NIGHTWATCH and DAYWATCH Blu-ray Reviews
Posted by Dellamorte
Written by Andre Dellamorte
The films Nightwatch and Daywatch most remind me of the film Shiri, the Korean blockbuster. The comparison is apt in that the films revitalized their countries cinema, drew heavily on its own culture's concerns while also liberally stealing from American Blockbuster cinema. In these cases, and I hate typing this, you can't really spend two-to-ten million and get the results of a film that costs 100. But what you do get is usually inspired, and excited cinema by people who buck at being their country's version of Cameron or Lucas or Spielberg, or William Wyler, etc. even if they don't want that label (who does, it's insulting in its way). The film was directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who then brought his stylizing to America for this Summer’s Wanted. As a calling card it worked, which may be why the film series is now capped at two. I swear I heard it was intended to be a trilogy, and the IMDb suggests Twilight Watch is coming in 2009, but I would bet if Timur’s career is still going in America, that it won’t happen, and by the way the second film crams together the parts of the two follow up books, a third film seems less and less likely.
That said, as successful as Bekmambetov has become, neither films were sold all that well to America, and were received stateside with indifference. Not surprising, we do it more expensive here. But Nightwatch, in my humble, works a bit better than Daywatch, if only because it improves on its closest competition (that being the dreadfully lame Underworld series), and though both pictures are overstuffed, the second film is wearying in comparison, though I liked them both well enough.
The idea in the Watches is that there are dark and light forces who have been engaged in a truce for centuries, but peace is coming to an end with the birth of a certain someone to be named later. Konstantin Khabensky plays Anton, who stumbles into their world when his wife starts having an affair and he sends a witch to get her back. When the witch is thwarted by the forces of good, his powers are awakened, and he begins his involvement with the light side, which act as police for the forces of darkness. But there is a growing animosity between good and evil, and it's fought with Anton in the middle, as he has to track down a kid, face the consequences of a bust turned fatal, and stop a woman who seems to have darkness surrounding her that may destroy the entirety of Moscow. In the sequel, he’s teamed up with the hot sorceresses naïf from the end of the first film and is training her, but there’s also this “Chalk of Fate” which can rewrite any past if apply in the right place. It turns out that the dark and light sides are after it and Anton can right his greatest wrong if he can get a hold of it. So the entire fate of the world rests on a boy’s Camaro, err a piece of chalk.
Describing the plotting is almost unfair, as it can only alert to spoilers, and is somewhat beside the point. These films were audition pieces for the director, and he got what he wanted. The story is dense enough that many left the first film confused and bored, but if you go back, the film does settle and it doesn’t cheat the narrative, it’s just that the cadence of the supernatural is more Eastern and more Russian than Western, and so some of the tropes are familiar but odd. And that's to its favor; it's a smart genre exercise that benefits from an outsider's perspective, and a little taste of Russian culture making play with what seems to be an all-vampire world (there's some blood drinking here, and it seems both sides have vampiric tendencies, perhaps this was smoothed out for American audiences). And what it lacks in budget it more than makes up for in a playful sense of effects and camera moves, even if it's indebted to everyone you could possibly think the film should be indebted to - which includes George Lucas, the Wachowski Brothers, Peter Jackson Sam Raimi, etc. But that's cool, you know. It works, and I'd rather watch these films than the Matrix sequels. And as a style exercise the four and a half hour journey is worthwhile, but lacking, and the second film feels like it’s trying to cram two stories worth of narrative into a two and a half hour production that ends on a modestly satisfying note. Endings are tough, yo.
Improving on the Standard def versions, the only complain to be had about the Blu-Ray versions is that the standard def featured burned in subtitles for the English Language version, with cool ways of showing the text. For the Blu-Ray, it only offers standard subtitles, so that aspect of the film (which was available on the SD versions), is now missing. But the picture and sound quality is so much better that holding on to the old version would seem like a waste. It’s close to night and day, the image is that pristine. Was that a pun? I don’t know. Both come in Russian and English DTS-HD 5.1, with optional subtitles (no Russian subs, though). Both films come with commentaries by director Timur Bekmambetov. Nightwatch comes with a commentary by Novelist Sergei Lukyanenko (whose books were used for the films). There’s seven deleted scenes (29 min.) in English 5.1 and Russian 5.1 with optional commentary by the director. There’s the Russian-made making of (39 min.) with optional English subtitles, then there’s “Character, Story and Subtitles” (5 min.) which is in English, as is “Night Watch Trilogy” (3 min.), a Comic book gallery (9 min.), and a Poster collection (1 min.), the theatrical trailer, and bonus trailers. The film can also be watched in the D-Box format, which is a chair jiggling feature. Daywatch comes with the aforementioned commentary, a making of (26 min.) in Russian, 16 Russian TV spots (6 min.), the theatrical trailer, and six Russian trailers (6 min.), and the D-Box functionality.