I was eager to watch this adaptation of the famous Russian modern fantasy novel, one of the first post-USSR blockbusters and the first Russian blockbuster fantasy film.
Night Watch tells the story of a truce between Light and Dark “Others”, who are similar to vampires with a variety of special powers. This truce will last until a prophesied Great One appears with enough power to tip the balance, and the two sides will war once again. The harbinger of the final battle will be a cursed Virgin.
Night Watch departs from standard Western fantasies with its urban setting and dark, rather bloody style. The main character is first shown trying to get revenge on his adulterous wife, casually agreeing to force the miscarriage of the child she carries. The Light Others who comprise the Night Watch dismissively intimidate a lone member of the counterpart Day Watch, who is investigating their murder of a Dark Other.
Fights are nasty and bloody; the Others’ special powers are primal and not completely controllable: shapeshifting that leaves scars and feathers everywhere, a Siren-like call that makes victims receptive to others’ commands as well. The Others can slip into the supernatural dimension known as the Gloom and become invisible in the real world, but there they are attacked by bloodsucking insects.
The storyline of the movie jumps around and it’s difficult to get a sense of the characters or the weight of the plot threads; it feels very cut down, condensed from presumably what the book would have been. Nevertheless it’s a novel and unique work that mixes the Zoroastrian themes of epic fantasy with the grittiness of modern vampire novels, setting the result in the dingy, dirty, lawless streets of Moscow.
I recommend it, and would like to watch the sequel Day Watch. The third movie has not been made. I would also like to read the books, hopefully getting a more complete picture of the setting.