Guardians of the Tomb is perhaps the movie of the future. It is an excellent example of the lack of depth and originality of today's cinema. It lazily puts a group of people in a cave and runs them through a predictable loop of running and hiding before each one of them dies one by one. Christian Tesfaye found nothing of merit here and awards 3 out of 10 stars.
The Oscar season may be around the corner, but do not tell this to Matti Cinema. The mall, akin to its counterparts in other parts of the world, exists in the bubble of commercial cinema. Forget that Gary Oldman has just given the performance of his life in the Darkest Hour, and one of the best scripts in years has been realised in Lady Bird, the mall still makes do with giant insidious spiders.
The past week’s boon was Guardians of the Tomb, a Chinese-Australian collaboration that stars the likes of Kelsey Grammer, Kellan Lutz and lesser-known Chinese actors, at least to the rest of the world, such as Li Bingbing.
The film can best be described as an awful mix of The Mummy and Eight Legged Freaks. Perhaps, “awful” is redundant here, since there cannot be a tasteful mix of the above two. They are commercial movies at best, with a slight fling with artful storytelling. But Guardian sinks even below that and presents itself as a mash-up of all that is wrong with today’s cinema: clichéd, too dependent on special effects to draw attention, and full of bad dialogue.
Bingbing plays Jia, a sort of zoologist with expert knowledge about dangerous animals. Such expertise thus comes into good use when she finds that her brother has been lost in an underground cave guarded by aggressive creatures.
She joins Mason (Grammer), her father’s old colleague, in the excursion with a group of other experts. One of these is Ridley (Lutz), a name that reminded me of Ripley, from the Alien franchise. The film shares certain similarities with the Ridley Scott classic, where victims do not die right away but are preserved for consumption for a later time.
The exploit of the characters of this movie begins early, before even reaching the cave, where a massive dust storm chases them into an underground cellar. That leads them to a cave they quickly find out is infested with deadly spiders. Worse, the spiders have heightened senses and are intelligent to a degree. They can communicate amongst each other and can set up lines of spider-webs to detect by-passers.
When it comes to villainy, I concur that these are some of the most terrifying creatures. There are way too many of them in the first place, and a single bite is fatal. But the filmmakers ruin this by showing us the spiders too many times in the movie – they are almost everywhere the camera turns. The film makes them familiar, failing to sense that the unknown is more scary.
What was Jia’s brother doing in such a cave?
Well, it seems, the cave is a gigantic underground tomb built for an ancient Chinese emperor who possessed the elixir of life. Mason’s firm learns of the fact millennia later and has sent Jia’s brother to fetch it.
Hence, it seems there is a lesson behind the film, that the greatest things in life are hidden from us, with a great many obstacles along the journey. It is too real a concept, but repeated too often in fiction.
Guardians also adds a greedy villain to the mix, which is Mason in this case. He is supposed to represent the glutton – that person who is forever looking for more than is necessary and, often, deserved. He is a manifestation of the man with all the will to have power and less of the responsibility.
In such a description, one then is reminded of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones trilogy. Indy, played by Harrison Ford, is always looking for that magical object that can give a human being immense power. But he never uses it in the end, unlike the super-villains that are felled in each movie.
Guardians, in trying to imitate the famous franchise, fails to understand that the films were never really about the physical adventures Indy makes. They were in fact about his emotional journeys.
By the end of the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy becomes a believer in the supernatural and closes his eyes at a crucial moment. In the third film, the Last Crusade, Indy learns to let go of his professional infatuation and sees that such things as family matter more.
The characters in the Guardians though lack an arc. Jia is the strong, determined woman of today’s cinema, and Lutz is the handsome adventurer all throughout the movie. Mason is the old greedy rich man and Gary (Shane Jacobson) is the comic relief. The rest are meant to keep us company in the first half of the movie by getting killed in all sorts of gory ways.
For all the lack of theme and aesthetics though, acting takes the prize for tackiness in this film. It is akin to watching a soap-opera, where the actors seem like they desperately want to be elsewhere but have to take care of just this one scene.
I will give them the benefit of the doubt though, I believe they were trying to communicate a secret to the audience by means of intentional bad performances.
They were trying to say, “it is already too late for us, but if you run now, you could get your tickets reimbursed and save two valuable hours of your life.”
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