The Guardians: Russian Superheroes Are Not First Class
By Ashley Northey

Posted on: 30 Sep 2017

Cast: Sebastien Sisak, Anton Pampushnyy, Sanjar Madi, Alina Lanina, Valeriya Shkirando & Stanislav Shririn

Director: Sarik Andreasyan

Cert: 12 

The Story: During the Cold War, the Soviet's experimented with human subjects, creating a number of genetically altered superhuman beings as part of the "Patriot" programme.  A rival scientist August Kuratov (Shririn), bent on proving he has the greatest mind, tries to set up his own programme, but is pursued by the military and in the process destroys the Patriot lab.  Surviving the blast he disappears, only to resurface in the present day, hell-bent on world domination with a bug-eyed clone army to help.

Guardians is Russia's first ever superhero movie, a fact that the film seems to be very proud of. The opening montage sets the scene, as 1940's Soviet Russia needs a saviour and Patriot provides the protection they need.  This is backed up by some typical (and corny) propaganda style newspaper headlines, such as "Great Victory of the Mind and Labour".  After Kuratov's sabotage the Guardians also disappear.

It all sounds promising, and on its opening weekend, Guardians hit the top spot at the Russian box office...and then absolutely bombed. The film was critically roasted like a Christmas Turkey, recouping just $4.6 million from a $5.4 million budget and after watching the full movie, it’s not hard to see why.

From very early on the budgetary restraints are clear, as the re-emerging Kuratov, body melded with metal, crackling with electricity and looking like he's made of rubber, steals a number of military robots and tanks using these augmentations. His scheme to rule the world has begun and Russia has only one hope, the Guardians.  Queue a frantic mission to find them.  

The films pacing, like the search, is very rushed indeed. Feeling messy rather than portraying the urgency it needs, as Armenian director Andreasyan - best known for comedies - tries to cram as much in to the 89 minute running time as possible. 

And so to our heroes then, a group of characters that are very clearly influenced by the more successful Marvel universe, predominately the X-Men.  Leader Lernik (Sisak) is a poor mans Magneto, able to control, erm, rocks.  Kahn (Madi) has Quicksilver like speed, but carries huge half- moon style swords.  Arsus (Pampushnyy) is a Hank McCoy type scientist, who can turn in to a beast, in this case a bear.  Finally there is amnesiac Kesenia (Lanina), who has the ability to become invisible, just like Fantastic Four's Sue Storm.  Imitation, as they say, is the highest form of flattery, but in this case it’s also indicative of a poorly written script.  The action set pieces are bombastic and lack focus; no amount of Zack Snyder slow-mo is going to help.  

The dialogue is frequently bad, as we see Arsus talking about his fears of going "full bear", and "In this world, even good has to clench its fists". This is screenwriter Andrew Gavrilovs debut script and sadly, it shows. 

So with our team assembled, they must now stop Kuratov from taking over. 

His plan is to erect a massively powerful transmitter, enabling him to project his power via satellites, including Russia’s response the US Star Wars programme Hammer, giving him total control of all machinery and proving to the world that he is a genius...Who's chest glows like E.T. 

As the film progresses the team get snazzy new Super Suits and at this point, Khan now resembles Bucky Barnes in The Winter Soldier in an homage too far.

Eventually we reach an Avengers style climax amongst Stark Towers alike high-rise buildings.  By this time I was exhausted, but not in a good way.

Despite the films substandard direction, acting and cheesy monologues, what cannot be faulted is its ambition. Having seen their Americans cousins fair so well, they apply a go big or go home attitude, with a tiny fraction of the budget. An A for effort then, but ultimately an exam the filmmakers fail.

The Verdict: 1/5

A first for Russian cinema then, but it sadly fails to stake their claim for a superhero franchise, despite a post credits tease of a sequel, which must surely be dead.

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