – but from what little we know of him, we can see that he truly believes everything he espouses. That means if Mordo does become a Midnight Sons antagonist, he should either be a third party trying to take out both the Sons and whoever their real enemies are, or he should get a serious power upgrade that could put him on the level of a Ghost Rider or Doctor Strange.

Ghost Rider Dracula
fullcirclecinema.com

But while we wait for that to happen, the Midnight Sons still need a villain – and in my opinion, it should either be Lilith, Mother of All Darkness and a frequent opponent of the team in the comics; or Dracula himself, who is rumored to make an appearance in the Moon Knight series and would probably also show up in Blade, whenever that movies comes out. Both of these villains are powerful and experienced: Lilith is an immortal survivor of the sinking of Atlantis (which means she could show up as early as next year’s The Eternals, which is said to feature that cataclysmic event), and comes with her own army of similarly demonic children, scattered around the world and waiting for her command to stir them into action; while Dracula, of course, is a 15th Century Transylvanian warlord and king of vampires. And while Dracula is actually the father of another character coincidentally named Lilith in the comics, the MCU version of the character could be the…wait for it….midnight son of Lilith, Mother of All Darkness. Writes itself, doesn’t it?

I’m partially kidding about that last bit, though I actually do think it would be a good idea to tie the two characters together somehow and have them both face the Midnight Sons in battle. In the Marvel comics, vampirism is often a hereditary trait, so it makes sense for vampires like Dracula to involve their whole families or clans in their own wars. And if we could see that war spread out across several MCU franchises, it could be a huge event with the potential for plenty of crossovers.

But what about you? Do you think Ghost Rider will bring the Midnight Sons into being, or will we have to wait even longer? Are all these characters possibly too dark for Disney+? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Sam Raimi To Direct “Doctor Strange 2”!

In a shocking turn of events, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has hired director Sam Raimi to pick up the pieces that were left scattered about in the wake of Scott Derrickson’s abrupt departure from the production of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, fulfilling a lifelong dream for Raimi and allowing him to return to the superhero genre that he, in large part, helped to define with his iconic, and hugely successful, Spider-Man trilogy.

Sam Raimi To Direct "Doctor Strange 2"! 1
hollywoodreporter.com

The process of finding a new director for the long-awaited Doctor Strange sequel began last month, after Scott Derrickson, who directed the Sorcerer Supreme’s first solo movie, suddenly parted ways with Marvel Studios, citing “creative differences”. Later, unconfirmed, reports suggested that Derrickson wanted the film to push its (presumably) PG-13 rating and tap into the horror genre, but Marvel was reluctant to follow him down that path: others have hinted that he was upset about having to structure much of the film around the events of the WandaVision Disney+ series. We don’t know for certain why he left – but for a while after his departure, all we knew was that the film was rushing towards a production start date in Spring without a director. It was a bad look for Marvel, and many wondered if Doctor Strange 2 would be pushed back from its 2021 release date.

However, things were still going smoothly behind the scenes, by all accounts: recent reports have suggested that a number of Marvel characters will be introduced in the sequel, including America Chavez, Brother Voodoo, Clea, and a host of alternate-versions of established MCU characters (which, for whatever reason, enraged fans who hadn’t noticed the word “Multiverse” literally in the film’s title), and the first film’s antihero Karl Mordo was also confirmed to return, with Chiwetel Ejiofor reprising the role. So it should come as no surprise that Marvel has had their eye on someone to replace Derrickson, and that that someone is quite possibly already onboard the project and getting comfortable in the director’s seat. It’s not the fact that a director has been chosen, but the identity of that director, that’s so shocking, relieving, and exciting all at once.

Sam Raimi, who worked closely with current Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige to craft his own Spider-Man trilogy between 2002 and 2007, is in talks to helm Doctor Strange 2. Raimi is a fantastic choice for many reasons – not only is he the most successful and recognizable director to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe since their early days, but he’s also a huge fan of Doctor Strange (there’s even a reference to the character all the way back in Spider-Man 2), and arguably the man who made Marvel Studios’ huge success possible. Both before and since the Spider-Man franchise’s controversial final installment, Raimi has made a name for himself in the horror genre, making him an ideal substitute for Derrickson, who had hoped to explore a darker, creepier corner of the MCU with his movie. Raimi won’t have much time to rewrite the Doctor Strange scripts if he wants to meet the release date, but he’s also the sort of director who will want to leave his mark in other ways – despite claims from Marvel’s critics that their films are made by committee, using generic formulas and disregarding directors.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s left over from Derrickson’s brief tenure as director, and what Raimi will salvage, or throw out. Two of the strangest (no pun intended) elements rumored to feature in Derrickson’s script were the violent deaths of Strange’s constant companion Wong, and former girlfriend Christine Palmer, early in the film. While Benedict Wong (who plays Wong) will return for the sequel, it was revealed tonight, almost casually, that Rachel McAdams will not be coming back to portray Palmer, making me think those damning rumors were accurate, and McAdams left the project rather than become a victim of Derrickson’s killing spree. If Raimi does have time to rework the script, this could be something he addresses – on the other hand, the character of Christine Palmer is not one that audiences are deeply attached to, and so much else is going to be happening in the film that adding her into the mix seems unnecessary.

And then, of course, there’s the question of Spider-Man. While it’s unlikely that Peter Parker will feature into Doctor Strange 2 in any way, it would also be fittingly poetic if Raimi were able to do something with Tom Holland’s iteration of the beloved character. Funnily enough, theorists have long felt that an interaction between the web-slinging superhero and the Sorcerer Supreme would be able to clear up some of the problems presented by the awkward joint-custody arrangement between Sony and Marvel, that has kept either studio from fully enjoying all the benefits the character has to offer: for instance, if there comes a day when Spider-Man has to leave the MCU, what better way to manage that in-universe than by having him exit through the Multiverse, with a little help from Strange? To be clear, I don’t think this will happen in Doctor Strange 2, as a third Marvel/Sony Spider-Man movie has already been greenlit, but it’s still something I wanted to mention.

All in all, this is exactly the type of shocking news that Marvel excels at dropping as if it’s no big deal. Not content with simply finding a replacement for their first directorial misfire in years, they went out of their way to enlist one of the biggest names in the superhero business.

What do you think? Were you a fan of Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and what do you feel about him joining the MCU? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!