If you're unfamiliar with the Byzantine history of the Night Watch fantasy film series -- the actual films, their amazingly sophisticated special effects done on non-existent budgets, their massive popularity in Russia where they've outperformed Lord of the Rings, the who's-who of Russian pop culture that do cameos throughout the films reflecting the nearly iconic status of the series at home -- then there's no room in this review to get into all that. I'm only here to talk about Day Watch, the middle entry in the planned trilogy, which was preceded by Night Watch in 2004 and will conclude soon with Dusk Watch. Day Watch continues the story of the Light Others and Dark Others, two opposing groups comprised of random supernatural beings -- vampires, witches, shape-shifters, sorcerers, etc. -- who live amongst normal folks in modern day Russia and adhere to a peace treaty, in effect since medieval times, that aims to keep everyone's powder dry. The Night Watch is the KGB of the good guys -- they keep tabs on the Dark Others. The Day Watch does the opposite.

Various things can upset the peace, but chief among them is -- hold for laughter -- a mystical piece of chalk. Yeah, like blackboard chalk. The Chalk of Fate, as its called, has its own backstory prologue in Day Watch, which I find to be off-putting and superfluous -- the bottom line is that with the chalk, you can write your own fate and it will come true. You'll have to take my word that it's not nearly as lame on-screen as it sounds. The chalk is sort of a MacGuffin, because if any rogue Light Other or Dark Other gets their hands on it, they can upset the balance of power that keeps the peace and everyone has their own reason for wanting to do that, of course. Whereas Night Watch dropped us into all of this in media res, and was massively confusing, Day Watch has internalized that criticism and taken strides towards making a movie that's understandable, if still Tolstoy-like in its character roster and just very Russian in general with its story-underpinnings of bureaucracy and rule-making.