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Review #55 of 365
Film: Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)" [R] 114 minutes
When 1st Seen: 6 March 2006
Where Viewed: Landmark Crossroads Cinema, Boulder, CO
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Review Dedicated to: Taras T. of St. Petersburg, Russia
Window stickers announcing the arrival in the USA of the famed film Russian film Night Watch set in modern Moscow and based on the acclaimed horror/fantasy novel Nochnoi Dozor by Sergei Lukyanenko have been plastered on the doors and windows of the Loews Cineplex, now AMC, Meridian Theatre in downtown Seattle tantalizing and intriguing passersby for more than six months. I had heard and read really good things about the books—remembering of course that I choose not to read books until after the movies come out for reasons I have explained previously(see the opening paragraph of my Pride and Prejudice review for a recap of my philosophy)--but not much about the movie. The preview started popping up a few months ago and increased my anticipation of seeing the film. But, you know what happens when your anticipation of a film runs high? Something, which I refer to as the “Terms of Endearment/Ordinary People Effect” or TOEOP (pronounced toe-op) Effect, takes hold. I was pretty late to see Terms of Endearment, and I saw Ordinary People, despite wanting to see it for a long time since it was filmed in the town where I went to college, after it won Best Picture. I think in fact, I might not have seen it until 1985. In any case, the point is that when I finally saw both of these films (both Best Picture winners), they fell flat. I mean, I thought they were kind of bad. Well, not very good anyway. On today’s W.I.P. if I were to rate them based on my memory of them, I would say they were $7.75 movies. Yeah. Maybe I should see them again now? Anyway, so the Toeop Effect may be at work on me when it comes to Night Watch. The anticipation, the preview, the window stickers, the hype, the limited release back in mid-February for special people like those who live in NYC and LA, etc. It all added up to one big disappointment.
For starters, I thought Ultraviolet was confusing and convoluted. I also thought that Underworld: Evolution had some plot problems. Well, they were nothing in comparison to this film. I have to say, of course, that the book probably fills in a lot of the gaps, but come on. This film jumps around and uses lingo and ideas that were just totally out of left field half the time. I might get a lot of backlash on this review and the W.I.P. score I give it, and I don’t mean to sound overly critical. Maybe it was having to read subtitles and follow the action on screen. Have you ever seen an action film with subtitles before? Well, I know a lot of the people in the world have, but this is my first. Actually, I don’t like subtitles. Moreover, I don’t see why it is a total travesty to dub a film into a new language. Is it as pure, no. But, did the director film the movie with subtitles in mind? There are probably 10 or 12 critical times in Night Watch when I could either not read them fast enough to follow the action or they were cut off mysteriously as if possessed themselves by stuff going on on the screen somehow (should subtitles be effected by special effects? I mean aren’t they there to help the non-native speaker understand what’s going on?). Anyway, I would like to see this film dubbed into English and see if it makes any more sense. Also, granted, there was a lot of new mythology to grasp in one film, and it is intertwined with Vampire mythology somehow—though I couldn’t for the life of my figure out how. Ok, so you try it. Maybe if I start you off with some of the mythology before you see it, you can make better sense out of it. Ok, so a long time ago, there were two groups of “Others”—people with special powers like mystics, mind readers, fortune tellers, shape shifters, vampires, being able to use your spine as a sword, etc.—ones that were sort of bad people and ones that were sort of good. Their leaders and armies came to opposite sides of a bridge and neither would yield to the other. After battling for a while, they reached a logical conclusion that their armies were exactly matched and everyone would die if they didn’t call a truce. So, they did. Wow? Imagine that. Logic used to stop a war. Ok, so basically, it seems that they each controlled ½ of the day with the dark ones getting the night and the light ones getting the daytime. They each got to have some warriors active in the opposite time to ensure that the other group wasn’t violating the truce. These were called the Night Watch and the Light Watch. Are you confused yet? Ok, so then somehow it seems that the Night Watch people get to license the dark “Others” so that they can hunt humans or something for some reason because they seem to need blood to live, but it is revealed at one point that the light “Others” only need it when they are hunting dark “Others”. So, are they all vampires? Ok, at that point, I sort of started to give up and just let this film happen. I did my best. Ultimately, I guess the story focuses on a light “Other” named Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky). The story beings with an event that I am still not exactly sure about but seemed as if Anton was being used by the light “Others” to trap dark “Others” who were breaking the truce, so he enlists this dark “Other” to take revenge on his wife who has left him for another man and whom, the dark “Other” claims, is carrying another man’s child. The dark “Other” forces Anton to take the sin associated with killing the unborn child which he accepts. Before the child is killed, however, the light “Others” intervene using a frying pan to prevent the dark “Other” mystic from clapping her hands to end the child’s life. It is also possible, however, that Anton was not being used, rather he was just really wanting revenge on his wife so he did this on his own and the light “Others” found out about it and took action to prevent the death of the child. Like I said, I’m just not sure. So, then 12 years later, Anton is working for the light “Others” to trap bad dark “Others” and he gets embroiled in a prophecy. Oh yes, what would a good horror/fantasy story be without a prophecy. The prophecy entangles two characters one of whom is a 12-year old boy named Yegor (Dmitry Martynov) and this cursed woman. Now, I’m going to say that I really liked the character Yegor and the actor who played him so convincingly. I am not sure if this is just because I am getting kind of sick of Cameron Bright (Running Scared
and Ultraviolet ) playing every little boy in movies today or what. Actually, I really thought Anton and Yegor were great despite not completely understanding what was always going on all the time. Not to give away too much—is that even possible in a movie I didn’t follow?—but I did pick up on some Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker type vibes between these two. Let’s see what you think. I also think, for some reason, it is important to mention two other characters that were interesting and well-played: Olga (Galina Tyunina) selected by the head of the Night Watch to serve as Anton’s partner since he didn’t have it in him to be the tough guy on assignments and Anton’s dark “Other” vampire neighbor Kostya (Aleksei Chadov). I thought these two were also standouts, especially Aleksei Chadov who has potential for becoming a full-on, cross the Bering Straits, movie star (he’s already been in 10 Russian movies).
Hmm, ok, you are probably as confused as I am. I promise I wasn’t trying to confuse. Clearly, I was impacted gravely by the Toeop Effect. The film did not live up to any expectations I had at all. The plot was just too involved to comprehend between fading subtitles and action shots and mythology I didn’t have as background. The acting was pretty good. The director (Timur Bekmambetov) did a pretty good job. The screenwriter (also Timur Bekmambetov) needed to do a better job for sure. The special effects were ok but not great. Stuff happened, like this little rubber crawly spider toy stolen straight from Disney’s Toy Story crawled about and did creepy stuff at one point as it does in the preview but isn’t really an integral part of the film? There was a creepy exchange about whether drinking pig’s blood will work in place of human blood for the vampires? A vampire dark “Other” I guess gets to ‘turn’ a young girl he loves into a vampire dark “Other” somehow, and then he gets killed so she gets really mad? Swirls of birds or bats (hard to tell) indicated the approach of a doom-ensnaring vortex that could wreak havoc on the city killing “thousands maybe millions”? Some guy uses his laptop to search for curse connections between all of the people in the world so that he can try and figure out who cursed this one woman who is now part of the prophecy—and if I told you who cursed her, you wouldn’t believe me anyway. I am certain all of this is better explained in the book. But what did it all mean in the movie? Even so, I feel I will want to see Part 2 in this planned trilogy. I think I might even read the books in a year or so because, in a lot of ways, I do find the concepts intriguing and I would like to know more. Right now, I would say, this film had a lot of promise for me. It just didn’t quite reach expectations.
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