January 21, 2008

Mini-review: Day Watch

(CCLaP publishes mini-reviews of both books and movies on a regular basis, none lasting more than a few hundred words. Click here for the full list.)

Day Watch, the movie
Day Watch (film; 2006)
Written by Timur Bekmambetov and Alexander Talal, from the original novel by Sergei Lukyanenko and Vladimir Vasiliev
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Regular readers will of course remember my review last year of 2004's Night Watch; it was one of the first big-budget action movies to ever be shot in post-Soviet Russia, not to mention one of the first international blockbusters in the entire history of Russia's film industry. Based on a series of popular science-fiction novels, the entire "Watch" trilogy tells a grand and logic-challenged saga of two secret supernatural armies, who long ago brokered a truce after realizing that they were completely and utterly matched; now each side sponsors a police force of sorts (the "Night Watch" among the good guys, a "Day Watch" among the baddies), who carefully keep tabs over the other side in question, making sure that neither are doing anything that would violate the terms of their thousand-year-old peace treaty.

The original Night Watch mostly told the set-up of this epic story, as well as of the special "Chosen One" (there's always a Chosen One in these kinds of movies, isn't there?) who is to eventually decide the fate not only of the two sides but of the entire millennium-long cold war altogether. And now we have the second film of the series, Day Watch, released in Russia in 2006 and then American theatres a year later and then on American DVD six months after that; it essentially picks up a year or so after the events of the first film, as our good-guy policeman hero Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) continues to deal with the fallout of accidentally driving his illegitimate son into the arms of the evil side, even after realizing that the boy is the precise Chosen One who all of them have been eagerly anticipating. And indeed, turns out that I have almost nothing to say about Day Watch that I didn't already mention in my review of Night Watch; that much like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series, the entire "Watch" trilogy was designed from the start as a single piece (including the same cast and crew for all three films, the same effects, the same sets, etc), making this second film more of an extension of the first than its own standalone project. To understand what I thought of Day Watch, simply read my original review of Night Watch and then add, "Yeah, and then some!"

It's not a bad series as far as genre actioners go, and not a great series either; it certainly proves, though, that Russia's film industry can stand alongside any others on the global entertainment stage, something almost more important than the success of these individual films unto themselves. (For those who don't know, virtually every company making up Russia's entire film industry has had at least a small hand in the "Watch" productions, including a total of 16 different Russian special-effects companies spread out over eleven time zones.) It certainly doesn't hold a candle to a genre masterpiece like, say, The Matrix. to which it clearly aspires; it's certainly a fun series, though, an entertaining one as well, and one that makes me look forward to the final film of the trilogy next year, called either Dusk Watch or Twilight Watch depending on how you interpret the original Russian (and incidentally being half-filmed in Los Angeles this time, which will undoubtedly give it a much higher American profile upon release than the first two).

Out of 10: 7.4, or 8.4 for science-fiction fans

Filed by Jason Pettus at 1:42 PM, January 21, 2008. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |