Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In Defense of Night Watch (sort of)

Over the last couple of decades, there's really been a lack of fantasy in movies. Now, we know it's a popular genre. They wouldn't be selling all of those books, video games and RPG rulebooks otherwise.
Sure, we had the Lord of the Rings movies. But we haven't had a glut like the 80s, where films like Excalibur and Conan the Barbarian (and its sequel) begat The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Beastmaster, Flesh and Blood, Clash of the Titans, Ladyhawke, Wizards and Warriors, Barbarians, Deathstalker, Hercules, Sword and the Sorceror, etc. The heroic fantasy trend of the 80s probably even surpassed the sword and sandal glut of the 60s.
Precious little fantasy deals with the modern world, so the geek world should rejoice at the release of Nochnoi Dozor (aka Night Watch), the new film from Fox Searchlight. Sadly, it's February, and that means it's dumping season for the movie studios.
Thusly, Night Watch isn't getting a push. Hell, New Line was nicer to the absolutely dreadful Dungeons and Dragons: The Movie. In spite of knowing what a steaming turd they had on their hands, New Line released (nay, squatted and pooped out) that festering pile of dung in the middle of the holiday movie season (in a slot occupied by their Tolkein adaptions in the subsequent three years).
Does it deserve that promotion? Hell yes it does. It it a great movie? Sorry, but no.
So, why can I be in favor of making a huge investment in a movie that I personally wouldn't use as bird cage liner?
Well, it's simple. Once the studio dumps a movie like this, they're much less likely to consider other movies in the same vein. What this means, in simplest terms, is that fantasy fans are much less likely to see their favorite tales adapted to the big big.
No Robert Jordan for you Wheel of Time addicts. No Piers Anthony tales coming down the pike. Less and less of a chance we'll ever see another Conan movie (with or without The Oak).
Without support from the studios, the casual fans aren't going to know it's out there, and no one's gonna see it. The poor business the movie does becomes a reason to make less movies of its ilk, and better stories pay the price.
Now, I wasn't a huge fan or Nochnoi Dozor. It's a watchable movie, but it's just trying too fucking hard. It throws way too much into the mix and ends up being the equivalent of what a junior high school student would come up with if given the money to make his own movie. It's immature and slapdash in its storytelling and the creation of its universe.
Basically, the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness agreed not to kill each other. They negotiated a Truce that is given some small lip service, but never adequately explained. Two police forces are formed to view the opposite side, the Night Watch to observe the Dark and the Day Watch to oversee the Light.
Blah blah blah blah. So, what we have here is a really simple good and evil thing. There's no real depth or history invested here.
Now, just because it's simplistic and not necessarily Shakespeare doesn't mean that the movie's a piece of crap. It's watchable, but it's style over substance. When the style is on, you'll enjoy the ride.
Something tells me that Kevin might chime in on this (if he has time at work).

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