Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bekmambetov Watch Part 2

(I respectfully suggest you read Part 1 before this.)

Night Watch (NW) and Day Watch (DW) are part of a tetralogy that will include Twilight Watch and Final Watch. The films are based on novels by Sergei Lukyanenko who, according to Wikipedia, is the most popular Sci-Fi writer in Russia.

A thousand years ago, the armies of Light and Darkness were engaged in an epic battle. The leader of the forces of Light, Geser, realized that they would fight till they destroyed the world and stopped the battle. He made a truce with Zavulon, the leader of the forces of Darkness. The forces of Light formed the Night Watch to police Darkness and the forces of Darkness formed the Day Watch to police Light. If anyone violates the truce, the mysterious Inquisition appears and punishes the violator.

Light and Darkness are like two halves of a huge dysfunctional family. They have spent the last thousand years maneuvering for advantage; tricking, betraying and occasionally killing each other. It’s a mélange of “The Godfather” and “Lord of the Rings”. And that’s what I like about it. They live in Moscow. They’re part of society. They have family complications. They might live in an apartment across the hall from someone from the other side. Our hero Anton, who’s a member of the Night Watch, lives across from a Vampire father and son.

It’s also a great pleasure to see Russia in all its strangeness. After a historical prologue, NW starts with a flashback from 2004 to the early 90s where Anton sports a goofy bowl haircut and lives in the rundown milieu of Soviet times. Even in 2004 things are not that spiffy but by DW in 2006, the petrodollars seem to have had a gentrifying effect on the general ambiance and we see blocks of old apartments being torn down for new development. Of course this doesn’t just reflect history but also the fact that NW was a big success in Russia and the producers decided to put a lot more money into DW for a shinier look and more elaborate effects.

In NW Anton is trying to find some Vampires (not his neighbors) and must drink a tall glass of animal blood in order to see them. It makes him sick and he’s already drunk and sets off on a nightmare journey through the Moscow subways. I find this scene much more interesting than the gravity defying sports car in DW which seems more like the CGI for CGI’s sake that infects American films in these degenerate days.

Considering that these are effects films I still get the most enjoyment from the incredibly complicated story, the characters, the casting, the faces of the unfamiliar excellent actors, the writing, the dark humor and the vision of Timur Bekmambetov. Both Bekmambetov and Lukyanenko are from Kazakhstan. Apparently there’s more to it then Borat.

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