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Film (p)review: Day Watch

Day Watch is the second film in a proposed trilogy, coming after the first film, Night Watch. (Confusingly, the films are adapted from the novel called Night Watch, each film being one part of the three-story book, even though the novel is the first in a trilogy, with the second book being called Day Watch, but it has nothing to do with the film.) Night Watch introduced us to the basic set-up: the forces of light and darkness called a truce 1000 years ago, and have been policing each other ever since so that neither gets the upper hand. The Night Watch are the Light Others, patrolling the Dark Others, whereas the Day Watch are the Dark Others patrolling the Light Others. The story of the first film is that of Anton, who became part of Night Watch when he visited a witch to use magic to get his wife back, which would have affected his as yet unborn son, Igor, who grows up to become one of the Great Others that have been prophesied to immerse the world in dark, who turns to the Dark Others when he is told about what Anton asked of the witch.

The film Day Watch begins with a flashback scene to the great warrior, Tamerlane, obtaining the Chalk of Fate, which has the power to rewrite one’s own history (but not anyone else’s). The film then returns to present day Moscow, a year after the events of the first film. Anton is partnered with Svetlana, the other potential Great Other, and is forming a romantic attachment, even though this is discouraged. On a routine patrol, they come across Anton’s son, who has been sucking the lifeforce out of old people, which is illegal in the supernatural world (permits are required for vampires, etc.). To cover up his son’s involvement in the crime, Anton breaks into the evidence room. In doing so, he happens on information about Tamerlane’s burial site, the supposed location of the Chalk of Fate.

Meanwhile, despite his helping the Dark Others, Anton is framed for the murder of a Dark Other. To protect him, Geser, the chief of the Light Others, swaps his mind into the body of Olga (and vice versa), a high-up Light Other in Night Watch. While in the body of Olga, he goes with Svetlana to stay with her during the investigation. During this time, she reveals that she loves Anton, which leads to the most embarrassingly awful scene in the film: Svetlana takes them back to her flat, where she takes a shower, and Anton (in Olga’s body) admits to her that he loves her. Angry at this betrayal, Svetlana shouts at him and showers him with water from the nozzle. Despite this, he gets into the shower with her. The camera pans around them slowly as the shower nozzle sprays water everywhere, with flashes of Anton in Olga’s clothes, until it swirls around to find them in a giant waterfall and the shower not spraying water. It was so ludicrous that everyone at the screening laughed, which I don’t think is the intention. If this is what passes for eroticism in Russia, I do feel sorry for them …

Having deduced where the Chalk of Fate is, Anton locates it, only for it to be stolen by his son. He decides to go to the big birthday party for his son being held by Zavulon, chief of the Dark Others, and with all the Dark Others in attendance because this is the moment when Igor will bring about victory for the Dark Others. He works out who the real killer was (which was obvious to anybody watching the film), which clears him with the Inquisition (a pair of powerful twins to judge both the Dark and Light Others in matters of law). After Igor comes into his power, via a set-up accident involving Svetlana that causes his blood to be spilled, he rains destruction on Moscow, in a powerful piece of CGI. During this, Anton locates the Chalk of Fate and, after being helped by Geser to escape, he rewrites history so that he doesn’t ask the witch for magic help, thereby negating the entirety of the film we have watched. The film ends with Anton seeing Svetlana and recognising her, and starting the process by which their relationship will continue, watched by Geser and Zavulon.

I have described the entirety of the film so that you don’t watch it. The film is so unfocused and messy and noisy that it is not worth seeing in the cinema. Having the ultimate battle between good and evil end with a love story seems quite ridiculous. Worse was the sound – I saw this as part of a marketing experiment to see if having the film dubbed would increase its marketability, and the dubbing was awful and the sound pretty ropey, which takes you out of the film at moments. One of the few good things about the first film was the individuality of the subtitles, having different fonts for different creatures and having them evaporate or change in evocative ways.

I still think that there is a great idea at the heart of the films, the policing of the forces of light and darkness and the contrast between the realism of Moscow and the flourishes of the supernatural, but these films don’t appear to be them. The almost casual flashes of supernatural (eyes changing colour, people transforming into creatures, etc.) are great and contrast with the bleakness of Moscow, but are few and far between. The story doesn’t unfold organically – Anton sees Svetlana reading a book about Tamerlane, which is enough for him to find the information in the evidence room and set him on the hunt for the Chalk of Fate, which is never explained very well in the film. And the Chalk of Fate (a very silly name) is the most ludicrous deus ex machina I’ve seen in a while. This is a shame, as the director (although using a lot of Hollywood techniques in the film) shows a talent for the visual flair of an action film that bodes well for the future (he is directing the adaptation of Mark Millar’s Wanted graphic novel). Put this down as an interesting but flawed attempt.

Rating: DA

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