Monday, March 31, 2014

Night Watch - 2004, Day Watch - 2006

Even if director Timur Bekmambetov never returns to finish this trilogy, "Night Watch" and its sequel "Day Watch," are two of the most visually arresting urban fantasy-horror films ever made, and they launched a director whose talent cannot be ignored (even if he sometimes slums it with things like "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter").

You've never really seen anything like Night Watch before - it's almost as though Tony Scott and Tim Burton had a directing child. Bekmambetov paints in gorgeous colors, brilliant and vivid, lush gardens of visual delight, but also moves through them with a stop-start rhythm that can be a little jolting your first time through. The two films are a mix of fantasy and horror, stories set in modern Russia. And the special effects, oh lord, the special effects.

See, Bekmambetov wanted to do special effects, but he wanted to do them his way, so he actually founded a special effects company in Russia, to set the tone and do the primary visual effects for his stuff. (He started as a commercial director, like many amazing directors.) So you will see things in Night Watch that you have never seen before. Like someone's head turning transparent and leaving only the veins and arteries visible inside of it. Seriously, this is the kind of thing he does.

Night Watch is based on a series of Russian urban fantasy novels from Sergei Lukyanenko, with the first movie fairly closely lining up with the first two parts of the first novel and the second movie Day Watch actually being based on the third act of the first novel as well. The novel series is a pentalogy and the fifth book, "New Watch," is actually coming out here in the states this month. (The books, in order, by the way, are "Night Watch," "Day Watch," "Twilight Watch," "The Last Watch," and "New Watch.") Keep in mind, the movie does take some liberties with the source material, but that's par for the course for Bekmambetov's adaptations. He changed so much of "Wanted" from the graphic novel to the film that the two aren't even in the same state, much less the ballpark. And there's talk of a Wanted sequel, although it seems like that project is in the are-they-or-aren't-they state more often than a Schrodinger cat.

The premise of Night Watch is that in ancient times, a group known as The Others (who are sometimes interpreted as angels and demons) cause a great battle with man caught in the middle. Eventually, a truce is struck and both sides form their own special army to keep an eye on the other. The light side forms the Night Watch and the dark side forms the Day Watch. And that balance has held for centuries, but now things are going to get complicated. The story features witches, shapeshifters, vampires, curses and more...

Make no mistakes about it, Night Watch and Day Watch can be somewhat convoluted. The stories are full of twists and turns, there's a lot of characters, and while you should be watching it subtitled, there's a lot going on at any given moment, so you may need to watch some scene multiple times, to pick up everything that's going on.

You probably should watch the two of them as a pair, as they really are two halves of one film. I was originally just going to write about Night Watch today, and then I realized the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to just treat the two pieces as one whole (like Tarantino's "Kill Bill" for example) because either half by itself will leave you a little unfulfilled, but watching the two will give you a full sense of the whole story.

I leave you with the two trailers, Night Watch and Day Watch. (Oh, also starting this week, I'm going to just be doing this blog five days a week - I'm going to take Saturdays and Sundays off so I can get ahead a little bit, and not be scrambling so much. I figure it'll still give you an endless cavalcade of things to be getting your enjoyment on with.)

No comments: