Sunday, October 16, 2005

Popcorn and Caffeine

Today I had a not-so-nutritious lunch of over-priced, over-salted popcorn washed down with a moderately more reasonably priced Diet Coke. Why did I inflict this blood-pressure raising fare on my person? It was because I’d left myself no time between the bus arriving in the city (12.30pm) and the time the movie I had decided to see, Night Watch, started (12.30pm). I had the chance to buy the drink at a newsagent’s, but the only food stuffs they sell are chocolate and other confectionary, of which I’m really trying to limit my intake. These days, I like to reserve sweet things for moments of emotional fragility in public. I guess popcorn isn’t really any better for you—the fibre content, not withstanding—especially since it only seems to be sold in mini-skip, midi-skip and maxi-skip sizes and requires submitting to the cinema’s extortionist pricing policy.

I rushed into the cinema, fumbled my way in the dark, and recognised that the film had already started and it was only 12.40pm. I wondered why they hadn’t shown the usual gazillion trailers and advertisements before the film (Undoubtedly such a prompt start is in contravention of commercial cinema guidelines which surely stipulate that no film can begin before at least half an hour after the advertised starting time). In the film there were a couple of instances of what can only be described as direct quotations from Nescafé commercials. I’m not sure if I’d be surprised to find out that as well as helping finance the film, Nestlé didn’t have a hand in its distribution and exhibition either. Wouldn’t that be a little too close to the old pre-anti-trust days?

Anyway, these two jarring moments in Night Watch are indicative of the film’s visual debt to television, not only advertising but also music clips, through the use of songs and the grungy guitar score, and console games, explicitly used by the villain to rehearse his final confrontation with the hero. And there is a respectful nod to Joss Whedon’s work. In terms of narrative, as well, it felt like a pilot for a television series. The premise is that of an ancient feud between vampires, known here as Others. The battle is between those who have chosen the light and those who have chosen the dark. The light Others are a kind of police force operating out of a power company [the subtitles say light company] building, surveying the dark Others, occasionally issuing them with licenses to transform humans, and reining in those who break the truce by killing humans. Into this delicate balance, a child Other is born, Yegor, who is of course destined to be Great, but who is yet to choose which side he is on. Yegor does decide by the end of this film, but it feels like there is much more to be worked through for many of the characters that are introduced.

I heard somewhere that this is the first of three films; it could easily be the first instalment of a miniseries. It’s one of the better attempts to hybridise the vampire and police genres—which Angel didn’t do so well—but only because the ‘police’ are vampires. I will probably go and see the next two films—that is if I’ve heard correctly—but I can just as easily see myself buying the DVD box set and going home to watch the remaining films, this time accompanied by a brewed coffee and something more substantial than popcorn.

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