In “Captain America: Civil War”, when discussing the Sokovia Accords, Vision concedes that ‘Our very strength invites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict breeds catastrophe.’ If the MCU’s strength is undeniable, “Guardians” is the catastrophe.
During the Cold War, a secret Soviet Army division called Patriot conducted genetic experiments on citizens, creating mutations with dangerous powers. When the project was shut down, the subjects escaped and have spent years hiding their abilities* but when a threat from the past resurfaces to terrorise mother Russia, the Guardians must reveal themselves.
The film wastes no time in getting down to business, opening on an advanced weapons test which is highjacked by Avgust Kuratov (Stanislav Shirin) a supervillain scientist who was involved with Patriot but betrayed the project. Kuratov’s scheme is to take control of the world’s electronics for some reason. To do so, he needs to highjack the Russian military in order to steal Moscow’s Ostankino Tower, move it down the road a bit and then raise it up a bit higher to contact a decommissioned satellite.
Ranged against this dastardly villain and his nefarious scheme to move a giant skyscraper really, really slowly through the abandoned streets of Moscow are four super-powered patriots: Ler (Sebastien Sisak), the Magneto of mountains, who can manipulate rocks somehow, Khan (Sanzhar Madiyec), a Nightcrawler/ the Flash hybrid with a neat line in absurdly sharp weaponry, Ursus (Anton Pampushnyy), a ManBear with a case of nominative determinism that would make Stan Lee blush and finally Xenia (Alina Lanina), a woman with the power to turn invisible and/ or turn into water (it’s never quite clear [*ahem*] or consistently used) whose idea of remaining hidden was to take a job in showbusiness as a trick diver who turns into water. They’re gathered together by Major Elena Larina (Valeriya Shkirando), a Black Widow knock-off with Bridgette Neilsen circa “Rocky IV” styling.
With one eye on the all-important family market, the villain is surrounded by a clone army of bloodless henchman, fit only for throwing, crushing, slicing, dicing and general punching fodder. The action sequences are decent enough and when the film lets loose with its action set-pieces there’s fun to be had, even if their reach often extends their grasp when it comes to visual effects.
It has a sort of goofy, earnest charm as it tries very hard to carve out a distinct identity for itself from all the disparate bootleg elements its gleefully stolen from other films but it never quite solidifies thanks to an aimless and ill-fitting story where the stakes never feel particularly high and too many things happen too easily, especially the resolution of the final battle where a previously undisclosed and improbable (within the film universe’s already shoddily assembled rules) combo-ability suddenly becomes available.
Charming in its naivety and with an adorable earnestness, “Guardians” is certainly worth a watch, preferably with a beer in one hand and the post-pub kebab in the other, with friends ready to revel in its ridiculousness and savour the brief moments where it transcends its limitation and puts something genuinely impressive or innovative on the screen. It’s currently available to stream (dubbed) on Amazon Prime but if you’re going to watch the movie, do yourself a favour and stick to the subtitled version to maximise your enjoyment. Not because the performances are great, but they’re certainly better than the dubbing cast who clearly didn’t give a shit.