Zashchitniki: Russian Sci-Fi Turns Super

The Cold War inspired many of America’s favorite superheroes, particularly of the spy and assassin variety, a reflection of America’s perception of the Soviet Union at the time. Such pop culture icons continue to evolve to resonate with current events and trends, but their roots will always mark the era of their birth. As political tensions between Russia and the U.S. increase, stories like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and characters like Black Widow the Winter Soldier seem to be making a comeback.

As superheroes in general dominate the box office, a new breed of Russian heroes will soon appear on screen. What makes these particular heroes special to international audiences is that they star in a Russian film, Guardians (Zashchitniki).

Like many superhero tales, the plot begins in the Cold War. The central characters gain their powers through an organization called “Patriot,” which seeks to design super human defenders for Soviet territories. After the Cold War, the heroes hide their true identities, only to be called back into action by a new crisis.

We know this plot. Versions of it run through nearly every superhero saga we know. This is Captain America. This is Agents of SHIELD. A less super and much grittier example would be 24. We see the same archetypes echoing throughout popular entertainment.  The story and its heroes are tied to a nationality. The difference with Guardians is that we get to see through the other side of the looking glass. And that’s exciting. Even if the rumors that the characters are based on the Winter Guard from Marvel comics are true, the story is being brought to us by a new (to us) voice.

Although we think we know what to expect, the familiar can transform in the hands of another culture. Obviously Russian cinema is not new. Obviously they have many other Cold War stories. Obviously this is not the first Russian superhero film. The thing is, this film is still in production, still filming according to IMDB, and it’s already making waves internationally. A lot of people claim to be jaded by the steady stream of American superheroes. Let’s see if some Russian supers can rock the boat.

So who’s making this movie? The director, Sarik Andreasyan, has an interesting repertoire, featuring comedies, thrillers and dramas, which range from children’s fantasy to adult humor. In addition to directing, he’s a busy producer, having backed eight films in the past two years. The Armenian-born director leads an equally interesting cast, starring Sebastien Sisak, Anoton Pampushnyy, Alina Lanina, Sanzhar Madiyev, and Stas Shyrin.

Zaschitniki_film_posterSebastien Sisak came to acting after a career as a criminal-investigator. Anton Pampushnyy was nominated in the Russian MTV Movie Awards for best fight sequence. Sanzhar Madiyev followed another career in economics and business before he became an actor.

The film is set to release next year. Until it becomes available to international audiences, however, we will have to make due with the trailer, which tantalizes audiences with hints of telepathy, super strength, some type of body manipulation, and . . . is that a werewolf . . . or a bear?

Leigh Hood is a rare beast of the Cincinnati wilderness typically preoccupied with writing, nerding, and filming The Spittoon List. For more articles and stories by M. Leigh Hood, look HERE.


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