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Film / Nightfall (2000)

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"In a far away galaxy, the planet Aeon is blessed by the light of six suns
Her people have never known

A 2000 Science Fiction film directed by Gwyneth Gibby, with screenplay by John William Corrington, based on "Nightfall (1941)" by Isaac Asimov.

The Opening Scroll takes place over a stylized display of the stars around Aeon, just before they're all covered in an eclipse in time for the title. The screen turns black and the opening credits cycle through names. The film begins with a Knee-High Perspective of Django (Pradeep Singh Rawat) digging with a pickaxe. The perspective pans around, completing the opening credits while more of the archeological dig site is revealed. Django has found something, and a crowd gathers to watch.

The foreman runs to the Temple of the Watchers, to inform Brother Kopton (Ashish Visyarthi), leader of the Watchers, about the new discovery. On his way, he accidentally lets Sheerin (Winsome Brown) know, and she goes to the University of the Scholars to fetch her friend Illyra (Jennifer Burns), who is currently listening to a lecture from Professor Gnomen (David Carradine), leader of the Scholars. He watches his daughter, Illyra, and her friend leave the University. The girls get a few moments to look around before the Watchers appear and they start arguing over the proper way to conduct an archeological dig.

Brother Koptin and his assistant, Ensinn (Sushant Kumar), eject the girls from the dig site, and they return to the University. Gnomen is again talking to people about the destruction of civilization that last happened almost 1,000 years ago. He forbids the girls from going back to the dig site, so Illyra naturally defies him almost immediately, sneaking back inside the newly discovered room. While collecting samples, she learns that in the intervening centuries, it's become home to hordes of snakes. Metron (Joseph Hodge) rescues her with pyrokinetic powers, helping her to escape, and disappearing.

Back at the Temple, Ensinn complains of Metron's inability to capture the intruders, but Brother Kooptin assures him his adopted son has done no wrong. Sending the boy away, he reveals that he believes God will cleanse the world soon because of the heretical Scholars. Back at the University, Gnomen takes a look at the artifacts Sheerin and Illyra recovered. Pointing out that the skull's injury is man-made, he disagrees that these deaths are related to the thousand year cycle.

Illyra and Sheerin go out to an open market, discussing the Tunnel of Mystery and coming across an old camera that is somehow more advanced than anything they've seen before. The merchant bought it from a Watcher who often visits a bar owned by Theremon (Manik Raj). They're introduced to Metron properly and Illyra pays him to lead her to the cavern where he discovered the camera. Together, they share secrets from the Temple and University, and discover what the Signs of the End Times mean and why the apocalypse is coming.

Nightfall provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The original ending has everyone lose their minds upon realizing how little they matter compared to the size of the universe. In this adaptation, however, it's merely blind fanaticism that sends the Watchers against the Scholars. Metron and Illyra manage to survive and watch the Stars appear while Saro city burns.
  • Adaptation Deviation: Aside from the characters changing almost completely (two characters use names from the original, but really aren't the same at all), this adaptation adds in Psychic Powers and changes the cycle to last 1,000 years instead of 2,049 years.
  • Adaptation Name Change: When adapting the story into a movie, the planet was renamed Aeon, the cast of characters was essentially replaced entirely, while still retaining the conflict between science and religion.
  • Apocalypse How: Aeon is destroyed every 1,000 years. The actual effect is continent-wide collapse of infrastructure, caused by people desperate to bring back sunlight because they're afraid of the dark. The Watchers convince the crowds that killing the Scholars is the only way to bring it back.
  • Apocalypse Cult: The Watchers believe that the only way to bring back the sun is to kill the Scholars because it was their heresies and sinfulness that caused the suns to be swallowed whole.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The writing that Metron and Illyra discover in the caverns talks about darkness not being the danger faced by Aeon when the suns disappear. The words are based on the last words of Aton from "Nightfall (1941)".
  • Artistic License Biology: One of the snakes chasing after Illyra opens its mouth to hiss and venom pours out of its mouth like water. Snakes do not drool like that at all.
  • Desert Skull: There are two animal skulls just outside the caverns that Metron is showing Illyra.
  • Epigraph: The Emerson quote from the original story is the first part of the ending credits.
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: According to the archeological records, civilization was destroyed 1,000 years ago, and the University of Scholars believe this destruction will occur again.
  • Gender Flip: In the original story, the only scientists at the Observatory are male, including Sheerin, but in this film, she was changed into Illyara's platonic best friend in the University.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Despite what the Apocalyptic Log says, the people of Aeon are panicking and destroying because the Watchers tell them the only way to bring back the light is to destroy the Scholars for their heathen beliefs.
  • Lost Technology: Artifacts found from over 1,000 years ago are often more advanced than their modern-day counterparts. It doesn't mean the past made things better; they simply followed different tech trees.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Aton is name-dropped once or twice as another one of the Scholars. Aton's role from the original story was replaced by Gnomen for this movie.
    • Theremon shows up as a bar owner, a reference to where he met Beenay the astronomer in Nightfall (1990).
    • The Apocalyptic Log quotes the last words of Aton from the original Nightfall (1941).
  • A Mythology Is True: In addition to the myths from the original story, are Darklings; boogeymen the Watchers use to scare children into behaving. They're also humans who have gone crazy and live their entire lives in darkness, killing anyone who intrudes.
  • One-Word Title
  • Only One Name:
    • All of the characters go by a single name, even though Sheerin is clearly Gnomen's daughter.
    • In the credits, many of the people involved in this movie were listed by only one name, either their personal or family name, sometimes including an initial for their first name.
  • Opening Scroll: A summary of background information is provided over several stylized displays of the stars around Aeon, just before they're all covered by an eclipse in time for the title. The screen turns black and the opening credits cycle through names. Once Isaac Asimov is credited, the screen shifts to the movie proper, while continuing to display the occasional credit until the first line is spoken.
  • Playing with Fire: Metron uses Psychic Powers to start fires. The first time he does this, he calls it a little trick.
  • Psychic Powers: Metron can set things on fire by concentrating on them, grabbing things telekinetically, as well creating illusions to frighten people. Using the powers too much gives him a headache.
  • Ray Gun: Illyra tries to use a handheld laser pistol to defend herself against desert nomads, but her lack of confidence means they easily overpower her despite it.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: While Illyra and Metron are out in the wilderness, he invites her to lay her head on his chest as a pillow. She does, and asks him if his behavior was acceptable for a Watcher. He admits that it isn't, and they kiss, rolling over so that Metron is on top of Illyra.
  • Signs of the End Times: The Watchers teach that when wind from the desert that goes on for days, a rain of suns fall from the sky, and during Twilight (only Beta is in the sky), it will be swallowed whole and the world will end.
  • Snake Pit: The rooms uncovered by archeological dig has become home to hundreds of snakes in the centuries since it was inhabited by humans.
  • Stripped to the Bone: The archeological site from 1,000 years ago is full of skeletons, and snakes!
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: The sand searchers try to hit Metron with a thrown sword, but it misses and he picks it up for his own use.
  • Title In:
    • As the foreman of the archeological dig enters the Temple of the Watchers, the location's name appears in blocky font across the bottom of the screen.
    • As Sheerin enters the University of Scholars, the location's name appears in blocky font across the bottom of the screen.
  • Voice of the Legion: The woman living in the cavern speaks with a strange reverberation, and tells Illyra and Metron about events from 1,000 years ago.
  • Young Love Versus Old Hate: Professor Gnomen and Brother Koptin represent hate from ages past, but despite their parents, Metron and Illyra fall in love with each other.