There are always instances of critics heading into a film with the wrong mindset and intentions. It’s not a problem of their own creation because a movie’s marketing campaign could set unrealistic expectations about what’s to come. 7 Guardians of the Tomb, however, shouldn’t be in that category. Writer Nathanael Hood states, “The more one seriously considers the film, the more slapdash and poorly executed it becomes.” The issue is that Guardians should not be taken seriously.
A team of scientists is off to rescue two of their colleagues who went missing on a dangerous scientific treasure hunt, looking for an elixir of life. The primary antagonists of the film are some creepy crawlies, armies of spiders that could sit comfortably on the face of your palm, getting in the way of our team finding the unique treasure. Sorry Nathanael Hood, but this isn’t a film you should take seriously. It’s a B-movie with a slightly above-average budget, and is best described as The Mummy meets Tomb Raider meets Kelsey Grammer.
Given the primary financiers of the film being Australian and Chinese, we have an Asian protagonist in Bingbing Li, who plays Jia, the sister searching for her missing brother Luke (Chun Wu). Luke was on an expedition organized by China Pacific Biotech co-founder Mason Kitteridge (Kelsey Grammar), whose on a years-long search for life-extending chemicals and compounds. He thinks he has the answer in a Chinese legend, and Luke comes in to facilitate its discovery, if real.
A quick glance at the body of criticism leads to the use of the word “tedious” and that Guardians is better suited for a SyFy channel release. These are astute observations, and the absence of the film in theaters is a sound decision for the most part. Guardians is a perfect companion for a lazy afternoon, weekend, or weekend afternoon as a result. Given its exorbitantly low stakes where Grammer plays the evil corporate honcho and Kellan Lutz the brawny protector, this is ideal entertainment if you don’t wish to tax your mind.
Where it does better than other B-movies is in the cinematography and CGI landscape. The spiders look goddamn real, their integration into the screen with live-action elements quite seamless, and the wounds they inflict were plausible enough, for funnel web spiders that is. One of our first introductions to the creatures is as they exit from a deceased woman’s hand, pouring out like a ruptured blood vessel. Every now and then there’ll be some visceral images to emphasize the spiders’ threat, but they won’t rise to a fever pitch. It’s all middle-of-the-road till the last minute. The production design of ancient underground palaces and tombs was deftly handled and devoid of anomalies, making sure the visual components all tied in together. B-movies tend to be notorious for glaring mistakes in this area, but not Guardians.
As far as the acting goes, nothing screams to be noticed for excellence. It’s all very run-of-the-mill, like a group of actors deciding to work on a project as a warmup, flexing their creative chops before a better gig comes along. An exceptional performance only comes through Shane Jacobson’s Gary, who delivers puns, zingers, and one-liners in an Australian accent abundantly. In fact, that’s the only way he speaks, creating a character devoid of seriousness, saying the wrong thing at all times. You know you have a problem when you find a dead body and can only think he’s wearing a shirt you happen to own. It’s a chronic illness for the man, and we’re all for it as he undercuts every moment with levity, big and small.
Yes, 7 Guardians of the Tomb can be tedious as some critics would point out, but its mundane plot is spiked with mildly surprising highs. The low stakes create a false sense of security for our entourage, that we might expect to have everyone alive until the end. So by deviating even by the slightest degree from these expectations, we get some unexpected fates for our characters, the kind that makes us go “hmm, interesting.” Add to this the fact that our heroes are chased by tiny lethal spiders, and you’ve got to be curious how some of them die in underwhelming ways.
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