Day Watch

Day Watch

Day Watch is the sequel to the recent Russian vampire film Night Watch and both films are based on a popular trilogy of books (the third film Dusk Watch is in production at the moment). Released in Russian cinemas at the start of January, Day Watch quickly became the highest grossing film ever at the Russian box office, out grossing Night Watch, the previous record holder. So far all is sounding great. But as George Lucas and the Star Wars prequels have taught us, just because a film is a follow up to an earlier box office hit, it isn`t necessarily a better film.

DVD Details >>

The Film

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Arthur loved Night Watch. It was weird, stylish and full of good ideas. It was a bit hard to follow some of the time (this was especially true of the Russian DVD, where the subtitles weren`t in perfect English) but the overall story of 2 opposing groups of mystical warriors who, after centuries of battling, have reached a mutual truce over who controls the fate of mankind, was a good idea and worked well, even if it did "borrow" from loads of other sources (Hmmmm.....the "light side" vs. the "dark side"..... this sounds a bit familiar!)

The plot in the sequel involves the search for "The Chalk of Fate" which allows the user to change history. Within this broad storyline we find that all the characters from the first film return, even the minor ones who in this film take a larger role. Anton, the main "light side" character from the first film, is framed by the vampires from the "dark side" for the murder of several other vampires. Anton must find out who is responsible whilst staying alive, trying to reconcile things with his son Igor who has joined the dark side, searching for the magical chalk and sorting out his feelings for his new trainee, the "Significant other" from the first film who almost bought about the end of the world because she was feeling a bit down at the time (Arthur seems to recall her name was Svetlana).

The film starts out well with a big set piece set in the distant past where an army of what look liked Mongols attack a maze-like fortress in an attempt to steal the Chalk of Fate. From this first scene it is easy to see that the special effects budget has been increased considerably, with hordes of super powered Mongols charging their horses across a snowy battlefield and straight through the walls of the fortress only to be counter attacked by crows that shape shift into black guards. After this introduction to the power of the chalk, the story shifts to the present day and reintroduces all the main characters in another good sequence involving "the gloom" (a sort of grim and dirty parallel universe in which the dark side vampires live along with lots of mosquitoes). And after such a great start, Arthur was all set for another 90 minutes of all new weirdness and visual splendour. But unfortunately it doesn`t really happen.

In an effort to become more mainstream (and doubtless generate even more revenue from larger Russian audiences) the film suddenly seems to become lighter and more character driven with a good dose of comedy thrown in. Some of these scenes seem to have little to do with the main story and one set-piece gag involving Anton swapping his body with Olga (the shape shifting owl woman from the first film) seems to drag on for far too long and never really delivers upon its comedy potential (Arthur was very disappointed that the shower scene featuring Anton in Olga`s body getting it on with trainee Svetlana was cut way too short). This middle section of the film also seems to revolve around Russian culture and Arthur suspects a lot of the dialogue featured jokes that either didn`t translate well or that would only be relevant to Russian audiences.

During this middle section of the film there are a few action/effects sequences but they don`t really feel like they`re that important to the storyline. And most disappointingly, the film doesn`t build on the mythology set up so nicely in the first film; nothing new is added and some of the really cool stuff you hoped you`d see (such as the characters Bear and Tigercub doing loads more shape shifting) never happens.

The final 15 minutes is special effects overload and whilst it all looks very nice (buildings collapse, a Ferris wheel rolls through Moscow doubtless killing lots of people etc.) these things all seem rather pointless as they don`t really have anything to do with the main story.

The Western release of the first film was edited to make it more relevant to Western audiences (i.e. remove all the jokes and stuff about Russian culture) and Arthur wonders what they will do with this film as it seems to be much more of a Russian film. It is also worth noting that whilst the film takes its name from the second book in the series, the makers have deviated quite significantly from the story (Arthur has to take this information on good authority as he hasn`t read the books, mainly because they haven`t been translated into English yet - the first book is due to be released in June) in order to increase its box office appeal. Reading around it also sounds like Fox Searchlight (the American distributors of the film who also put money into it) insisted on changes being made, which may explain some of the rushed storyline; why can`t they just keep their fingers (and money) out and let the film makers get on with what they do best - making films.

Overall Arthur says it is worth seeing if you`ve seen and enjoyed the first film. Just don`t expect anything better.

The DVD

The DVD of this film is a bit of a mystery. It was originally released a month ago as a Region 5 PAL disc with no English subtitles. A month later a new version comes out, this time an NTSC disc, All region and having the all important English subtitles. This in itself isn`t too unusual (the original Night Watch was released in exactlty the same fashion) but this DVD of Day Watch just feels a bit "wrong". The DVD cover is the same one used for the PAL disc, the box is cheap and flimsy with no inserts. Most importantly the timing of the subtitles goes slightly wrong after the first hour (they are out by 1/2 to 1 second) which suspiciously is exactly the same problem that affects the fan made subtitle track that was available on the Interent when the original un-subtitled disc first came out. Arthur has seen a couple of forum posts suggesting that this could be a pirate DVD made by the Russian Mafia. However Arthur purchased his disc from a reputable retailer and it`s not impossible that the company who make the film just decided to pinch the fan made subtitles to save themselves some work.