The old guard
A review and then a rewrite
The Netflix movie “The old guard” has an interesting concept. Like Highlander, it’s about people who are immortal. In recent years there have been a lot of research on longevity. Why do some people age healthy and become more than a hundred, while most of us are more vulnerable and die at a younger (though at an increasingly older) age? A lot of advancement in the research has already been made. Some believe that the first immortal human being is living today.
In the movie the research is represented by a biotech company which wants to gain advantage in the field of longevity. The immortals are of course their holy grail that should be exploited. Thus, the concept has lots of potential. The executing is decent, locations are excellent and the acting by Charlize Theron and her colleagues is good.
The movie is however not one that many will remember. Like so many movies and series the main flaw is the bad script. Simple dialogues, unanswered questions and nonsensical plots. I noticed this all the more, because the night before I watched Back To The Future I with my sons. A movie with an excellent script. Everything in the movie happens for a reason. It’s of course science fiction, but it has some kind of inner logic.
Back to the future was written with the sequels already defined. What’s annoying in lots of script nowadays that they create an open end, just because there may come a sequel. So it’s not a story anymore. If the sequel is materialized then it’s mostly written and produced by completely other people.
The script is also bad because there are too many characters with very little character development. Every one of the characters is of course “bad ass”. Then there is the obligatory ‘inclusive part’ and addressing social issues. This means there must be a black + white + Latino/Arab/Asian character who are part of a team. This is also true for the old guard which also contains a gay part which makes no sense.
What was weird (but this is also very typical for most productions in recent years) is that everyone is shot dead without hesitation. In this case, where the topic is about life, this feels kind of strange. The old guard is supposedly a guardian for society, but in the movie she just shoots other people.
So who are those people who were shot? Most were anonymous security guys dressed in black with black masked. Their sole purpose was to be killed by the hero. They could as well have been robots. The antagonist is also a very undeveloped character. This leads to a big unbalance between the good and the bad. And it’s the villain that you mostly remember.
My review reflects a lot of short user reviews on IMDB. This also lead to a score just below 7. The question is how should this have been done better? It’s one thing to be a critic, but another to come with better ideas. Of course when the script was rewritten by the Wachowskis than the story would have more depth. But what if you and I were asked to rewrite the script?
What is missing on IMDB is not just to write a user review, but also a “user rewrite” corner where better storylines and fixing mistakes can be posted. Wouldn’t it be great when the best ideas came together in a remake? There is already a subreddit devoted to this topic:
It would be nice if Netflix and Hollywood would pay attention to this.
So how would I have rewritten the old guard? The first thing I would change is the title from “The old guard” to “The new guard” (or just “The guard”). This emphasizes more the character “Nile” which becomes immortal in the movie.
Next thing is to get rid of the notion of “the team”. This common theme in modern series with a team with all kind of ‘colorful’ characters is only annoying without adding anything. Like if scriptwriters are creating a new boy or girl band. The notion that there was only one (or perhaps two) immortal beings living alone (in loneliness) is much stronger. Besides, you don’t leave it open why immortals just show up and why they are supernaturally connected with each other like in the old guard.
The time this would save the movie could be invested in more screen time and development for the bad guys. Who are they and what are their motivations in longevity research?
There could be two characters that are immortal and two that seeks immortality. The opening scene could be as follows:
- Copley (seeks immortality) sees his wife die.
- Nile (is immortal) ‘dies’ on the battle field.
- Merrick (seeks immortality) loses parents.
- Andy (is immortal) ‘dies’ in Sparta on the battle field.
This an interesting start as the movies starts with people dying (Which is normally happens a little later in the story). Why do they die and what is the connection between the characters?
From there Nile come in the news as she survived (no need for something supernatural here). The news shows that something remarkably happened. From then both Andy and Copley will seek for Nile. They chase each other all the way from Afghanistan to the lab in the US (somehow I would find it more convincingly when the lab is based in the US). Nile is sometimes with Copley and sometimes with Andy.
Throughout this chasing, flashbacks of Copley doing research is shown which shows Andy in different time periods. This explains how she became the woman she is now.
At the end they all reach the lab where the immortals are imprisoned. Copley will become slowly at odds with Merrick. While Merrick tries to unravel the secrets of immortality, Copley starts to sabotage the research.
In the lab it would be more dramatic that the tests makes Andy mortal again, and she dies in the lab. Nile and Copley escape the lab where Nile will become the new guard.
Yes, there is always room for a sequel.