Saturday, April 22, 2017

Russian X-Men to the Rescue, or Thoughts on Защитники, Zaschitniki

While American superhero movies have reached an inevitable tipping point, it doesn’t mean I’m not curious at what the rest of the world is up to, and after the trailer went viral last year (I sure wish my ASMR movie review channel would go viral) I was eager to see Guardians (Защитники, Zaschitniki, 2017); a Russian green-screen X-Men/Iron Man/Avengers mashup that is just as ridiculous and exciting as any Marvel or DC offering, with the added novelty of completely new characters speaking in Russian.  I found it interesting how Russia, a country that the US set up as the polar opposite to West could create their own superhero mythos that both reflects the West while adding their unique Slavic spin to the genre.
The Guardians are a group of former Cold War super soldier experiments, much like Captain America, except, you know, Russian, living in relative obscurity until they are recruited by the icy Major Larina, the commander of Operation Patriot.  They include the Armenian Ler, who’s kinda like Magneto, but with rocks, the Siberian Ursus or the awesome Russian bear hulk with the Gatling gun, the Kazakhstani Kahn, a Kung-Fu Winter Soldier with some curvy Soviet bat’leths and the Muscovite Xenia, an invisible Lara Croft, who can also turn herself into water.  They have to fight their creator, Professor Kuratov, who has somehow morphed into a cyborg bodybuilder who can control electronics.
That’s about all the plot you get; Moscow gets blown up, the Guardians save the day, and they leave room for a sequel.  There’s a certain emotional sensitivity that may seem maudlin to American viewers, but it’s an essential aspect of the Russian character.  It’s almost as if they made an entire movie based on Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV (1985) as Ivan Drago, and to my admittedly limited knowledge of Russian Cinema, this is the first movie where Russia has actually embraced that Cold War stereotype of the Soviet superman.

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