Sunday 28 June 2009

Day Watch (2006)

Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Star: Konstantin Khabenskiy

The events of Night Watch are done and through the balance has shifted towards darkness. Anton's son Yegor has joined the Day Watch and has such power that he is no longer merely an Other but a Great Other. There are levels to this stuff apparently, though they're massively rare and setting a Great Other against a Great Other is insanely dangerous. Naturally the Night Watch have one too, at least one in training called Sveta. She's learning the ropes while Yegor has taken to draining the life of old women with a needle.

Of course this is utterly against the rules, and impulsive Sveta chases him into the second level Gloom. The Gloom is a sort of parallel reality that Others can travel through but second level Gloom is as dangerous as any of the other levels we're learning about here. And danger is the name of the game. It would seem that someone is inching the two sides of light and darkness towards that final battle and our cast of fascinating characters from the first film are back to be the chess pieces in the game.

Now, there's a little subplot that's pretty key here that dates back to the time of Tamerlane. Apparently he broke into a legendary maze using the sort of lateral thinking that enabled Alexander to untie the Gordian Knot. In the maze is the Chalk of Fate, a device of such power than it can change the fabric of reality and act as a celestial undo button, though only for your own choices and decisions, not those of others. Needless to say this would come in stunningly useful to everyone if only they can find it. Tamerlane used it for years but its location has been lost.

This is a little slower than the first, at least for a while, though the action sequences are a little quicker and everything goes utterly berserk by the end. There's some awesome driving going on here including what would appear to be some superbly executed stunt driving that turns into CGI without us noticing. And the CGI here is truly stunning. The style is turned up considerably, not across the board as most of our Others remain utterly down to earth. Zhanna Friske is the most obvious who doesn't, pimping it up like a Spice Girl and Michael Jackson put together as Alisa Donnikova. Sveta has a taste for flashy coats too and the longer the film runs the more outrageous the sets and costumes become.

What really works here is the fact that characters have far more opportunity to develop and the actors are generally more than up to the task. Konstantin Khabenskiy is a chameleon and he's a joy to watch. Mariya Poroshina is lovely and naive as Sveti, but she's outshone by Galina Tyunina as Olga, the sorceress who spent part of the first film as an owl. At one point Anton and Olga swap bodies and both Khabenskiy and Tyunina are more than up to playing another character of the opposite sex inhabiting their own bodies. In smaller roles Valeriy Zolotukhin and Nurzhuman Ikhtymbayev were very memorable though in very different ways, the former almost orclike and the latter serene.

I'm very happy to have watched this with Night Watch as a double bill. It really is one long story broken into half, the ending to part two really being the ending to what began at the beginning of part one. Apparently there are a number of novels in this series, written by Sergei Lukyanenko, and the stories that comprise the films Night Watch and Day Watch are all part of the first of the books, also titled Night Watch.

Presumably then any further sequels, which are likely as these films broke box office records in Russia, will start new stories. I'll keep my eyes open for them but I'm not sure if I'll really want to watch if I can't watch beginning and end together. I watched The Lord of the Rings films as they came out in theatres and it was painful having to wait for each episode. This would be even more painful because of how closely they tie together.

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