Thursday, June 14, 2007


My wife and I caught Daywatch on Tueday night. The Tribune had an ad on Friday for a free screening if you send them an email with a description of what "superpower" you'd want -- as if this was a Heroes rip-off, and not a deathly cool Russian mythic Matrix, the sequel to 2004's Nightwatch. If you haven't seen Nightwatch, there's a 10-second recap, but really, go out and rent or buy the DVD (and watch it subtitled -- it's worth it for the animated titles).

As a sequel, it pays off very nicely, and wraps up the story started in Nightwatch -- which is strange in itself, since they're supposed to be making a third movie, in English, filmed in the US. While some of the Eastern European myth-feel is missing (Nightwatch's magic felt like folktales transported to grimy Moscow), the action and special effects are amped up, without losing a rich complex story with vibrant characters. The leaders of the Light and Dark, Gesser and Zevulon, are bitter enemies that most of the time behave like two guys that have been playing chess in the park together for 1000 years. The Dark is sometimes warmer and friendlier than the Light (and generally better dressed, Zevulon's fuzzy blue housecoat and track pants notwithstanding).
In this movie, Svetlana (or Sveta) and Yegor are being trained to be the next "Great Others" of the light and dark, respectively, meanwhile mysterious murders are occurring, killing a couple of Dark Others and framing the weary hero of both films, Anton. To hide him from prosecution by the Daywatch (the Dark Others that police the actions of the Light), he switches bodies with Olga (the woman who was trapped as an owl from the first flick). This provides a nice bit of humor, but ultimately doesn't contribute much to the plot (see below for how this relates to the original book). Meanwhile, there's an ongoing quest for the Chalk of Fate which Tamerlane used to rewrite any mistakes he made throughout his life.

The flim climaxes at a birthday party in the Kosmos Hotel, where Yegor's power comes into play destroying most of Moscow in some amazing effects work -- and I'm not giving much away here, because the resolution, while you can see it coming, is elegant and smoothly done.
That's not to say everything's smooth. It looks like some bits of script or film didn't make it to our eyes: a tearful character trying to bring back to life someone she barely knows makes no sense without what I'm guessing is an excised very steamy scene, and an aborted trip to Samarkand seems like the director didn't know where he wanted the story to go.
And what of that book I mentioned? This film covers much of the second half of the book called "Nightwatch" (although there is also a book for Daywatch, it covers further stories). The general plot of this movie is very different, mainly because of how the first film diverged. As I said before, the body switching was originally done to hide Anton, but the Dark Others see through that immediately in the flick. Other elements come through perfectly, such as mysterious murders with a wooden knife, training of the Great Others, second levels of Gloom... but this is a very separate story. The director and actors have put together a terrific film with deep characters you wouldn't expect from an action flick. Go see it.

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