It took me forever to watch Night Watch. The not so official copy of it sat in my cabinet for years before I finally watched it. The first few scenes of the movie - it seemed so irreverent. Not how I like my fantasy. But something possessed me to pop it into the DVD and watch it on my parents' widescreen LCD TV (the only way to watch this movie, IMHO) on Christmas Day while we were opening our presents.
My siblings and I ended up so riveted on the movie that we forgot the presents.
Unfortunately, halfway the subtitles simply disappeared, and on the same day itself I hopped over to Subang Parade to buy an original copy which cost me RM60+. But oh, it was worth every sen.
It's a classic tale of good vs evil; there exist the Others, people with magical powers, and they are separated into Dark and Light. The two sides fought an eternal battle for control until a truce was agreed about a millenia ago. The Light Others (the good guys) formed the Night Watch to monitor the Dark Others - vampires, witches, werewolves etc. The Dark Others formed the Day Watch which monitors the Light Others.
Our hero is Anton Gorodetsky (left), a hapless man in a bad sweater and an even lousier hairdo when we first meet him at the start of the movie. Back then he was just a normal dude - a normal dude who wants to put a spell on his unfaithful wife so that she will return to him, that is. But his plan goes very wrong and Anton ends up finding out that he's an Other.
12 years later, Anton's a drunk, cynical man who lives in a slummy apartment. He can perform magic (so cool), drinks blood (long story), and has an important job as a Night Watch agent. Yes, he has fangs, as you can see from the picture. But he's not a vampire. And it's er, not how he looks like all the time. And he's carrying a torchlight. Again, long story.
But to make things very simple, Anton's assignment of hunting down two errant vampires lead him into a whole lot of trouble involving a cursed woman, an apocalypse and very angry Dark Others.
What's great about it?
Because it's set in Russia and they all speak Russian, that's why. Ok, that's an oversimplification. The movie's flavour is so different from the usual American pap that you can't help but be riveted. Oh yeah, the special effects are cool, the action scenes are fun (though sometimes, they can get over the top) and it's even more amazing when you consider the fact that it was made with a measley US$4.5mil! (Compare that with The Golden Compass, which had a US$180mil budget, the total budget of all three Lord of the Rings movies!) Take that, Hollywood!
And I love how the beurocratic the Night Watch is. Hilarious. But truly, Night Watch is a reflection of the New Russia; the transition of a human being to an Other (like Anton's journey) seem to represent Russians who must move on from communism to adapt to the greater freedom and darkness of capitalism. These themes plus the well-executed popcorn elements make Night Watch really stellar.
There are different plot threads running together at the same time, and refreshingly, they do not explain every single clue. So there's no over-explanation or convenient exposition that American films usually have. However, some people may find it incoherent, but I found it amazing because I have to use my brain to figure out what's going on. After rewatching a couple of times, I understood why some things happened and what they meant.
Stuff you need to know before you watch:
The plot of Night Watch and the next movie
(yes, there is a 2nd movie and a coming 3rd too) is based on the first book a trilogy by
- There are two DVD versions: The International one, and the Russian version. The International one has additional scenes and even eliminated one character. Some of the dialogue is very different from the Russian version. Lord knows why the folks at Fox Searchlight did the changes. The meddling [bleep]. (I watched the International version, btw.)
- The movie's story is very different from the book's and I personally found movie Anton far more interesting and grittier.
- The movie recharged the ailing Russian film industry.