Plot: As part of the Cold War, a black ops division known as Patriot developed some bleeding edge genetic tech and created the Guardians. These superhumans would be tasked to protect the Soviet Union against massive threats, but in the end, their services weren’t required. In the process however, a scientist named Kuratov would be expelled from the program and his contributions ignored, which he would not allow to happen with a fight. As it turns out, he channeled his research to empower himself, making him into a mountain of muscle with the ability to control electronics. After decades in the shadows, Kuratov has resurfaced and plans to claim his legacy as a genius, no matter what the cost. The Guardians have dispersed and remained hidden since the Cold War, but Patriot has now located these colorful warriors. Ler is a geomancer who can control the earthen elements, Ursus is a man who can shapeshift into a vicious werebear, Xenia can turn invisible and has a water affinity, and Khan is a martial arts expert who wields imposing blades, stunning speed, and teleportation. But can these out of practice superheroes manage to thwart Kuratov’s nefarious plans?
Entertainment Value: This Russian superhero movie was made for about five million dollars, essentially the limo bill from a Marvel production. But while the resources were limited, Guardians can do what those bloated Marvel movies can’t, which is offer wild set pieces and unexpected moments. At this point, major studio superhero are rigid, but well oiled machines, polished but with no heart. Guardians offers the opposite, a movie that has rough edges, but tries to generate the kind of colorful, over the top moments that make comic books so fun to read. The tone is serious, but the camp value is through the roof, so this more unintentional humor than pretentious, another huge advantage over other superhero productions. As always, I am not a fan of the flood of CGI, but it is hard to be overly critical of the special effects here, as the Marvel films with hundreds of millions of dollars can’t do much better. Yes the effects look like a video game cutscene, but that’s modern cinema, low end CGI is the norm. Given the film’s reception, I doubt we will see a sequel, but I would love to see what the filmmakers can do with a moderate budget involved. I loved the ambition and drive to offer creative, fresh set pieces, but the budget does restrain things. I’d never argue that Guardians is a critical success, but it does provide an experience that is closer to the comic book texture than Hollywood’s soulless attempts. If you want slick, assembly line superheroes, this ain’t it, but it is a fun, campy, and wild ride.
No nakedness, just some nice curves when Xenia is frozen while in water form. And Ursus’ pants are super too, so they transform with him and even reappear after he goes full bear. No blood. The movie has a lot of violence and a substantial body count, but it is handled with bloodless, comic book style violence. Even when blades and guns are used, no blood is shown. A man is sliced in half by Khan at one point, but the camera just shows the initial cut, then pans back while the entire vehicle the man was inside breaks into two pieces. So yes, tons of over the top, comic book style violence, but nothing graphic or blood soaked. The dialogue is campy, with overly serious monologues and exchanges. The tone is so serious, you can’t help but be entertained. I’m not sure how much is owed to translation issues, but in any event, the dead serious tone ensures the camp value remains high. On the craziness front, the movie boasts a werebear with a gatling gun, so yeah. The camp element also pumps up the wackiness, not to mention some odd choices in the material, such as Xenia being frozen despite her ability to control her body temperature and of course, Ursus’ magical pants. While not totally off the rails, compared to the cookie cutter superhero movies Marvel pushes out, this one feels like quite a wild experience.
Overall Insanity: 4/10