Timur Bekmambetov is not anywhere near a household name yet, probably because I’m sure most Americans see the word “Bekmambetov” written out and just get a nosebleed rather than trying to learn how to say it. On the heels of the success of the comic book adaptation “Wanted,” though, I’d say the industry is starting to pay attention to this scrappy Russian filmmaker.
His earlier films, “Night Watch” and “Day Watch,” were super low-budget Russian fantasies replete with special effects that were created on no money, but which made the films look like they cost 20 times what they did. Obviously, the guy knows how to pull off major look on minor money, and that makes him a dream as a producer.
Now that he’s had some Hollywood success, he’s able to give other Russian filmmakers a shot, using his name as the bait, and it looks like that’s going to pay off with “Black Lightning,” a film that opens in December in Russia. What is it? Well, according to Bekmambetov, it’s the Russian answer to “Batman” and “Transformers,” and it’s the story of a college student who lucks into a flying car that he uses to fight crime.
Yes, it’s a beat-up junky used car. And yes, it’s got a lot more going on under the hood than first glance would reveal. Beyond that, I don’t see the “Transformers” comparison. And I can see why Bekmanbetov wants to make those comparisons… it’s sort of like what John Woo did with “Red Cliff,” where he set out to make a Chinese film that is very Chinese in subject matter, but which looks and feels like a Hollywood production in terms of scope and technical polish. The same thing appears to be true here, and although Bekmambetov isn’t directing (those duties are split between Alexandr Voitinsky and Dmitriy Kiselev), you can feel his sensibilities in the footage that you glimpse in the new trailer:
It’s silly stuff, but cool, and there’s an energy to it that makes me want to see it. I’m not sure when or if we’ll get this one stateside, but I can’t imagine that it’ll vanish completely, especially with Universal owning at least part of the movie overseas.
Bekmambetov is currently in development on “Wanted 2,” which will star James McAvoy again and which is rumored to have found a way to bring Angelina Jolie back as well. Think “really long wax bath,” and you may be on the right track.
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