Like Night Watch, Dark World is a Russian fantasy film that’s full of eye-popping special effects and supernatural fight scenes, but is also completely off its rocker.
The film concerns a group of student philologists who are taken on a field trip into the Russian wilderness. Whilst there, they stay with a woman who seems suspiciously like Baba Yaga, and are soon drawn into a fantastical world where Russian folklore and supernatural forces collide. Our main character is Marina (Svetlana Ivanova), a young goth who’s mightily pissed off that the boy she’s in love with has hooked up with the local bimbo. She discovers an ancient underground tomb with the nerdish Kostya (Ivan Zhidkov) who has a crush on her, and pretty soon they have unleashed hell on Earth as an ancient evil is awakened.
If a movie featuring the Queen of Witches fighting a demon whilst running vertically up a tree trunk interests you, then Dark World is the film for you. Similar to Night Watch, the film doesn’t attempt to introduce us to this world slowly – indeed, it feels like we’re missing a first act. The hyperkinetic, impatient editing style is rather extreme. We’re constantly assaulted with jump cuts, slow motion segments, super-fast zooms and a whole bevy of other flashy tricks. It’s as if the editor just bought a bunch of plugins for their program and decided they had to use them all. This means that the film is surreal from the get-go, so once we move into the magical and otherworldly, it doesn’t make for much of a change. I made a similar criticism of Sucker Punch, and the same is true here – if the opening scenes had been more mundane, the supernatural stuff would have been more impressive.
After a while, however, I found it was best to stop worrying about whether or not I could completely comprehend what was going on, and to simply embrace the vertiginous visual style and switch my mind off. Thus, I was able to quite happily sit through the most unlikely physical and emotional moments on show in Dark World. The special effects aren’t aiming for realism, but are spectacular in their own ridiculous manner. The film was screened in Russia in 3D, though since I watched a DVD screener in my own home, I can’t attest to the quality of the effect.
The performances are decent, and Ivanova is particularly stunning in the lead role. The score is suitably over the top, but seems to be coveting tunes from more well-known sources left, right and centre. Overall this wacky, adrenalin-fuelled action fantasy does the job, as long as you’re not expecting anything too coherent or emotionally affecting.Rating: