Every Thursday, TMINE reviews two movies, carefully avoiding infringing a former mobile phone company’s trademarked marketing gimmick
Cinemas are open again, but there ain’t a lot on at the moment – although I’m going to see the new Bill and Ted this afternoon, so that’s something to look forward to for the next Orange Thursday. Until then, it’s a momentary fall back to the streaming services for Orange Thursday, as we take in two movies available on Netflix.
The first is another of Netflix’s attempts to create a movie franchise of its own, The Old Guard (2020), while the other is the latest, somewhat franchise-ruining entry in the Jurassic World series: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018).
See you after the very un-Netflix ads and the trailers.
The Old Guard (2020)
Available on Netflix
A group of mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ablity to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret and they must fight to protect their freedom.
The last time Netflix tried to build itself a movie franchise, it decided to ask Michael Bay to do it and gave him a big pile of money to do it with. Big mistake. The result was practically unwatchable and frequently unpleasant if you did watch it.
With The Old Guard, Netflix has taken a slightly better approach. For starters, it’s gone with a superhero franchise (of sorts) and approached the homme du comic book jour for the source material and even the screenplay: Greg Rucka, one of the top and best writers in the medium, whose work is starting to see a lot of TV and movie adaptations at last (cf Stumptown).
And the result is pretty good, much smarter but considerably less hyperkinetic than 6 Underground was.
The Old Guard is basically Highlander, with the hokeyness, romance and romanticism amputated. It sees Charlize Theron playing one of a group of immortal warriors who have come together over the millennia not to cut each others’ heads off but to help people in trouble. If they get killed, maimed or anything else, they heal back in a few minutes right as rain and carry on their mission.
Of course, everyone else dies, resulting in a considerable amount of mopeyness about the loneliness of immortality.
However, like one of those dodgier episodes of the first season of Highlander, someone’s spotted that there are immortals and has decided to try to learn the secret of their abilities – and wants to do some experiments on them to achieve this, whether they like it or not.
Meanwhile, it turns out immortality isn’t always permanent and there’s a new immortal in town (KiKi Layne) who needs to learn the ‘old guard’s ways’ – and who could help with this new problem.
There can be more than one
Unlike Highlander with its many flashbacks to past times, The Old Guard is firmly fixed on the present, with our plucky band of immortals globe-trotting to London, Paris and other exotic locales. There’s the occasional hint that Theron was a Scythian warrior and may be the inspiration for the Homeric Amazon Andromache, but largely, tales of the immortals’ past stem from old photos and newspaper clippings – or lengthy exposition for the newbie.
Interspersed with the somewhat dull bad guys – an evil, OTT British CEO/scientist and his ex special forces security – twirling their moustaches but in a very sophisticated way, there are some pretty decent, efficient fight scenes, as our heroes demonstrate what hundreds of years of practice can do for you. Newbie’s reluctance to immediately jump into a murderous lifestyle is also refreshing and there’s a surprisingly touching gay romance going on, too.
However, the movie’s biggest problem is that it’s clearly angling for more movies. The whole thing is an introduction to a story that’s going to run and run, you’d suspect. Highlander (1986) at least was a closed movie and ran through a very fixed character arc and a very fixed plot; here, it’s largely just foundational work for future adventures, with a very obvious couple of end scenes designed to set that all up and give us a new big bad to worry about.
Nevertheless, what we get, if a little too obsessed with medical experiments for its own good, is at least enjoyable, reasonably challenging – and made me want to watch Highlander again.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Available on Netflix and Amazon
After a volcano eruption proves to be a threat for the dinosaurs, Owen and Claire reach the defunct Jurassic World, a theme park, to save the animals from extinction.
There comes a point in every franchise where there’s a temptation for it to go up its own backside. Rather than coming up with new ideas, it begins to feed on itself and its own mythos, forgetting what made it a good idea and popular in the first place. And it gets stupid.
Arguably, that happened pretty much straight away with the Jurassic Park franchise, and with the Jurassic World reboot, we’re seeing it happen again with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Like dinosaurs in a theme park? Tough, what you really wanted, it turns out, is lots of discussions of genetic experimentation, dinosaurs being auctioned off on the black market, hybrid dinosaurs, business power struggles and all your favourite characters turned into idiots.
But then again, the villains are idiots, too, so what does it matter: (spoiler alert) let’s bring the dinosaurs to our own house and stick them in the basement! Genius!
All of these problems are compounded by the movie lacking both fun and excitement. It’s dull. You’d never think watching dinosaurs could be dull, but it is.
The movie does have some merits. Jeff Goldblum appears for about a minute (yay!) and it does make you care about the dinosaurs, at least – indeed, many of the dinosaurs are more interesting characters than Chris Pratt’s and the one scene that will stick with you afterwards involves a poor, sad diplodocus. But this makes Jurassic Park 2 seem like a top bit of work, rather than the disaster it was. Avoid.