Fresh from breaking into the film going conscious with Guardians, Russia is trying to do it again, this time with the ambitious A Rough Draft.
The makers of A Rough Draft obviously mean business as the movie sets itself for a sequel at the end. It is a CGI heavy new world in which we can immerse ourselves and, shock, horror, the CGI is actually very good.
However, it isn’t all good news, the story is coherent enough, but how director Sergey Mokritskiy (“I Am A Teacher”, “Protest Day”) elects to tell it, couldn’t be less mellifluous if it tried.
We begin with our protagonist Kirill, Nikita Volkov (“Dance To Death”, “Two Women”), a video games producer who, on the verge of releasing his biggest game yet, is suddenly wiped from existence.
That is to say, he’s still alive, he’s still walking, talking, interacting with people. But no-one, not a single person who spoke to him last night, even his parents, know who he is. When he tries to go back to his apartment, he finds Renata, Severija Janusauskaite (“Selfie”, “Chasing Solace”), living there.
Eventually he finds himself at an old disused water tower and beds down for the night. When he wakes, he finds the whole building has been completely transformed, welcome to the world.
The water tower isn’t any old water tower, of course not, this is a multi-dimensional portal and Kirill has been selected to be the gatekeeper and is now a Functional, almost immortal. As gatekeeper, it’s up to him to open doors to new worlds.
But Kirill liked his old life, and he has a hard time letting go of it, particularly when the woman he loved Anna, Olga Borovskaya (“Chuzhie tayny. Vremena goda (TV)”), turns up at his portal building.
And this is where things begin to get confused. Kirill didn’t know anything about this other world, and is shocked that it exists. Anna on the other hand, seems absolutely fine with it all, as if she’s just arrived in Dubai or some place.
Then there’s the necklace that Renata gives Kirill, informing him it’s a leash and he can only go 15,000 kilometres from the tower, but the further he goes, the weaker he gets.
Whilst this results in some nice CGI effects, and them needing to drink water to get back to normal, it all goes to pot when the necklace’s power is lost by Anna simply snapping it from his neck…which seems an oversight of such a powerful and enchanted thing.
We learn there are other portals and other gatekeepers, and Kirill ventures forth and finds a few. And, again, it’s all a bit odd as they always know who he is, even when one of the worlds hasn’t been visited for a very long time.
You see, Renata and her boss, believe Kirill has the power to open a door that has been closed to them for a long time, to Arkan, a world some 25 years behind theirs. They lie to him about this other world, but he manages to get there and learns the truth, naturally a shocking truth.
The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Sergey Lukyanenko. He was the man who also wrote Night Watch, the other big Russian movie breakthrough that brought director Timur Bekmambetov to the fore.
It appears as though the sequel(s) of the movies have been put on hold, instead, Chernovik looks to be being turned into a TV series. The way of the World I guess.
I think it may work better as a TV show, giving the writers time to introduce things and people at a less frenetic pace than the movie. I love the premise and it wouldn’t surprise me if this was picked up elsewhere in the world.