We were made to wait for more than 2 years since the debut of Timur Bekmambetov's Night Watch, Russia's groundbreaking science fiction fantasy movie which promised a trilogy with the following two movies, Day Watch and Dusk Watch to follow. The first movie opened to much fanfare here with overnight festivities and a graveyard hour premiere, but reality set in soon after that local audiences perhaps aren't game for something too foreign, despite it that it stuck to the familiar action-effects formula.
So Day Watch will soon premiere on the local screens with less of the ra-ra fanfare, and while it helped a bit with its summarized recap of the first movie, my advice would be to ensure that you'd watch Night Watch first so that the characters who appear don't look too odd to you, and it'll be more satisfying come the ending because it makes the two movies just perfect and a wrap up. Which of course brings to question Bekmambetov's original vision of a trilogy, because I certainly can't see how it can happen now without throwing a spanner into the works.
The movie continues from where it left off the first movie, fast forwarded 12 years, where Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) is still taking on the Master role in tutoring his new padawan Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), who is touted as possibly the next Great One who had joined their side. Those of us in the know will already be in the loop what happened to the first Great One, and because movie prophecies are always self fulfilling, we get a hint of what's to come for the finale. The movie still focuses on Anton, and he makes an interesting central character because he is just about as flawed as can be, and not the all powerful character given there are many others in the movie absolutely more capable and powerful than he is. There's no boy scout in his character to bore you, and he constantly does things according to his fancy, which almost always gets him into trouble, with his continued pining for his son. And it is this less than heroic characteristic, that somewhat endears us to his internal struggles.
The father-son theme also takes on another dimension with Kostya (Aleksei Chadov) and his butcher father (Valeri Zolotukhin), but while it had a number of minor sub plots strung together, they rarely strike that emotional chord in you, as thee stories are conveniently serving as leads to the next big special effects scene. Some of these scenes you can tell were added to show off the effects capability - they look beautiful, but don't further the plot much. Think of it as nice decorative flower vases, and worse, contribute to certain plot loopholes and implausibilities as well. But wait, we're talking about a fantasy movie here, so it could be forgiven.
A gripe that I had was how wimpy the characters in the movie had become. Gone are the glorious battles from the first movie, where the rooftop melee was one of my favourites. What we have in Day Watch are plenty of scheming and plotting, and less of the fisticuffs. Even when it came to slugging it out, they were less than menacing and quite ordinary compared to its grittier, and darker predecessor. What made me chuckle a bit was the ditching of sensibilities and a tit-for-tat nod to Hollywood with its big bang disaster styled development, which certainly was uncalled for, but no doubt a you-can-do-we-can-do-too response. And some might be irked by the cop out ending, that it's much ado about nothing after all given the brou-ha-ha about the all powerful Chalk of Fate, but it's an ending which is perfect when you put Night Watch and Day Watch together.
One thing's enjoyable for sure, is the return of the funky subtitles. Since the movie is in Russian save the English language monologue recap, and for non-Russian speakers like yourself, sometimes reading subtitles might be a bit of a bore. But kudos here, like its predecessor, for intricately crafting nice looking, effects filled subtitles to enhance our reading pleasure.
For non-fans of the first movie, you'll probably give this one a miss, or for those who have not watched Night Watch, then you might walk out halfway given that it's relatively difficult to follow (there were walk outs in the screening I attended). But for the fans, then this movie is a reason to celebrate closure. Definitely an acquired taste!