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Bad Movie Tuesday: The Guardians (2017) aka Zashchitniki, a Russian superhero movie about werebears, fake muscle suits, a clone army we never see, and world domination.

December 12, 2017

 


MY CALL: 
A terrible superhero movie that makes me want to watch my least favorite Marvel/DC movie five times in a row.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The GuardiansIf you need a better Russian action movie, maybe try just Night Watch (2004) or Day Watch (2006). They’re the only ones I’ve really seen.  Sorry, guys.  I could use better suggestions myself.

Okay, so full disclosure… I don’t watch a lot of Russian (or eastern European) movies—but I was soooooo excited about this trailer for months.  My attention to cinema from this region has been limited to the few genre films to cross my Amazon/Netflix suggestions over the years—so far, just Night Watch (2004), Day Watch (2006), and Viy: Forbidden Empire (2014).  So, if this region’s cinema boasts gems to be mined, please tell me about them in the comments.  Thusfar, this film directed (and co-written) by Sarik Andreasyan is the worst I’ve seen (among Russian language films).

In preparation for future foreign threats in the wake of the Cold War, the Soviet Union experimented with genetically-engineered super soldiers—the Patriot project.  The secret laboratories and headquarters responsible for their creation are architected much like Hellboy’s (2004) Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense or Stryker’s Weapon-X facilities in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), and their geek squad tracks down the location of their sleeper cell superheroes with greater technological savvy than Dennis Rodman’s techno-monks in Simon Sez (1999).  Our heroes are recruited from their secret lives in Siberia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Moscow… and these scenes depicting their recruitment are just awful.

Zany concepts and “bad movie” staples abound. To start, these Russian mad scientists “engineered” a werebear!  Every bit of dialogue is raw exposition… like, really… throughout the ENTIRE movie.  The top security clearance superhero handler (Valeriya Shkirando) looks like a runway model too young to have completed the military training required for her rank.

The huge unevenness of the production value shocked me.  The opening scenes were so gorgeously crisp.  Yet, the moment the special effects polluted the screen, I was bombarded by cheap CGI SyFy channel robots.  I’d liken the special effects to a really awesome videogame or a laughable direct-to-video movie from 10-15 years ago.

So… our heroes!  Ler (Sebastien Sisak) has Magneto-like telekinesis…that only works on small rocks.  So, he’s like a geomancer (or something) manifesting rock shields, pelting minions with pebbles, and even making himself into a little Gorignak (Galaxy Quest).

Kseniya (Alina Lanina) controls her body temperature and can become invisible—perhaps a play on Sue Storm (Fantastic Four).  Then we have our Incredible Hulk-Bruce Banner analogue Arsus (Anton Pampushnyy), who is a werebear that loses all control in bear form and fears that the bear may eventually take over the man… sound familiar (i.e., Thor: Ragnarok)?  Arsus looks like some early 2000s videogame fighter—like newer Mortal Kombat quality. At one point he actually uses the phrase “full bear mode” and, against all good taste, the term is repeated by someone else.  Armed with huge sickle-swords, the only cool hero is Khan (Sanjar Madi).  With the speed of The Flash and the black “poof” ectoplasm of Nightcrawler, the only enjoyable special effects in this film are derived from watching him slice through military vehicles and goon platoons as he teleports about.

Behold the videogame effects of Full Bear Mode!

And then behold the guy in the Batman suit that should have had his own movie!

The big bad guy is Kuritov (Stanislav Shirin).  Once part of the team that created the Patriot heroes, he was mutated in an accident and became a hulkingly muscled Resident Evil (2002) monster bent on world domination.  Covered in shamefully fake veins, his latex muscle suit looks horrible.  The clichés are rich here… Kuritov needs the Patriots for his plan, he’s building an army of clones (eyeroll), and at one point Arsus actually says “you know that you need our superpowers, but you’re not going to get them.”  Barf!  None of these concepts ever come to be in the movie either—it’s all just talk.  Oh, but it gets worse… the team gets supersuits (that never seem to matter) and, since Ler was once defeated because he “ran out of rocks” they have “modified” the suit—i.e., there are rocks affixed to it like a bandolier.

Did they think no one would notice the resemblance or affinity for electricity?

The martial arts are terrible, the term “superpowers” is used like everyday vocabulary, and the bear transformation makes me miss the dated CGI of An American Werewolf in Paris (1997) and Underworld (2003).  You can tell this movie is trying (I think), but it’s failing miserably at every possible turn.  Except for Valeriya Shkirando’s make-up.  With her ever-damp hair and bright lipstick, she always looks like she’s attending New York’s Fashion Week as she tries to save the world.

Speaking of bad special effects, anyone else notice the suit wrinkling at his wrists?

Dare I say it, but this film only worsens as it progresses.  The action becomes so boring I find myself thinking “I should watch Ultraviolet (2006) again, it deserves another shot.”  Even the training scene sucked—and training scenes have the potential to MAKE the movie memorable! I’m sure the martial arts fight choreography would have impressed American eyes (unexposed to Asian cinema) back in the 80s and 90s, but compared to today’s martial arts stars (e.g., Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Iko Uwais, Scott Adkins) the Guardians’ fights look like a Frank’s South Philly Tae Kwon Do demo team in a high school gymnasium.

Things end flat when the Guardians basically combine their Captain Planet power rings a mile away from their big bad guy.  Stupid…smh…just stupid.  I almost tightened up and recoiled to the sequel-harbinger closing line: “we found more Guardians.”  Ouch!  Please don’t let this sequel happen.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2017 9:16 pm

    Hahaha! Awesome. Reminds me of the “Claw” films that aped the artwork from the Saw series.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 15, 2017 8:43 am

      I had no idea about these CLAW movies. Also Russian…?

      • December 15, 2017 3:30 pm

        They seem to have disappeared. Hollywood Video used to carry them when it was still possible to walk into video stores. I’ll see if I can turn something up.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 17, 2017 7:27 pm

      You know…those movies may not do as well without video rental stores for people to accidentally grab them (thinking Transmorphers is Transformers).

  2. Paul Lowery permalink
    December 29, 2017 3:31 pm

    Fell asleep so disappointed

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 31, 2017 8:07 am

      I couldn’t possibly fall asleep. My eyes were rolling so much I almost got dizzy. lol
      But yes, I was majorly disappointed.

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