Book~Film Comparison: Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko
The premise involves the existence of supernatural beings, “Others,” who choose to ally themselves with the Light or the Dark. Both sides, through the Nightwatch and Daywatch respectively, keep a close eye on each other in order to maintain the uneasy truce between them. The story takes place in Russia, but indicates that the watches exist worldwide.
Anton, the main character, is a member of the Nightwatch who’s assignment, a young boy named Igor, is being hunted by vampires. Igor is an Other who has yet to come into his powers and therefore has not yet chosen a side. Anton crosses paths with a woman named Svetlana whom he realizes has been cursed. In this story, curses, even the little ones we utter in moments of frustration or jest, can be deadly if left unchecked. Whatever curse has been inflicted on Svetlana has the potential to destroy the entire city and it becomes the goal of the Nightwatch to find the source and stop it, while protecting Igor from the Daywatch.
This is one of the few cases where a movie far outshines the book. Lost in translation is always a problem when a book is literally translated into another language and culture, but that was not an issue for me here. I felt that the book spent a lot of time with convoluted plots that Anton would figure out without actually letting the reader in on the process. The characters weren’t particularly interesting or well developed. The purpose of the whole mystery seemed to change and lose focus along the way and, well, I eventually just got bored of the plot twists
The movie, on the other hand, was very interesting. It boiled the story down to its essence, gave it far more purpose in a pithy manner and strengthened several other elements, including the main character and his motivations. The movie was more focused than the book with the overriding issue of the curse and the conflict between Dark and Light, allowing far greater character and relationship building, even within the time constraints of a film setting. The end result was a truly engaging story with an unexpected ending.
The only issue I had with the film was that, initially, it was very visually chaotic. I assume the goal of this was to shock and frighten, as the opening scenes involved a gory battle between Anton and a pair of vampires. It helped that I’d read a few chapters of the book before watching, so that I could piece the chaos together a bit better. Fortunately, the visual chaos settled down after this.
I finished the rest of the book after watching the movie, but it was a struggle to do so because of how often the plot meandered off in various directions.