When people think about the Russian Avengers, they’re likely thinking about Black Widow and that's it. While there’s nothing wrong with exploring the career of Natasha Romanoff, North American audiences might be surprised to learn of a Russian superhero movie known as The Guardians¸ or Zashchitniki, as its known in its actual language. Known to those who saw its semi-hyped trailer as “that Russian movie with a man-bear,” Guardians arrived with as much internet hype as a Russian blockbuster could get, but it managed to under-deliver in a suitably over-the-top fashion. The Guardians was a copycat of The Avengers in many ways, but unfortunately not in the profit department.
Despite the less-than-successful attempt at giving Russia its own iconic superhero team, the story of The Guardians and its production still makes for an entertaining read. The adventures of Landman, Wildman, Windman, and Waterwoman against the evil Professor Kuratov is a tale worth knowing, if only to be amazed at the sheer bizarreness of this attempted knockoff.
It’s Getting A Sequel, Despite Bombing CatastrophicallyPhoto: The Guardians/Enjoy Movies
Guardians was a failure in every sense of the word. It only made back $4.6 million of its $5.4 million budget, a loss of almost 50 million rubles. The film was panned by audiences and critics alike, and it performed so poorly at the box office that its production company, Enjoy Movies, filed for bankruptcy. This bankruptcy occurred in part because Enjoy was sued by the Russian government’s Cinema Foundation, which had helped fund the movie and were not happy with the result. Despite this clear lack of success, a sequel has already been approved for a future date. Guardians 2 will be co-produced by a Chinese distribution company, will be shot in China, and will feature some Chinese characters. In other words, it’s going to be great.
Cold War-iginsPhoto: The Guardians/Enjoy Movies
The titular Guardians receive their power during the Cold War, and that’s as specific as this movie gets. Ambiguity is a major theme of the film, as the Guardians’ origins, superpowers, and past team history are all left incredibly vague. Most of the backstory is told over a musical introduction that cribs a lot of Marvel Studios techniques, including montage shots of newspapers, scientific documents, and various chemical shapes. The Cold War was an event that ranged from 1947 until 1991, and its never really made clear which Soviet era each Guardian is from, as only Landman ever thinks about how supernaturally old he is. It seems that the team first gathered sometime before 1978, meaning they’re all aging at a decreased rate.
Major Elena Larina, The Nick Fury Of The GuardiansPhoto: The Guardians/Enjoy Movies
The Guardians are brought together by Major Elena Larina, a femme fatale with a rhyming name who is secretly being manipulated by her boss, a traitor. Elena reactivates the defunct “Patriot” program from the Cold War era, and attempts to track down and re-recruit the various government-created superheroes. Major Larina plays the role of Nick Fury in the story, but she more closely resembles Black Widow, thanks to her feminine wiles and habit of headlocking opponents with her powerful legs.
Ler, Codename: LandmanPhoto: The Guardians/Enjoy Movies
The most senior of the Guardians is Ler, better known by his scintillating codename of Landman, which has to be sitting somewhere in Stan Lee’s scrap pile. Ler appears to be immortal, as he carries with him the trauma of having watched his grandchildren grow old and die. As Landman, he can control the earth, levitating rocks, dust, and soil. He can summon a bunch of rock to himself in order to form a sort of armor, like a makeshift Ben Grimm. For some reason, he also carries a bunch of rock-themed weapons, including an electric rock whip that can be curled up and used as a shield.