Night Watch [2004]

I think Steph posted a review a while ago, but I can’t instantly find the post, and don’t specifically recall what she said.

I liked a lot of things about this movie, from the production style, to the dialogue to the world construction. I guess it’s sensible to start with the first things first.

Nightwatch is a reasonably grim and serious look at the “what if” scenario that all kinds of supernaturally imbued people exist and must make some kind of choice between being good and bad. It’s a theme familiar to virtually all geeks, nerds and weirdos, and even the general public has this kind of thing more on their mind than they once might have. The world that is portrayed is not entirely self-consistent and logical. I am tempted here by an aside about under what circumstances you can violate the laws of causality and escape unscathed with a brief side-trek through both Transporter movies and Mr and Mrs Smith, but that would make this post too long. Suffice to say that Nightwatch has contradictions, but these tease out meaning rather than demolishing it.

More generally, the world is the kind of construction I tend to prefer: dark, serious and with sufficient loose ends that I felt like the movie didn’t explain nearly everything someone might want to know (Dark City is an example of an excellent movie which nevertheless does this), without being so complex that it is beyond the ken of the uninitiated (like walking into the middle of Season 2 Babylon 5).

In terms of a dramatic construction, I was generally impressed. Introducing such a world naturally requires a good deal of exposition, and aside from a 3 minute prologue by a narrator, the movie handles this almost exclusively through very short explanations offered to characters that are plausibly ignorant. Most often though, these come after the first appearance of whatever kind of critter. I wondered whether, like Dark City, the prologue was tacked on after the movie was largely complete by a nervous studio. The upshot of this is that it treats the audience with a certain amount of respect.

The production values aren’t fantastic. There’s a lot of annoying and intrusive CGI which seems to serve no purpose other than to say “look at how clever my computer guy is.” The fight scenes, such as they are, are all low-key and dirty; that’s a good thing, since none of the characters are really “combat monsters”. The lighting is also a bit dark and some of the shot selections are poor, making a few sequences difficult to follow; generally though the dark lighting serves the movie well in a thematic sense. The last major thing I noticed was: few pretty people! The Russians, like the British seem to be quite comfortable with ordinary looking people in their films, and this is a good thing IMHO.

I really liked the ending too, but won’t say more than that.

In conclusion, this is a pretty good movie. If you like supernatural things generally, I’d recommend checking it out. Bear in mind though, that it is the first installment of a trilogy, and does have that slight feel in places.

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4 Responses to Night Watch [2004]

  1. mundens says:

    I thought it was a realy cool movie, the atmosphere and style were everything that Constantine should have been and wasn’t, and I loved the portrayal of the vampires.

    The main plot was a bit of a let down, though the continuing foreshadowing via the computer game was fun.

    It seemed remarkably like a trailer fror a TV show to me.

    Yeah, normal lokking people make this sort of thing work well, and also make the few “beautiful” ones stand out.

    • mashugenah says:

      Hellblazer always left me cold, but I really enjoyed Constantine. It was a good deal lighter than Nightwatch but was nowhere near as imaginative, being based, as it was, on a well-known mythology.

      • cha0sslave says:

        I watched no more than 5 minutes of it and put it back in the cover. True I was tired but it just seemed like some foreign arthouse piece of crap, It didn’t start off very well at all and I’d heard many bad things about it. It was a crap week for DVD releases and It was just a filler. I doubt I’ll watch it all the way through at any stage either, not if it’s part of a trilogy and not until they get some actors who I have at least heard of.

        I think movies like this NEED to start off with 5-10 minutes of decent action and then they can do that whole “plot” thing while we adjust our seats orget snacks or something.

  2. eloieli says:

    I liked it. Mash has pretty much said what I’d say.

    It felt like someones attempt to create a fairly ‘plausible’ World of Darkness world that accounted for all kinds of supernatural folk. In the end this was probably the biggest disappointment for me, the plot was pretty good, with a nice twist at the end, but the background ‘cosmology’ was thin and weak. Enough to support the plot but not really very interesting otherwise.

    But I’d rate it. Better than Underworld or Constantine by far and I enjoyed both of them very much. Like Mash said, it seems to respect the audiences ability to connect the dots much more than the other two; even to the point of perhaps not giving enough for you to connect the dots at times, though things tend to make sense later.

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