Netflix’s The Old Guard is a hotly anticipated new project for the streamer, starring Charlize Theron in another action role as immortal mercenary Andromache of Scythia (or Andy, to her friends).
It’s also the latest independent comic book adaptation to hit the service, based on an acclaimed series by writer Greg Rucka and artist Leandro Fernández, which was first published by Image in 2017.
Rucka played a pivotal role in shepherding his creation from page to screen, working closely with director Gina Prince-Bythewood to ensure the most faithful adaptation possible.
While filmmakers have been known to take artistic licence with their source material in the past (much to the chagrin of die-hard fans), that certainly wasn’t the case here.
In fact, Prince-Bythewood actually pushed for the script to move closer to its comic book counterpart after reading one of Rucka’s early drafts.
She told RadioTimes.com: “I really love when we meet Andy, she is a woman who just wants to give up, wants it to end, essentially wants to die. But she can’t. And that melancholy, I felt he’d pulled back a little bit in the screenplay, so I really wanted to pull more of that into her character.
“Because I think that’s what originally grabbed me – I thought that this was fascinating, given that this character’s compelled to do good. She’s here for a reason, but she doesn’t know what that reason is.”
That being said, there were certain story tweaks that Prince-Bythewood and Rucka agreed upon together, including building a more influential role for Nile (KiKi Layne), a young woman who discovers she too is immortal and becomes The Old Guard’s newest recruit.
“One of the big things I really wanted to do was elevate Nile’s character and that was something Greg wanted to do as well,” she explains. “Give her a fuller arc, make sure that she was integral to the plot, give her heroic moments and backstory.”
Otherwise, fans of the comic book should be pleased to find the essential story beats have transferred to the film adaptation unscathed, with one notable exception.
In the original series, The Old Guard members Joe and Nicky initially encounter each other on opposite sides of the Crusades, repeatedly slaying each other in battle before coming back to life and eventually forming a heartfelt bond.
Prince-Bythewood said: “We talk about it in the film, but in the graphic novel you actually see it, and it was in one of Greg’s earlier drafts. The film was feeling so full we just had to cut it.
“But that is a pretty incredible sequence of those two in the Crusades… And I hope that if there’s a sequel, that gets to be illustrated.”
Speaking of which, could there be a sequel to The Old Guard? It certainly seems possible given that Netflix recently began work on an Extraction sequel, another star-driven action flick that landed exclusively on the service.
There’s more source material to mine from too, as Rucka recently returned to the world of comics with a brand new Old Guard series titled Force Multiplied, which Prince-Bythewood seems keen to adapt.
“I would just base it on the graphic novel,” she added. “In terms of what Greg has created… there’s a very grounded story tackling a problem within the world, which again brings more villains that are not with the conceit of immortality.”
Since severing ties with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (RIP Daredevil and co.), Netflix has specialised in adapting work from independent comic book publishers and creators.
From popular fantasy shows like Locke & Key, The Umbrella Academy and Warrior Nun, to original movies like The Old Guard, the streamer has invested heavily in bringing lesser known comic books into the mainstream.
The Old Guard certainly leaves plenty of doors open for further stories down the line, so it isn’t hard to imagine this becoming another major Netflix franchise if it resonates with audiences.