Once it receives its long due stateside release, the smash Russian fantasy epic Night Watch will inevitably be compared to The Matrix, most likely because of all the people running about a modern-day city (wearing sunglasses at night, no less) doing battle with forces that normal folks can't even see. Also, the film was a box office hit and the first in a planned trilogy. But truth be told, Night Watch has much more in common with the worlds created by fantasy novelist Neil Gaiman, most especially his classic Neverwhere (filmed for British TV) about a secret world existing just below the surface of everyday London. The two works share an abiding interest in the careful creation and delineation of complex universes of the unreal - not to mention a love of dark, shady places, and large-scale struggles between good and evil.
A sonorously narrated prologue gives us the lay of the land. In the world, there are humans and there are Others - who can pass as humans but are in effect a grab-bag of seers, wizards, shape-shifters, and vampires "as varied as the stars in the sky." The Others are divided up (easily enough) into those that serve the Dark and those serving the Light. A long time ago, they fought each other to a standstill in a massive battle, and so established a truce whereby they could co-exist with each other, only they each had to basically leave the humans alone. To ensure that each side is living up to its end, they each patrol the human sphere, Dark Others on the Day Watch and Light Others on the Night Watch.
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