If you happened to see “Night Watch”, the first installation in the celluloid adaptation of author Sergei Lukyanenko’s offbeat three-part fantasy epic, then rest assured that you’re in for another rollercoaster of bizarro Russian moviemaking with “Day Watch”. If not, then I might have the pleasure of introducing you to a highly entertaining chunk of non-mainstream cinema.
Part 1, “Night Watch”, set up a foggy alternate universe in modern-day Moscow. Light and Dark forces (not to be mistaken for Good and Evil – well, sorta) have battled since the dawn of man. In an effort to protect innocent mortals from these savage wars, a vaguely Supreme Being established a system whereby the Dark Ones control the world during nighttime and Light Ones own it during daylight. Peace and happiness right? Unfortunately, members of either group are prone to bend the rules somewhat. And for that reason, there are Light Ones whose job it is to patrol the world during Night and Dark Ones who patrol during the Day -- although we have not yet been introduced to the latter. These warriors maintain the tenuous peace. When Dark Ones get out of hand, for instance a vampire kills too many victims, the Light Patrol are allowed to break the truce. The Light and Dark physically revert to their ancient warrior personas and fight to the death. When things get real wonky, the Supreme Being can sends in his own set of enforcer.
It’s a pretty complicated mythology. But it is worth investing the time to understand it. The first movie is very slick, with liberal use of high-quality special effects and CGI. And when Fox Searchlight gave it the DVD treatment, they enhanced the subtitles so that they had dripping and fading effects, as well as unique coloring to match the scene. The subtitles were, in a word, badass in “Night Watch”. And they were just one component of a sleek and sexy movie with a complex plot and back-story. Plus, “Night Watch” had one of the coolest and longest alternate endings that I have ever seen. But would “Day Watch” live up to the high standard set by its predecessor?
If nothing else, watch “Night Watch” immediately before “Day Watch” because “Day Watch” doesn’t summarize the previous material -- sorry, folks, there is no montage set to music. You simply get tossed right into the action and it takes place quite a space of time after the first movie. Now I had high expectations for the subtitles, since they deserved billing as a character in the credits of “Night Watch”. Maybe it was my screener’s copy (though it seemed like a finished product), but the subtitles were standard without any special effects. However, the CGI was pretty great once again.
Although the story had nearly as much plot depth as the first movie, I cared less about the characters in this one. Also, very little was done to give the viewer further insight into these wildly complex beings. The fascinating mythology was only slightly expanded upon here. Also, beyond the trailer, the extras were virtually nonexistent on this DVD. That makes me think that Fox Searchlight knew that this movie was a weak second part. On the up side, “Day Watch” carried the same subtle humor that was present in “Night Watch”.
An unfortunate necessity of any sequel is that it must be measured (unfairly) against the standard set by its predecessor. And normally, a sequel comes about because the first movie was solid enough to warrant a follow-up (exceptions include “Air Bud” and any movie with Charlie Sheen that had a part two). In that light, “Day Watch” is nearly as entertaining though much weaker and flawed than “Night Watch”. However, as a second part to a trilogy, it works acceptably. As well, it has the bonus effect of whetting my appetite for the final installment, “Dusk Watch” which is due out in the US in 2008. I wholeheartedly recommend renting “Day Watch”, but only in tandem with a viewing of “Night Watch” (which you should already own).