Sunday, October 12, 2008

Movie mini-review: Night Watch (2004)

I just enjoyed the hell out of Night Watch (Nochnoy dozor in its native Russian). A fantasy/sci-fi/horror thriller that owes a whole lot to The Matrix et al., this movie is exciting, confusing and ultimately pretty satisfying. In fact, I have the sequel, Day Watch, queued up and ready to go - and I can't wait to see it.

In a nutshell, a long time ago the forces of Light and Dark battled against each other. These beings, the "Others," were more powerful than humans but were evenly matched and, in order not to destroy the world with their fighting, finally agreed to an uneasy truce. The Light Others, called the Night Watch, would make sure the Dark Others didn't step out of line; the Dark Others, or the Day Watch, would keep an eye on the Light. Fast-forward to present day Moscow, where the truce is just barely still in effect. The Night Watch are, in effect, police, making sure the Dark doesn't succumb to their evil impulses. But if the Night Watch ends up hurting or killing a Dark Other, the balance must be kept and a Light Other must pay the price.

Into this mix is Anton, who only just discovered his Otherage a few years ago when he went to a fortuneteller for help with his cheating wife. Now Anton is an officer of the Night Watch and is set to find a young boy who is about to awaken to his other Otherness; when a new Other awakens, it is up to him or her to choose Light or Dark - and the Light doesn't want to lose this boy.

There is a little bit of everything in this movie: vampires, shapeshifters (with cool effects for both a tiger and, to a lesser extent, an owl), medieval swordfighting, videogame footage, computer hacking, car chases, wire-works combat. Some of it is confusing - what's with all the mosquitos? why wait to give Anton a partner until more than half the movie has already passed? what's with the videogame-as-prophecy? and was the Russian pop singer really a necessary character? - but most of it is good stuff. Best of all (for me): as the young boy sits in his living room, whittling a stake since he recently discovered that vampires are real, he's watching a scene from "Buffy vs. Dracula" (BtVS Season 5).

I think this movie can hold its own against others in the genre. It's not as sophisticated or clean as many similar Hollywood movies, but I enjoyed it a whole lot more than that Underworld nonsense or even Blade (which has better fights, I will grant you). Please don't be put off by the subtitles - Night Watch is one fun ride.

P.S. #1 - (10/13/08) I forgot to mention in my original post how much I loved the subtitles: they were supercreative, something I'd never seen done before in that when a vampire supernaturally called out to the boy, the subtitles were in red and faded away all wavy-like, and when one of the vampires lost his temper and shouted, the subtitles were IN CAPITALS and a larger font than the normal subtitles. You didn't need this extra layer but it showed a nice thought process on the part of the subtitler.

P.S. #2 (also 10/13/08) I have since seen Day Watch too and boy is the sequel not even close to the first movie. In the midst of the over the top action I was completely bored since Day Watch is unfocused and unruly, frittering away time on a worthless vampire star-crossed lover subplot and other frippery. By the time we got to the apocalypse, which happened because two Great Others were fighting over something they both wanted, I was completely uninvolved because the movie had spent NO TIME developing why these two wanted what they wanted or why either of them should care if they had to share. It's a shame because I really liked the first movie; there's supposed to be a third coming in 2009, Twilight Watch, and I suppose I'll see it because I've invested this much time already, but I really really hope they get some focus for #3.

1 comment:

  1. The subtitles were cool. I loved the creative moments like 'stealing' the guy's face by pushing him into the snow.

    DayWatch was not nearly as coherent or enjoyable. I too will be watching Twilight Watch tho. Maybe it will end with a bang and not go out with a Matrix whimper.