Netflix’s The Old Guard is a remarkably faithful comic book adaptation, which makes sense, considering the screenplay was written by Greg Rucka, the guy who wrote the comic. The real surprise is that the movie is additive to the comic, including new character moments and more reveals about the world.
But Rucka does make one big change to The Old Guard source material, and it’s all to do with Charlize Theron’s Andromache the Scythian, the 6,000-year-old leader of a band of immortal warriors.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for The Old Guard on Netflix.]
The conceit of The Old Guard is that Andy and her team are immortal: They don’t age, they can regenerate from any injury, and they even revive from mortal wounds in a matter of minutes. They’ve all been alive for hundreds of years — and Andy is older than the rest of them put together.
But they also know that their immortality will run out. Someday, without warning, they won’t get back up again. And over the course of The Old Guard on Netflix, Andy realizes that she’s no longer healing from her wounds. The revival she underwent in The Old Guard’s first fight scene was her last, and the next time it’ll be permanent. As Greg Rucka put when we asked: “Her bags are being packed.”
This isn’t the case in the comic, where Andy continues to get the shit blown out of her well into the series’ second official arc. So Polygon asked writer Greg Rucka exactly where that change sprang from.
“Thematically,” he said, “[the change] does something immediately, that you need, I think, in motion picture form more than you need in a comic. [...] In Hollywood shorthand we say ‘ticking clock.’ What’s the ticking clock?”
But Rucka didn’t want to simply impose a time limit on the movie’s climax — he wanted something a more character focused. Hence, having Andy discover that she’s no longer immortal.
“What that does is it puts Andy into immediate crisis,” Rucka said. “She has to absolutely confront things that she has not been willing to confront, and she has to reach a termination. One of the things that she’s grappling with throughout the movie is [that] she wants it over — or she believes she does. She believes she wants to die. So, let’s give her what she wants, and see how she handles it. There’s a thematic dividend to be gotten from that.”
What it gives Andy is a renewed drive to do exactly what she’s always done: Save lives, protect her team, and keep fighting, regardless of how long she has.
“It’s the kind of consideration that if I had thought of it when I was doing the comic, I would have done it in the comic,” Rucka concluded. “Because it is, I think, the perfect illustration of her conflict.”