imagine dostoevsky huddled with the brothers quay in a dark, back-alley moscow bar. angelo badalamenti plays on the jukebox as they discuss the matrix and blade, and the never-ending human fascination with tales of good vs. evil, with immortality and the mystical. they decide to make a movie to explore these themes, something wholly russian, yet not constrained to being wholly original. their conversation is gradually drowned in stolichnaya, and their temporary fascination in a movie wanes as they drift off into other philosophical territories. as they move on, so do the two huddled forms at the table next to them, heading out the door and to their desks… Timur Bekmambetov and Laeta Kalogridis won’t let those ideas go to waste.

nightwatch (nochnoi dozor) is the first of a trilogy of russian sci-fi/horror/fantasy films focusing on the struggle between the Others, supernatural beings who walk among us. some Others choose the light, other Others choose the dark; they have been balanced in a delicate truce for centuries, the officers of the Nightwatch being the only thing that keeps the peace. that’s all about to change.

but you’ll have to wait for the secnod installment of the trilogy to find out. the first is all foreplay.

as is often the case with films of this ilk, my friend andrew has beaten me to the punch and reviewed it first. he’s pretty much hit the nail on the head, from my viewpoint, but i will add a few points:

  • it’s a gorgeous film, full of visual candy to distract you from the occasionally facile plotting and gaping plot holes. i’d go so far as to say it’s not just candy, either. despite clear references to the wachowski brothers and the brothers quay, there’s something different going on here in terms of visual effects. maybe it’s just a russian film sensibility, but things felt different to me.
  • something went wrong with the writing. two different plot lines wander through the film, and just when you think they’re going to intersect…they don’t. one dies, giving it’s life to the other, which will apparently continue in the rest of the trilogy. the one plot line, which engulfed fully half the film, ended so abruptly that people in the theater laughed when it did (sigh).
  • the film is subtitled, but in a way that i’ve not seen done before. they actually tried to be creative with how the subtitles are rendered, using a mixture of time, space, color, and typography to keep things interesting.
  • elaine gave it a 5/10. others have not been so kind. it seems people are either willing to forgive its cinematographic trespasses, or they’re not.
  • so much territory was left unexplored. as i watched, i felt like i was rooting for the team that’s doomed to lose, despite its talent. mostly paper-thin characters, vaguely-hinted-at connections never explored, action that never was, clichee clichee clichee…i’m hoping the second installment of the trilogy picks up where this one left off.
  • more Gloom! more shape-shifting! more action! more Vampire social networking web sites!

i’ve got my fingers crossed for the second installment (Dnevnoy dozor). they’re off to a pretty good start with this one. let’s just pray they don’t bring back the vortex of crows.

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