Monday, October 01, 2007

DAY WATCH/DNEVNOY DOZOR - what's with the Dallas ending?!

The world is populated with superficial bastards who judge people on the size of their tits or the size of their wallets. I, on the other hand, judge people on how they answer the following question: "Who are the three greatest military generals of all time?" So it was with not a little excitement that I watched the prologue to DAY WATCH unfold, featuring Tamerlane the Great, ruler of Central Asia, architect of the golden city of Samarkand and creater of Tamerlanian chess. Tamerlane is after the Chalk of Fate. (Like most things in this Russian fantasy world, it feels like it should be capitalised.) The Chalk of Fate allows you to do cool stuff like change the course of your life. Cool that is, until it all goes Bobby Ewing. Other than that, contemporary Moscow is same-old same-old. There are vampires and witches and whatnot and they are split into two camps - Light and Dark - held in a truce that is policed by the Night Watch and Day Watch respectively. Neither side can break the truce for fear of inciting armageddon.

The movie looks great with lots of CGI where a little would do. Most of the best bits are in the trailer. If you think it looks cheesy and OTT you're missing the point. Vampires, Dark Others, Light Others and whatnot drive around in cool cars and kick ass, usually to a rubbish thrash-metal sound-track. They even make Anton (hero) and Olga (leader of good guys' girlfriend) swap bodies, enabling a truly low-rent girl-on-girl love scene with Sveta (the Luke Skywalker of this set-up). I haven't seen anything that crappy since Whoopi/Demi/Swayze got it on in GHOST. The plot, for what it's worth, sees Anton framed for murder by the Day Watch who are just itching to break the truce and start a war. After all, they have Anton's son Yegor on their side, and he's a potentially war-winning Great Other. The only glitch is that the Night Watch also have a potential Great Other in the shape of Sveta. Cue the compulsary final show-down in which Timur Bekmambetov has a lot of fun blowing shit up.

I have to say I was a bit less impressed with DAY WATCH than its predecessor. Maybe I'd just seen it all before? The ending didn't help but even before then it seemed a bit thin. Nonetheless, these movies are perfect for the times when you just need Pure Trash Entertainment. And they always have that little bit extra. I especially like the subtle spoofing of Communist-era bureaucracy as well as New Russian vulgar consumerism.

For hardcore fans, here are some supplementary notes:

First, some things you won't find in the British theatrical release. Thanks to the distributors, Fox Searchlight, you won't find an extra 20 minutes of footage that make the plot feel ever so slightly less random. You won't find a lot of one of the coolest characters in NIGHT WATCH, Bear. (Also, we note that Ignat is still a non-person.) You also won't find a lot of the magic and thoughtfulness that you get in the novels. Perhaps the biggest change from novel to screen is in the role of Anton's son Yegor. In the novels, he's a relatively low-level Other and flip-flops rather charmingly in neutrality for as long as possible. In the movie, he's a Great Other who will be pitted in battle against Sveta. As a result, Anton's visit to the witch earlier on in the story, takes on a mythic importance and leads to a somewhat DALLAS ending....

DAY WATCH/NIGHT WATCH 2/DNEVNOY DOZOR was released in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Estonia in 2006. It was released in Egypt, the US, New Zealand, the Philippines, Argentina, Taiwan, Poland, Germany, Spian, Sweden, Greece and Malaysia earlier this year. DAY WATCH played London's Fright Fest last month and is released in the UK, Singapore and Mexico this week. It opens in Turkey, Australia, Norway and Brazil later in October, in Hong Kong on November 1st and in France on March 12th 2008.

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