The alternative world Night Watch presents is so rich with possibilities that it takes on a life of its own, both as an imaginative universe and as a vivid metaphor for the moral complexities of our own lives--for example, though the forces of Light claim to be good, their often brutal actions call their virtue into question, and the forces of Dark make some compelling moral arguments on the topic. The movie is so overstuffed with ideas that many don't get fleshed out, but that only contributes to the sense of vitality and unexplored dimensions. Even the subtitles are used creatively. The impending sequels (this is the first film of a trilogy) may--like The Matrix--take all the stimulating possibilities Night Watch raises and drag them into the toilet, but for the moment, this is the sort of electric excitement that blockbuster movies promise but so rarely deliver. --Bret Fetzer
Basic plot: there's a big battle going on in Moscow between the Light and Dark Others, who are basically sorcerers, vampires and the like. Our hero, Anton, is a Light Other, and a member of the Night Watch, who keep an eye on the Dark Others. There is an uneasy truce between them. But, of course, there is a prophecy of the coming of a 'Great Other', and whichever side he chooses will triumph in the war.
This film broke all box office records back in Russia, surpassing Lord of the Rings and the Spiderman films, and a sequel is already in production. And I can see why - after all the big-budget formula films coming out at the moment, it's great to have a film which has an entirely unique tone and, despite being a fantasy film, feels so gritty and real.
The film is full to bursting with different stories, elements and characters - so much that it's pretty much impossible to understand it all. At the beginning you see a doll's head on spider legs attacking someone - it's there for a few seconds, and then it's gone. We never find out about it. If that puts you off, well, it happens a lot.
However, I thought this film was great. I liked the fact that the world was so busy and detailed and you didn't see much of anything - it increased the realism of the world it was depicting. Sort of like the Silmarillion for Lord of the Rings compressed into the same film, but with less confusing names.
The hero doesn't go all out to win the audience's approval - when we first meet him, he's asking a witch to make his ex have a miscarriage so he can get her back. Yet he grows on you, and by the end you're really rooting for him.
The person I bought a ticket from warned me that it was in Russian with subtitles - I guess he didn't think it was sort of thing for 17-year-old girls. But they did the subtitles really well, making them a full part of the film and interacting with the action onscreen.
People like my mum wouldn't have liked this film. Bit too much blood and swords-coming-out-of-spines. If you liked the Lord of the Rings, and want a film with the same kind of scale but darker and more gritty, then this is a good film for you. It's a completely unique experience, and one of the best films I've seen in ages.
Despite the fantastical premise, do not expect this to be a glossy, action-packed, overblown, live-action cartoon. The atmosphere is dark and very grim. The violence and content are unflinching and the whole thing plays out more like a deep, epic horror movie rather than your usual fantasy fare.
That said, the special effects are stunning, with even the sub-titles being incorperated into the cinematography!
It's also important to pay attention as the characters and sub-plots are numerous, but important, not only to this, but also (I imagine) to the rest of the trilogy (yes, TRILOGY).
The epic scale of this movie will (at least in part) be lost on the small-screen but, this movie being as complex as it is, the depth of the story will be far more accessible with subsiquent viewings. And I, for one, will certainly be watching this again!
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