Sunday, November 19, 2017

RFW-London ’17: The Guardians

In Red Prometheus, Dolores L. Augustine’s invaluable history of East German engineering, many retired researchers complained the DDR constantly demanded they reverse-engineer the latest breakthroughs imported from the West. However, by doing so, they guaranteed East German technology would never leap-frog the West. Apparently, the practice still goes on, because this Russian superhero movie is transparently reverse-engineered from The Avengers and The X-Men. It is the same general formula, but the execution is much cheesier throughout Sarik Andreasyan’s The Guardians (trailer here), which screens as part this year’s Russian Film Week in London.

During the Cold War, the super-secret SHIELD-like organization Patriot, commenced a Super-soldier project of its own. The results were initially promising, but squabbling between the project director and his Magneto-like rival August Kuratov led to the project’s closure. Forty or fifty years later, the revived Patriot agency must track-down and re-recruit their ageless test subjects to foil Kuratov’s mad scheme for world domination.

Ler is now living as a modern day Stylite in an abandoned Armenian monastery, but his powers of telekinesis remain undiminished. Khan the Kazakh has Flash-like speed, but the blades he wields make him far deadlier. The Russian Kseniya works in some kind of Cirque de Soleil show, because she has the power to turn invisible in water and to regulate her body temperature (except when she can’t), which makes her a cross between Sue Richards, the Invisible Girl and Ethel Merman. Arsus turns into a bear (sort of like Marvel’s Ursa Major).

Eventually, Major Elena Larina, the hot Nick Fury, assembles the Guardians to take on Kuratov, now decked out looking like Bane, but unfortunately, three of them are captured shortly thereafter, while poor battered Ler is left for dead. Don’t worry true believers, they still have some fight left in them, but they were never much for brains.

Andreasyan has some American credits to his name, so he has presumably seen a Marvel film or ten. Sometimes the crude Russofication is almost comical, but there is no denying the best thing about Guardians is the badass bear. Frankly, the special effects are way better than you would expect, but the script is even worse the you can imagine—except in one respect. Andreasyan and screenwriter Andrey Gavrilov wrap it up in just under ninety minutes, so spasibo for that.

This film is almost always laughable, but at least it keeps moving along. Sebastien Sisak is probably the best at doing actual acting stuff as Ler, while Sanjar Madi shows off some nice moves as Khan and Alina Lanina’s Kseniya looks a lot like Scarlett Johansson. Fortunately, Anton Pamposhnyy is often in bear-form, at least from the neck up. Frankly, The Guardians is a perfect example of why reverse-engineering guarantees you will always fall short of the targeted original. Recommended only as a cornball lark, The Guardians screens this Tuesday (11/21) during this year’s Russian Film Week in London.