NIGHT WATCH (Nochnoi Dozor) (2004; US release: 2/17/06))

Discussion in 'Movies' started by SteveGon, May 2, 2005.

  1. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Watched Night Watch last night. It's a Russian horror/action flick in the style of American movies like Blade and Underworld (it even says so on the case!). Like those films, it's all flash and overbearing, gimmicky shots. It's also done in a style that more or less rips off Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Now this type of movie can be fun if you're in the mood for mindless fare, but unfortunately it makes little sense. The plot details the perpetual battle between the forces of light and darkness, centering on the Night Watch, a group of humans and good supernatural beings who keep evil at bay. There is also a Day Watch, but I guess they're being saved for a sequel. Anyway, we have licensed vampires, witches, wereowls, werebears (but he never transforms) and a cursed woman who is somehow connected to a menacing funnel cloud (made up of crows I think) that threatens an airliner (which, as far as I could tell, has no real significance to the story). There is also The Other, a child who could swing the balance in favor of either light or dark. Or something like that. Characters are introduced and hardly used, others disappear with no explanation of what happened to them. Many other things happen that make no sense. And I won't even mention the outrageous bit with the heroes' truck early on.

    Now I ask you, is it really that hard to tell a story that makes some sort of friggin' sense? Did the filmmakers think we wouldn't notice the bewildering goings-on? How much vodka was consumed on the set?

    Apparently I'm the only one bothered by the inscrutable plot since the movie has now been optioned for an American remake plus sequels.

    Night Watch is just-watchable, but it's hard to enjoy it when you're constantly scratching your head and saying WTF?


    Edit: actually it looks like Fox is just distributing, not remaking, this flick in the U.S., and is co-financing two Russian-made sequels. Pfft.
     
  2. Travis W.

    Travis W. Second Unit

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    Couldn't agree with you more. I've got no problem with flashy angles and an overabundance of style as long as the story makes sense. This thing was all over the place and afterwards I was just thinking, this made more than Lord of the Rings in Russia?!

    Ugh indeed. I'd probably give it 1 star out of 4.
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    It took me a while to find this, but I was sure I'd seen an existing thread on Night Watch. I gather the comments above are based on viewing a DVD (or other video source). Now that Fox Searchlight is rolling it out in theaters, I thought I'd bring this back to the top.

    The film is a hoot, and I had a great time watching it (which isn't something I can say about any of the Blade movies or Underworld). True, it's very twisty and complicated, but it does hang together, at least as much as these things are supposed to. Imagine the entire seven-year Buffy mythology crammed into a 2-hour running time, and you'll have some clue. (That comparison isn't random; the film does an explicit homage to Buffy that had my wife and me laughing out loud.)

    There's a prologue with a voiceover in English that sets up the story. From what I've read, this may have been added for the American release. If so, it was a good decision. It's a bit like the Princess's opening voiceover for Dune (another film famously pronounced incomprehensible on its first release).

    One thing I especially enjoyed was the portrayal of the good guys (the "Night Watch"). No big heroes or heroines in shiny leather or designer duds; these are working stiffs doing a job, and the "hero", Anton, is a truly ordinary guy who screws up more than he succeeds. ("Just what we need," growls one of the other Night Watch members, "another asshole psychic!" [​IMG] )

    BTW, Steve, the "Day Watch" appears throughout the film, starting with the opening battle. The witch that Anton visits in the 1992 flashback is part of the Day Watch, and their leader makes several appearances.

    Fox (or someone) did some clever stuff with the subtitles. They're integrated into the visual fabric of the film in ways that make them part of the experience. If more subtitles were done this way, they might be better accepted. I hope Fox doesn't replace them with generic player-generated titles when they release the region 1 DVD.

    Well worth checking out if it comes to your local arthouse. But be sure to go in wide awake, 'cause this thing requires your full attention.

    M.

    P.S. Thread title updated with U.S. release date.
     
  4. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Pretty much what EW thought. They gave it an "F"
     
  5. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  6. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I saw this last night at the Boston press screening. My opinion is mixed. Like Mr. Rueben, I loved the way the subtitles were integrated into the film. In addition to some pretty nifty visual effects segues with them, they shrink and expand depending on the emotion of the words. This could easily have been overdone but they hit just the right balance. If they're replaced by player-generated subs on the DVD, it will be a travesty.
    I thought it was also a pretty interesting world, and the way the fantasy flitted in and out was really cool. Like the critics, I also agree that the rules of the universe were too loose. It felt at times like they invented new magic whenever they throught it necessary. It felt like the scenerio would better fit a television series than a film.
    That said, for Russian cinema, this is a bold leap forward. The film looks and feels like a moderate budget Hollywood extravaganza. At the same time, the cultural identity is most definitely not Hollywood right down to an ending that would be utterly intolerable in a Hollywood epic. I anticipate the sequel with a certain amount of interest.
     
  7. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    [​IMG]
     
  8. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    what malcolm said.

    The rules are inconsistent, but I like where its going and playing. I was entertained, it makes as much sense as Willow.

    Cynics won't like this at all, too much emphasis on a rigid good-evil binary (which the film consistently undercuts to depict the shades of gray in character moments and through visual relationships) of the system the Others live in.

    Adam
     
  9. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Um, okay. Seems to me this film was MADE by cynics. It all too obviously apes American blockbusters and exhibits little regard for coherent storytelling. It's the kind of shit we chastise Michael Bay for, so why does this get a pass? Mind you, I like the ideas on display in Night Watch, but the execution was just terrible. A sequel might explain things, but frankly I don't care.
     
  10. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    From Roger Ebert's (two star) review:


    [​IMG]
     
  11. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I thought you said the film's style "more or less rips off Jean-Pierre Jeunet", who's not a director one associates with American blockbusters. I think you got closer to it the first time, because the film is eclectic in its borrowings. Still, there are essential non-Hollywood elements.

    No studio movie would tolerate a hero as feckless and incompetent as Anton; no studio movie would have an entire cast of people who haven't been buffed, spiffed up and prettified. For all the flashy filmmaking techniques, the people in the story come across as ordinary, even when they're engaged in supernatural pursuits. That's a big part of what made the film work for me.

    As with all matters of taste, YMMV. [​IMG]

    M.
     
  12. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    What I meant is there are a certain cast of people, usually cynics, who hate discussions of good/evil in such simplistic forms, what I liked about the film was the implication that what drives people to the 'evil' side is the hypocritical 'evil' actions of people on the 'good' side, and the statement that hypocrisy is worse than 'evil'. What we haven't seen yet is the hypocrisy of the 'evil' side which I imagine will be revealed in the second film DayWatch, revealing that the heart of the corruption is in this tyrannical truce 'government' the others live under. So I think that good/evil binary is being set up so simplistically to cause it to fall more effectively in the third film, and rather than a 'good triumphs over all' story resolution we'll get something quite different.

    So although the ending is cynical in that the supposed 'great other' has declared for evil, I didn't find the reasons for his choice to be cynical, just anger and frustration at hypocrisy, the cynicism on his part will probably come later.

    I guess I should take up string theory, as I didn't have any trouble following the plot or concepts behind the world-building.

    Adam
     
  13. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    Adam - Interesting comments in the spoiler box about your ideas for the direction of the future films. I hadn't thought about it quite like that, and I'm even more excited to see them, just to see if that is where they go.

    Count me up as another that was really astonished by the subtitles. I really want burnt-in subs on this DVD, because player-generated just are not going to be as impressive - or cool. Well done to whoever came up with the idea and designed them.

    Anyway, I thought it was a great film. Yes, sme of the plot points were predictible, especially the identity of the Other, but it was fun and enjoyable and exciting, well-made and stylish.

    I'm disappointed that they decided to make the third film in English. Yes, it is being made with US money, but really. If people see the first two in Russian, they're hardly going to refuse to see the third film because it has subtitles. Especially since they've gone to such efforts to make the subtitles accessible. And any new viewers that refuse to see the first two because they're subtitled will probably be lost and confused by the dense mythology anyway. Meanwhile, you've got an inconsistent film series and actors working in a language that is not natural to them.
     
  14. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    the third film in English is the most nonsense thing I could imagine.

    The great thing about the subtitles was that they were thematically timed and timed so that words of emphasis came up in time to the dialogue, and it never felt like a gimmick, in fact they were some of the most natural subitles I've ever seen in a film.

    Geez, the audience for this film, already enjoys Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, anime, Brotherhood of the Wolf, anime, Battleroyale, anime, lord of the rings (it had the evil subtitles too from time to time!), anime, and fantasy fans tend to read a lot.

    What a doh!
     
  15. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    I loved the subs in this film. Great addition to the overall feel and style.

    Speaking of style, the film is full of some pretty nice stuff. Super FX considering the origin (Russia) and the budget. Using rotoscope and other techniques is pretty inventive. I saw some Jeunet influence, but there is a lot more here as well. All in all, a great use of the style to communicate the oddity of the world/universe.

    Sure, there is some nonsensical stuff here. The airplane is a total waste of time...and, the vortex/curse storyline in general is played up to be something important but is really just a red herring that is resolved in a hugely anti-climatic way.


    But, I also think there are some things purposefully not being communicated and saved for sequels. I need to see it again and pay more attention to the video game that the evil leader is playing. I think there may be a clue there. Also, it's never explained why the good leader and evil leader are meeting in that room (when Anton is given the charm). They are up to something is my guess. I also am not totally sold that the kid is the 'chosen one'. I think there is still a good chance that the true 'chosen one' is Anton.


    Time will tell. DAYWATCH was just released in Russia, so we should have some answers soon.
     
  16. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Am I the only one who thought the cursed woman was the same as the boy's mother? I guess all blonde Russian chicks look too similar.
    As for what makes someone light or dark, it comes down to what the bossman/boardroom table surgeon recalled of the wise men's prophecy. It takes a lot more to forgive and shine your own light out into the darkness than it does to resent and let the darkness in. Think of people that have wronged you; regardless of the decision you ultimately came to, the first impulse is to strike out and make the other hurt. I think the movie makes it clear that the only reason Anton chose the light is because he confronted the consequences of letting the dark it, when he tried to stop the witch from aborting his ex-lover's child.
     
  17. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    I agree Adam.

    As for the woman...let's not spoilerize it since it can only help people understand what is going on. The cursed virgin is NOT the mother of Yegor. They are two different women. I was also confused for a bit because they do look similar.
     
  18. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    There's an interview with Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Night Watch, here. Part of it explains the whole "third film in English" thing. Which is interesting.

    On the one hand, it does justify the sudden change into English in the third film - it's set in America. And the idea does sound intriguing, with events half a world away impacting on the US. So in that way, it's a good idea.

    But I am sad to hear that they have taken what was to be a three-film story and compressed it down to a two-film story. There is a reason why the trilogy is such a popular concept. It corresponds natuarally to the three-act structure, The first film was clearly supposed to be the first act, and trying to compress the next two acts into one film will probably seem rushed. And the fact that the director's original vision for the story has sadly been compromised in pursuit of Hollywood money.

    Personally, i would have preferred it if we could have had Night, Day, and Dusk Watch all as intended, a great Russian movie trilogy. Then, we get the American film as a companion piece, rather than part of the trilogy itself. That would be my preference.

    But I'm still looking forward to the next films.
     
  19. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Of course, I also want him working on The Red Star, so if this moves that another year or two closer, I'll accept it.
     
  20. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    Saw this at the arthouse last weekend. I was a bit ambivalent due to the mixed reviews; however, curiosity won out.

    Well, if someone asked me what the film was about, I couldn't explain it to them. [​IMG] However, the narrative was a lot more linear than I expected, it was trippy, and it kept my interest.

    Bottom line. . .I'd like to see "Day Watch".
     

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