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Blade II
Reviewed by Jason Myers, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Guillermo del Toro (director) and David S. Goyer (writer)
Genre:   Horror / Action
Released:   Released March 22, 2002
Review Date:  
Audience Rating:   Rated R
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

The original Blade was a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup movie. Martial arts and vampires. Two great tastes that taste great together. What more could you want? Well, how about a second helping?

There are those who are staunchly anti-sequel. They're never as good as the original, right? And some are complete desecrations. It's easy to get cynical about sequels when Hollywood milks its cash cows until they shrivel up like Simon's bathwater-soaked hands. But there are certain instances where a never-ending slew of sequels seems appropriate, particularly when the characters are adventurers (Indiana Jones, The Mummy) or spies (James Bond and Austin Powers). How could you not want to see The Continuing Adventures of… (fill in your favorite movie hero/heroine here)? Robin Hood, the Knights of the Round Table, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan. That's good stuff. Comic book characters in particular make excellent franchises, because we're already used to getting their stories in serialized form.

Which brings us to Blade II, the return of (duh) Blade (Wesley Snipes), a supernatural anomaly (the other vampires call him Daywalker) who believes that the only good suckhead is a dead suckhead. I could watch Blade sequels until the dairy-providing bovines return to the homestead (provided, of course, that Joel Schumacher is never hired to direct one). Is Blade the greatest comic book character of all time? Not even close. Is Blade's story a timeless allegory for some of mankind's greatest existential questions? Nope. But it is a great setup for a string of gritty, hard-boiled adventures.

Like Resident Evil, Blade II cops an awful lot from George Romero's Dead movies, and James Cameron's Aliens. Blade teams up with a ragtag outfit of commandos with cool monikers (instead of Frost, Apone, Vasquez, Drake, and Bishop, Blade II has Snowman, Lighthammer, Red Eye, Chupa, and Priest) to fight a hoard of toothy creatures that replicate at an exponential rate. But, hey, the diverse group of warriors shtick has been working for at least as far back as Seven Samurai, and how can I complain when the team is lead by none other than Ron Perlman (Alien: Resurrection, City of Lost Children, and the Beauty and the Beast TV show). Perlman is a primal, scary thing, an absolute force of nature. There's water, wind, earth, fire, and Ron Perlman. And he's great fun to watch, even though the script dictates that Snipes' character far outclass Perlman's.

There's also a role for Danny John-Jules, who's got plenty of experience wearing fangs, but as Cat in Red Dwarf. Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey) plays Snowman, and also served as fight choreographer. Director Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, Mimic, The Devil's Backbone) wanted the fight scenes to be mostly wire-free, but wires would have been preferable to the CGI that's used instead. Some of the computer generated stuff looks pretty sweet (how else to get a camera POV that circles Blade as he soars through the air?), but segments of some fights are done with CG characters. It's supposed to show us how fast supernatural creatures can move, but mostly it seems like the characters from Tekken and Soul Calibur are looking to make their big-screen debut.

Blade II takes what was in the first movie and amps it up. More swordplay. More thumping music. More throwdown breakneck fighting. More Batman gadgets (I'm none too sure about the physics of photonic grenades, and I've yet to figure out the purpose of those three giant shiny Texas-beltbuckle-style clasps Blade has on his uniform). Also like the first movie, Blade II is visually arresting (dig those smoldering vampire ashes).

What's surprising is how downright gruesome and scary Blade II is at times (vampire ravers take fetish body mutilation to a whole new level, and Nomak's spawn are seriously icky). And how funny the movie is (Snipes is at his best when he lightens up a little. His usual stone-faced tough guy routine feels really wooden to me. You can reply that he's being true to the character, but I'd still bet that Blade weighs the same as a duck, and therefore floats better than churches and very small rocks).
In fact, Blade II tosses so many good ideas our way that I wish they had cut down on the straight-up fight scenes (especially the finale) to give us more horror and more character development. (SPOILERS COMING UP) In the last movie, it's taken for granted that vampires are evil vermin. Here, we get a very brief brush with the idea that "vampires are people too", but Blade is conveniently spared the ethical quandary of having to reassess his life's mission. (That second to last scene was beautiful, though.)

For a more morally ambiguous take on vampire hunting, you'll have to watch Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

Two things keep Blade II from surpassing the original. One is the fact that this is our second visit to Blade's universe (Disney World is still cool the second time around, but not as cool as the first time). The second is that the filmmakers sometimes fail to distinguish between good over-the-top moments (like when Whistler tosses Blade his sunglasses, as if they are as important to his battle uniform as his sword is) and not-so-good over-the-top moments (a character climbs to the ceiling to deliver a WWF-style elbow to the chest. Also, Blade seems to like doing things simply because he thinks they'll look cool, even when he's in a room all by himself. Blade never met a superfluous sword flourish he didn't like.)

Screenwriter David Goyer has said that he has always envisioned the Blade story as a trilogy. His influence on the movie gives it a lot of continuity of character and attitude that's often lost when sequels get made, but aside from a few throwaway references to the first movie, Blade II feels more like the next adventure in a series than the second part of an overarching storyline. I don't see this trilogy heading toward an epic conclusion that ties everything together (famous last words). Regardless, I'm looking forward to the next one.


-RevolutionSF's Film/DVD editor's name is Jason, and he likes to do drawrings.

 
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