A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 248 – Day Watch

Day Watch – November 3rd, 2010

Being a curious sort of person, after watching tonight’s movie I went to wikipedia and poked around the entry for the novel this movie is based on. Contrary to what one might assume, given that it shares a title with the second book, this movie is actually based on a combination of the latter two sections of the first book. Having not finished the book, I hadn’t realized that, but then I did think the first movie was somewhat short for such a long novel, even given the adjustments that have to be made between page and screen. So it makes sense, with two plots merged here, that this movie is longer, and a little more complicated.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the combination of plots. I can say that I do like some of the other changes made (at least according to wikipedia, so take this with a slab of salt) to make certain characters more central to the plot. But taking a plot about a murder mystery, with Anton being framed for the murders of Dark Others in order to draw out the more powerful people around him, and combining it with a plot about a hunt for a legendary piece of chalk that can change destiny? It wasn’t done poorly, but it makes for a lot of plot threads to follow. And there’s at least one point where it felt slapped together. But I’m not sure either single plot would really have sufficed as a cinematic follow-up to the events set out in the first movie. Given the father and son stuff set up there, as well as the big climactic end of the world deal, the second movie really needed a big plot.

See, I like the father and son stuff. Anton’s son from the first movie, Yegor, is now in deep with the Dark Others. He’s made his choice to stand with them and Zevulon, the leader of the Dark, has taken him in as a surrogate son. Anton’s been bending the rules and in some cases outright breaking them in order to try and get his son back. Anton’s bumbling is really the center of a lot of plots here, and in the first movie, and they really do a good job doubling back to wrap a lot of that up in the end. Also coming to the forefront are Anton’s vampire neighbors, a father who turned his son to save him from double pneumonia. And so we have more father and son stuff. I can’t tell from the wiki summaries if that’s at all in the book. It doesn’t appear to be. At least not enough to get a mention, so I’m going with it not being a thing at all. But I liked it. It managed to tie together some disparate pieces of plot and pull them into a cohesive story.

Without the father and son stuff, I think the chalk plot and the murder plot could have been too far apart. But through it all there’s a thread of choices made and how they affect your own life and the lives of those you care for. One of the key points in the story is how you can’t change another person’s destiny. But it seems to me that you can, if you change your own. And it’s all tied to Anton and Yegor and Zevulon and the vampires, along with Anton’s girlfriend, Sveta (also from the first movie) and Zevulon’s lover, Alicia. The one thing that struck me as poorly incorporated into the whole plot was Anton and Olga heading to Samarkand and then deciding not to. Which kind of pisses me off. The movie is otherwise paced rather well, with the more serious discussions and exposition interspersed with action and displays of magic and the world the Others live in. And then smack in the middle is this diverted trip out of Moscow that ends up not happening. Sure, the chalk plot involves Samarkand, and a lot is done to set it up, but with the moving coming in at two and a half hours, the bit on the plane could have been dropped and the conversation between Olga and Anton moved elsewhere – the airport even – and it would have worked fine.

I really did enjoy this movie. It gave me a lot more Olga, whom I adore and was thrilled to see get a lot more screen time (and kudos to Galina Kyunina for doing a spot-on Anton impression in the beginning – I think I love her and must find more of her work). It also had some interesting stuff with Alicia and more of the world the movie takes place in. It does a lot of telling, yes, but it also does a crapload of showing, which is fantastic. I think my only real complaint about the movie as a whole is the ending, and even there I understand it. I get why it was done the way it was done and I get what had to happen given the events leading up to the climax. But it feels a little tired, which is a pity. I hope they find a way to bring the action back in again if they look into making another movie, but if they don’t? Then I think the world the movie ends in is a perfectly good one.

November 3, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day Watch (Dnevnoy Dozor)

November 3, 2010

Day Watch (Dnevnoy Dozor)

Wow. I hadn’t seen this movie before, but after watching Night Watch again the other day I was extremely curious to see how this movie worked. Night Watch leaves a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions and ends on a bit of a downer, so where would this movie take the concept? I have to say that I was completely blown away. This is one of those amazing and rare sequels that surpasses the original in just about every way while staying faithful to the world and characters created by the first one.

The story continues to follow Anton Gorodetsky and the ongoing uneasy truce between the forces of dark and light. At first I was reminded of nothing so much as Hellboy 2 – the opening of the movie introduces a major plot device that has the power to literally re-write fate and you know that it’s going to be heavily involved in the plot of the movie. But once we got back on the streets with Anton it became clear that there was a whole lot going on here, and that it blended very well with the first movie. Anton is meant to be training a new recruit to the light named Svetlana – a woman who not only has vastly superior powers to Anton, but has deep feelings for him as well. Right away the two of them have a confrontation with the Great Dark One – the young boy Yegor whose fateful choice at the end of the first movie was manipulated by the head of the Day Watch, the powerful and influential Zavulon. It seems that Svetlana has power equal to the boy – which means that a major confrontation between Good and Evil is brewing.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this movie was the sense that Yegor, Svetlana and most of all Anton are all pawns in a long game being played by Zavulon and Geser. The machinations of the two warring sides as they attempt to manipulate people into the positions they want them in are intricate and fun to watch. This movie adds a lot more than that into the mix though. It develops the world a little more clearly than the first movie did – particularly demonstrating the nature of the Gloom and how it is used by experienced Others as opposed to the inexpert fumbling of Anton in the first movie. It provides the missing back story for Olga and integrates it into the plot of this movie. Every character from the first movie appears here and most of them in expanded roles. Olga is extensively involved in her attempts to protect Anton and Svetlana. There’s a whole parallel plot involving Anton’s vampire neighbor Kostya and his father, which turns out to be linked to the overall themes of the movie. We get to see a lot more smarmy scheming from Zavulon as he works to end the Truce and, so it seems, the world.

Another thing this movie cleverly adds to the mix is a lot of humor. The first movie was a very bleak, dark, hopeless affair. This movie, on the other hand, is almost lighthearted at times. It has a lot of good laughs mixed in, which actually acts to make you care more for the characters and their world. There’s even romance here – something the first movie didn’t even touch on.

There’s a lot of big action scenes her and cool special effects. The apocalyptic battle at the end of the film results in a bunch of dramatic big-budget destruction of modern Moscow landmarks. It would feel like a Hollywood film if it didn’t have a quirky self-aware quality and a deeper message woven into the movie. If the first film is a contemplation on the nature of free will and how choices are made for us then this movie is about regret and the desire to change choices already in the past.

So there you have it. A big-budget effects laden movie that involves humor, romance, deeper issues, cool plot twists and even a murder mystery of sorts. With a spectacular climactic battle and apocalyptic destruction. That manages to tie up all the loose ends from the first film and lest us see more of all the characters and the world we enjoyed from the first movie. As I said: I was blown away.

November 3, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment