Whilst Marvel sustains a stranglehold on action adventure films and continues to monopolise the superhero genre, reactionary releases are appearing more and more. Sarik Andreasyan’s Russian super soldier mash up The Guardians is an enjoyably barmy example of a pulpy under-dog reaction to Marvel’s expanding universe.
Set up during the Cold War, The Guardians were a crack team of superhumans gathered from multiple Soviet Republics, seemingly in a reconstituted USSR. After years hiding in anonymity, the crew are reassembled following the return of their creator, Professor August Kuratov, a demented cyborg genius out on a mission to prove his genius.
If Dead Snow and Outlast are examples of Nazi Pulp, then Guardians is very much a product of Soviet Pulp. Its an out-there Russian Blockbuster not as bothered for the realism of Avengers, but not as funny or light hearted as many of the films its sliding up beside. Thankfully its saved by a real grasp of what people love from superhero films: solid escapism and great action. High octane action and low-IQ concepts held together by a band of utterly bizarre Soviet Superheroes and a big comic book approach to its imagery. It feels less Avengers, and more G.I. Joe, but in a good way.
There’s a whiff of bargain basement Avengers about the outlandish team of soldiers but the more it goes on the more The Guardians forges it’s own theatrical vibe. Stanislav Shirin’s Uber-hammy villain seems daft at first but in the context he’s a larger than life slice of camp which the film benefits from.
Like the outlandish testosterone fuelled plot and weirdly sexualised Were-Bear, the film constantly wobbles in the knife edge separating theatricality from stupidity. And eventually wares patience with messy action sequences which feel a bit too PG 13 considering the force that’s on show. At first the speed distracts, but the more you watch the more aware you become that everything’s a bit too clean. Digital weapons glide through characters with little impact, blood is remarkably non-existent considering one of the hero’s wields two massive sickle-like blades and another guy literally mauls folk. Its a shame because bumping up the practical effects would have stopped this feeling so detached, especially in the final act.
It might not have Marvel’s budget or the foundations of a fifty year story line, but Guardians is a decent example of a superhero film: full of outlandish characters and ridiculous scenarios, it’s just missing some bite.
Dir. Sarik Andreasyan
Stars. Anton Pampushnyy, Sanjar Madi, Sebastien Sisak, Alina Lanina, Stanislav Shirin