REVIEW: ‘The Guardians of Justice’ Is Inventive Yet Self-Indulgent

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The Guardians of Justice - But Why Tho

The Guardians of Justice is a Netflix Original Series created by Adi Shankar. In an alternate universe in 1987, the world is rocked by the apparent suicide of Marvelous Man (Will Yun Lee), the alien superhero who brought about world peace. The vigilante Knight Hawk (Dallas Page) launches an investigation into Marvelous Man’s murder, and suspicion soon falls upon the Guardians of Justice – the superhero team that Marvelous Man helped form and which counts Knight Hawk among its members. But who is the murderer? The supersonic scientist Speed (Sharni Vinson); the magic-empowered Awesome Man (Derek Mears); ruler of the seas King Tsunami (Kellan Lutz); vocal vigilante Blue Scream (Jackson Rathbone); superhero turned reality star Black Bow (Tiffany Hines); or the deity Golden Goddess (Preeti Desai)?

Shankar is best known as the producer of Netflix’s hit anime adaptation of Castlevania, but prior to that he gained fame for his “Bootleg Universe”; a series of short films that took a gritty approach to fan-favorite franchises such as Power Rangers and PokemonThe Guardians of Justice takes a similar approach, mixing in elements from the Justice League animated series and the deconstructionist approach that comics including Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns popularized. In fact, Netflix has been adopting the “superhero deconstruction” with its projects including Jupiter’s Legacy and the upcoming Irredeemable/Incorruptible film from Jeymes Samuel.

However, Shankar takes it a step former by utilizing mixed media to tell his story. In addition to the live-action segments of the show, there’s also puppetry, animated segments that range from anime-inspired to traditional American-styled superheroics, and special effects that resemble video game mechanics. A sequence detailing Marvelous Man and Knight Hawk’s first meeting combines the sound effects of the 60’s era Batman series with the thunderous, operatic flair of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Characters even have health bars and special attacks! However, while this approach is inventive, it often feels schizophrenic at times – as the live-action segments will often shift without warning to claymation or animation. I understand that Shankar was trying to step out of the box, but perhaps a better approach would have been an anthology series or giving each episode a unique style of media.

Shankar also wears his influences on his sleeve rather loudly, especially when it comes to the characters. Many of the Guardians of Justice are different takes on well-known heroes; Knight Hawk is obviously Batman, his sidekicks Little Wing (Viggo Villalobos) and Red Talon (John Hennigan) stand-in for Robin and Red Hood, Marvelous Man is Superman and The Speed is The Flash. The most innovative is Sepia Spider (Ryan Ochoa), a character that’s essentially “Spider-Man if he was a Power Ranger”. Shankar even gets in on the action by playing a dual role the Lex Luthor analog Logan Lockwood and the terrorist known as the Scottish Skull.

Yet some elements feel out of date, particularly the villains. Mister Smiles (Edi Gathegi) is basically a serial killer version of the Joker, and Marvelous Man’s therapist Dr. Ravencroft (Jen Sung) is a supremely racist throwback to “yellow peril” characters like Fu Manchu. There’s also the matter of the words “Fatality” popping up at certain points whenever characters suffer a fatal wound. Not only does this raise the question of how Shankar and crew managed to get this on-screen without a cease and desist letter from Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon, but it also feels in poor taste to place that graphic over the scene depicting Marvelous Man’s suicide.

The acting is also hit and miss. Page’s take on Knight Hawk is basically The Dark Knight Returns‘ Batman; it’s been done to death before and nothing new is being brought to the table.  Denise Richards also feels severely underwritten as Marvelous Man’s widow Laura Louis. But Vinson is a genuine standout as The Speed; her grappling with Marvelous Man’s death and her eventual relationship with Awesome Man made me wish she was the focus of the series. And special props have to go to Christopher Judge for playing the U.S. President Nicholas Nukem – who, true to his name, is a president more concerned with looking “badass” than actually governing America.

The Guardians of Justice takes a rather unique approach to its storytelling, meaning that it’ll click with some viewers and potentially repel others. I do admire that Adi Shankar was able to get a passion project made, even if it tends to be overly self-indulgent. Hopefully, future projects for Netflix including Captain Laserhawk have more focus when it comes to the story and media

The Guardians of Justice is streaming on Netflix.


The Guardians of Justice
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

The Guardians of Justice takes a rather unique approach to its storytelling, meaning that it’ll click with some viewers and potentially repel others. I do admire that Adi Shankar was able to get a passion project made, even if it tends to be overly self-indulgent. Hopefully, future projects for Netflix including Captain Laserhawk have more focus when it comes to the story and media