Review: The Old Guard

I’ve been talking a lot more about movies & TV shows recently, and it’s a lot of fun! They’re actually turning into mini reviews in the wrap-up posts, we chatted about my favorite LGBTQIAP+ ones last month, there was a whole discussion on book adaptations, which is going to show up again in a couple days with my A Discovery of Witches review, and I just reviewed Netflix’s Lost in Space. Don’t worry, this is a very small amount of posts compared to what I do for books, and I’m not going to suddenly turn into a movie & television review place (I’m never going to turn into a review place, period, because I get bored writing them pretty quickly), but I would like to start reviewing them a bit more. And what better way to start than Netflix’s new superhero film, The Old Guard?

(Also, yes, you’re getting two reviews this week. I was supposed to discuss Maggie Stiefvater’s writing seminar today, but I am the worst, and I still haven’t watched it, so I’m doing the next best thing.)

I said to my best friend the night I watched this, “I don’t know how I didn’t realize I liked women until college when Charlize Theron just exists.”

Okay, the only thing I wish was different about this movie was that Andy used her axe more. There’s a video somewhere where Marwan says, “Who doesn’t want to see Charlize battling with an axe?” I MEAN SERIOUSLY THOUGH. I wish the boys used their swords more, too, because the whole gun in one hand, sword in the other is very I’m gonna fuck you up, but don’t forget I fought in the Crusades ya asshole vibes, and I’m here for it.

I was going to spend this entire post trying to convince you to watch this movie, but considering the fact that the graphic novel is now sold out on all major book places, I think it’s safe to say most of you already have. (Fun fact: Newbury Comics is a New England-based comic book store, and they always have store-exclusive editions, so they’ve still got some in stock, YOU’RE WELCOME.) Instead, I’m just going to shout about why I loved this so much. Like, I literally rewatched it within days of the original watch. This is like my love for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, except The Old Guard is actually very well done, and Legend of the Sword just made me happy because it’s got slow motion fights with a glowing supercharged sword. Oh, and Charlie Hunnam.

So, who, exactly, are the Old Guard? They’re a team of immortal warriors who definitely need both a nap and a vacation. They’re lead by Andromache “Andy” the Scythian, a probably six-thousand-year-old warrior who may or may not actually know how old she is, who wields a badass double-edged axe (and who grabs one of those axes in a fire alarm thing when she doesn’t have hers, what a legend), and who really, really doesn’t have time for anyone’s bullshit. There’s Sebastien “Booker” le Livre, a French soldier that fought for Napoleon, and is somehow the youngest of them until Nile shows up, who makes some questionable decisions, but is still pretty lovable at the end of the day. And then there’s our sword husbands, Nicolo “Nicky” di Genova and Yusuf “Joe” al Kaysani, who met killing each other multiple times on the battle field during the Crusades, and who eventually realized they’d found their soulmate. Joe is pissed off constantly (okay but when he spits out goddamn bullets, I cannot), and Nicky is ready to save all people at all costs at all times. And, eventually, we get Nile Freeman, a US Marine who is brand new to this gig and really just wants to go home, but begrudgingly saves everyone’s asses because that broken, screwed up little family is hers now.

I mean, end of review? The characters alone is enough reason to watch this. Let’s be honest, Joe & Nicky alone are enough to watch this, and they are 100% why I did. Okay, 75%. The other 25% is for Charlize Theron. It looked pretty good, but then Tumblr started freaking out about the queer romance, and I was like, come again? What now? Should I watch this immediately? AND WOW I’M GLAD I DID.

But the plot, folks. WOWZA. Of course this was a book before it was a movie, and of course the author also wrote the script. You don’t get this kind of well developed world unless it’s being adapted from something else. And, from what I’ve read online (as of writing this post, I haven’t received the comic in the mail yet), it’s very faithful to the original graphic novel, so this isn’t even a case of no gays in the book, so we put them in the movie to appeal to people, which honestly just pisses me off when it happens. In fact, the author, Greg Rucka, said that having Joe & Nicky’s relationship as part of any adaptation was mandatory, and that he wouldn’t adapt it without them.

Is anyone surprised I swerved right back to the gays? Anyway, the plot. I’m here for immortal stories always. They’re super cool, and they have so much potential. Just Andy alone–she’s been around for six thousand years. The amount of history you can pack into her character is so cool, and the way she is now, tired and aggravated, is so accurate and also such a mood. Who wouldn’t be fed up after six thousand years of the same bullshit from humanity over and over again? Alright, whatever, we’re back to the characters.

The very casual diversity in this is just wonderful. I was raving on Instagram the other day about how there’s never a single discussion about the romance in this. It’s just normalized as part of the movie, and it’s so inherently threaded into every scene with Joe & Nicky that you could not possibly remove it to appease audiences that don’t want it (this is not a subtweet, I am directly calling out Joe Russo). As is the diversity! This could very easily have been just another standard all-white summer blockbuster, BUT IT’S NOT. Yes, Andy, Nicky, and Booker are white. But Quynh is of Asian descent, Yusuf is Islamic, and Nile is Black. That’s half the damn main cast, folks. And it’s directed by a Black woman! Just like Wonder Woman was so obviously directed by a woman, there are so many scenes in The Old Guard that I just get this of course feeling. Of course it was directed by a woman. You can see it everywhere, and it’s amazing. I feel so seen by this entire movie, it’s incredible. Not to mention Andy & Quynh are also canonically in a relationship, and while they may not share a kiss (yet) onscreen, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s coming.

Someone also pointed out that not only does not a single second of this take place in America, there’s also not a yellow filter used while they’re in countries like Sudan and Afghanistan. Admittedly, I had to do some research to understand this, but basically, racism is everywhere, right down to the damn filters we put over our movies to express negative connotations with impoverished countries. On the same vein, there are also a lot of different languages spoken throughout, much of it very casual and ingrained in the characters’ lives in ways that make a lot of sense. Obviously, they’d all be well-versed in a few languages because of their age, but I could totally see a world where they all just spoke English and called it a day. Instead, we’ve got a few different Italian dialects (not to mention played by a native Italian speaker!), Arabic (if I’m wrong, please correct me! I’m thinking about the scene with Nicky saying peace be with you in Sudan), Russian, and is there French? They spend a portion of the movie in Goussainville, and Booker is French, so it feels like there should be, but I didn’t catch it if there was.

Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli being cute immortal husbands in The Old Guard

This review is taking so long because I just keep getting distracted on Tumblr looking at all the gifs, so I’ve got to wrap this up before it takes my entire day. The Old Guard has it all. It’s superbly written and directed, the cast is incredible, the story is really engaging, and I am here for as many sequels as they want to give us. I can’t wait until I get the graphic novel in the mail and can finally read it.

Have you watched The Old Guard yet?

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she/her | yoga teacher | Tibetan Buddhism | part-time witch | full-time author | astronaut in a previous life

15 thoughts on “Review: The Old Guard

  1. Great review for a great movie!! The plot is so intriguing and the characters are all amazing. As you said, it’s so diverse but it does it effortlessly, nothing feels forced or out of place. People of different races and cultures coexist naturally, as it is in the real world and as it should be in the filmed ones. Seeing an actual Italian actor portray an Italian character for once and hearing all those languages spoken casually was so refreshing. It felt good, it felt normal.

    I personally loved Yusuf and Nicky the most because not only are they the epitome of love, but also they’re so casually overdramatic (which is peak mediterranean characteristic and I love us for that). Also, who doesn’t love seeing Charlize Theron swing around an axe? I do hope they expand the franchise as it is planned and I can’t wait to read the graphic novels!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. EXACTLY! This movie is truly incredible, and I just need the whole world to witness how good movies can be. Like, we don’t need an all-white cast with a token BIPOC character or a token LGBTQIAP+ character. Frankly, that’s unrealistic and lazy writing, and nobody wants that when we could have stories that look and sound exactly like how the world actually is.

      Ahahahaha, casually overdramatic is such a good way to put it. Between Joe spitting “very pissed off” spitting out his bullet and Nicky’s eyeroll like “OF COURSE you had to be homophobic, do you even understand the kind of monologue you’ve just set off???”, I am living for these two, and I want more of their absurdity forever.

      The first volume of the graphic novel was just excellent! Obviously, since Rucka wrote the script for the movie, it follows along almost panel for panel at times, though we do get even more about everyone’s past. I just so badly want to see Joe & Nicky eventually giving up on murdering each other repeatedly and deciding they’d rather just walk off into the sunset together. UGH, I could honestly go on forever, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “I don’t know how I didn’t realize I liked women until college when Charlize Theron just exists.” I mean yes, lol.

    But also, I really liked this movie! I feel like it maybe would have been even better as a show so that we could have gotten to know the characters even better–I wanted to spend more time with them all! Of course, things could be intriguing if there is a sequel or they pivot to a show at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seriously, though! She is remarkable.

      I definitely would have liked more time with them, especially seeing scenes from their pasts. Like, actually getting to see Booker fighting with Napoleon and Joe & Nicky murdering each other several times in the Crusades before just calling it quits and high-fiving or something. I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed for more!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent review for an amazing movie! When Nicky says “Peace be with you” he actually uses Nuer, a local language of the specific region. Which I love because it’s not just that they wrote it as not always speaking English, they got specific. I know the Italian that Joe and Nicky specifically use is a mix of modern and medieval Italian. And yes, they did speak French when they were in Marrakesh at the beginning. And Nile uses Pashto when she’s in Afghanistan with the Marines.

    Liked by 1 person

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