I’m sure you have been waiting for baited breath – as Mama has – for the second instalment of the Russian made Disney fairytale Last Bogatyr (slash Knight, slash Hero, slash Warrior) vaguely promised at the end of the first film.
But that came out back in 2017 and Mama had almost lost hope when an idle google came across the info it would be out within the year.
[Pause for the global pandemic]
After one failed attempt to get into a screening with a much reduced cinema capacity, Mama and the somewhat less enthusiastic rest of the family (there’s also a cartoon about a horse out) settled down in a darkened room OUTSIDE OF OUR OWN FOUR WALLS and watched the Last Bogatyr 2 (slash Knight, slash Hero, slash Warrior), Root of Evil.
Ivan (Viktor Khorinyak), the reluctant hero from the real world, returns, and has somewhat uneasily settled down to fairytale living, only sneaking back to the civilization of Moscow, ooooh, once a day for a hot bath and some proper coffee, a practice which surely many Russians with a datcha can relate.
In fact, almost every single character from the first film is squeezed into this one. Given that the film makers have also added new arrivals on top of that, this means that some people are rather pushed for meaningful screen time, or any real point to their being there at all aside from a name check and perhaps one good moment each. Vasilysa (Mila Sivatskaya), for example, who was one of Ivan’s main travelling companions and the muscle for the group for the first film really doesn’t have much to do apart from continue to be Ivan’s love interest this time, despite her presence on the inevitable quest.
Koshchei (Konstantin Lavronenko), who of course returns, he’s Deathless, and Baba Yaga (Elena Yakovleva) are rather upstaged in the grumpy comic side kick role by Kolabok (Garik Kharlamov), a hooligan bread roll (yes really), whose back story Mama once actually learned off by heart in Russian the better to torture our early years with (‘…and then the fox ate him’). Not easily done.
There’s also not one, not two, but three villains this time round, although they have managed to fit a bit of moral tension into this situation, plotwise, which means Mama will allow it. That said, annoyingly, this time Mama did guess the plot twist related to Galina (Elena Valyushkina) and her excellently coiffed daughter (Ekaterina Vilkova). The ROOT of EVIL, geddit? Well, you will.
Aside from the minor issues of overstuffing the cast list, there are plenty of jokes; Ivan is both endearingly caddish and what he lacks in true heroic ability, he makes up for in what is surely a very timely reminder of the value of acceptance of the full range of the weird and wonderful in Belogorie; the fight scenes are fast and furious; there are some genuine pang-inducing moments of sadness at opportunities lost; the scene with the riddle is just perfect; and the writers have continued to be inventive about how they adapt what we know (or in Mama’s case, mostly don’t know) about Russian folklore, children’s stories and fairytales.
And at least the sheer number of people on screen includes plenty of women, some of whom are still not young.
Which makes up (a bit) for the mess the story makes of trying to square the fact that all the most effective characters are women with the fact that only men seem eligible for heroic status and that only a pissing contest with the splendidly irritating Finist the Falcon (Kirill Zaitsev) can spur Ivan to get off the metaphorical oven and prove himself.
Not that that goes very well for Ivan, mark you. Ah well, perhaps that’s the point.
On the upside, there’s a bonus whale.
Plus this time the Last Bogatyr 2 (slash Knight, slash Hero, slash Warrior), Root of Evil was sponsored not by the Southern Russia Tourism Board, but the Northern one. Who does not like lovingly-filmed shots of snow-covered landscape?
So all in all, if you were in any way entertained by (the idea of) The Last Bogatyr (slash Knight, slash Hero, slash Warrior) you should definitely entertain the thought of seeing The Last Bogatyr Root of Evil.
And luckily for Mama’s impatience levels, they seem to have cracked straight on this time with the next instalment, which intriguingly seems to be set in real life Moscow itself.
Photocredit: Mama has shamelessly used a couple of interesting pictures she found lying around on the internet to promote this Disney film, a service for which she is not receiving any form of compensation whatsoever. However, if she should not be using these pictures, she is very willing to take them down.
Our other Russian film reviews:
This is what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has to say about Zen and the Art of Making Baguettes.