MAY 10, 2007
Today’s movie isn’t out yet, so I will assume all of the comments will come from all my Russian readers!!! What’s that? I don’t have any? Oh well.
While not really a horror movie, I consider Night Watch to be the finest Russian fantasy about vampires ever made. So I was really excited for the sequel, Day Watch. However, I did have one concern, which I will address below. And I hope you can follow this following paragraph, because I can’t.
The 1st movie (Night Watch) is based only on the first THIRD of the book, "Night Watch". The 2nd movie (Day Watch) is based on the 2nd and 3rd parts of the book, "Night Watch". But to complicate matters, there is a 2nd book called "Day Watch", which has nothing to do with the movies, other than one of its subplots being used in the 1st movie (Night Watch, right?). So in reality, the movie should be called Night Watch 2 (in fact it originally was, according to the always accurate Wikipedia), and the title Day Watch should be used for the eventual film based on the book "Day Watch", as far as I am concerned. But look, I’ve never claimed to understand the Russian people. They couldn’t even pull off communism.
Anyway, by only using 1/3 of the book in the first film, they pulled off one of the best novel-to-film adaptations in recent memory. Not that the book was a "Harry Potter"-size behemoth, but it just gave the filmmakers more room to breath. Little of the story was jettisoned, characters weren’t combined, etc. But the 2nd film combined the 2nd and 3rd parts of the book (one of which is about a serial killer, so that + vampires = acceptable choice for Horror Movie A Day), which led me to believe this one would be less focused and certainly less faithful to the source material. And like I have been no less than four times before, I was right! While still a good film in its own right, the film was less satisfying than the original. The two storylines were ineffectively combined, so many of the books’ great sequences were lost entirely, and as a result, the emotional impact was lessened. The sense of wonder and level of insanity was severely downplayed in order to develop both stories (involving the murder of Others by someone who can reach high levels of the Gloom, and a piece of magic chalk. Look, if you’re not a fan of these movies, don’t knock it. We think it’s awesome.), but the storylines (especially the murderer story) feel rushed. Incidentally, this film is shorter than the original despite containing essentially twice as much plot.
To its credit, the film is actually much easier to follow than the original (I for one still have no idea what is going on with that elevator), and the villainous Zabulon is given a lot more to do, but the film as a whole just didn’t gel as well as it could have if they just used one third of the book again (and made the other 3rd into Night Watch 3).
The film was also less laughably insane as the original. In fact, most of the ‘whoa, weird, hahahaha’ moments come from the interactive subtitles. Much like the first film, the subtitles aren’t boringly just placed on the screen. They fly around, change colors, enlarge to emphasize important points, etc. It rewards you for dealing with listening to the Russian rather than a dub track. Excellent artistic choice. Even the end credits are creative, appearing on billboards while one of the characters reads them as he drives around.
I am not sure if, like the previous film, there is an alternate version of the film released in Russia. The Russian version of the first film had more subplots, and generally more confusion (but, obviously, no awesome subtitles). The “Fox” cut added some narration to help clarify some of the more baffling story points and other minor changes. Both versions are great and I whenever I watch one I watch the other soon after. I plan to do the same with this one if such a cut exists. As of yet I can find no information on this on Google.
Either way, if you were confused to the point of anger with the first film, I highly recommend reading the book. It’s a fantastic read and the movie will make a lot more sense as well. And sales of it will help bring the other 2 books ("Dusk Watch" and "Twilight Watch" I think?) to US shores. Because if they don’t, I’ll have to learn how to read Russian. And I don’t have time for that.
What say you?