Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)
Part one of a trilogy, Night Watch tells a slightly confusing tale of the overly used light vs dark scenario. Part 2, "Day Watch," is already playing to packed theaters in Russia. And part 3, "Dusk Watch," has had the rights purchased by Fox and will be filmed in English and released in a few years (or so). Part one, however, is completely in Russian, so be aware that you'll have to read subtitles throughout. I know this bothers a lot of people, so I have to get that out there right away.
The visual style resembles films like Underworld; and camera angles and movements reminded me a lot of Darren Aronfsky's "Requiem for a Dream:" jittery cameras, fast moving zoom shots - a dreamy quality if you will. Having said that, it also had a style all it's own...and it is VERY cool. One of the more remarkable characteristics, I thought, was the use of style in the subtitles. Granted I don't see a lot of subtitled films, but this is something I've never seen before. The subtitles are in this film for more than just translation. They actually help to express emotion and thoughts. For instance, during a dream sequence, the subtitles flicker and fade in and out of focus. Cool. Or sometimes they are a different color and evaporate into the water like blood. They are placed on different parts of the screen to give a different effect. Sometimes they are a bit larger, if someone is shouting for example. Very interesting I thought and more than worth mentioning.
The story reminded me a lot of X-Men. There are humans in this world of the future (about 7 years from now), but we focus on what are called "the others." They are like humans but each has a special gift; much like the X-Men. There is the dark group and a light group. Which group they belong to is chosen by them at the time they realize that they are an other. Actually, that's kind of cool. Anyway, the dark group patrols the day while the light group patrols the night; hence the title. The dark side consists of mostly vampires and warlocks and the like, while the light side are mostly shape-shifters (bears, tigers, etc.) and seers. The two groups remain in balance and the world is safe. But something happens during the course of the film that begins to cloud the balance. What that is takes some time to discover and for about 45 minutes to an hour (about half of the film), I was really kind of confused as to what was really going on. But slowly things start to unravel for us and we begin to understand who the characters are and what they are doing and why.
The characters are pretty borderline. As interesting as it sounds, no one really stands out all that much. They are mostly in the shadows of society at all times and they look it. Scrubby, and for lack of a better word, depressed. None of the acting is terrible, it just isn't anything spectacular either. I see this movie as becoming a huge underground cult classic. Maybe that's an understatement. The characters are undesirable and non noteworthy. I do think that will change in the upcoming films though.
The worst part about Night Watch, was the anti-climatic ending. I kept waiting for this grand battle or super special effect explosion or something. But alas, nothing really happened. The story was nice and all, and it wrapped up this first chapter nicely (more on that in a minute) but it all happened so quietly. There's a huge build-up for something big to happen, and then it never does. It reminded me of the ending to "Se7en." Be prepared for that.
Still, the whole film was one giant set-up for the next two films. As anti-climactic as it was, I am interested to see how things begin to pan out in part 2: "Day Watch." It's not really a cliff-hanger, but it does have an ending hooking you in to wanna see what happens next. By the way, be sure to watch at least about half of the credits. There is a quick snippet of what's to come in part 2.
So of course not everyone will like a movie about vampires and shape-shifters battling it out, but those of you interested in style and editing will adore this one. It's not breathtaking, just imaginitive and stylistically interesting. And like I said, it will have me coming back for more in "Day Watch" and "Dusk Watch." Until then, which will you choose? The light...or a darkened theater?