Newest Review: ... decent tongue in cheek action star. Despite the vampires and copious CG blood splats, the Blade series is more action than horror and heav... more
Crimson Lashed Vampires
Blade II (DVD)
Member Name: Jake Speed
Blade II (DVD)
Disadvantages: CG effects are a bit obvious at times
Blade II was directed by Guillermo Del Toro, written by David S Goyer and released in 2002. It's my favourite of the three Blade films for its sleek rain lashed sense of comic book style and simple basic desire to entertain rather than get up its own bottom too much. This is Del Toro slumming it really, taking a Hollywood cheque in between his more avant garde European pictures, but he slums it better than most and Blade II is colourful slinky high octane viscera with a real kinetic rush in its best moments. One of the strengths of Blade II is that it doesn't have to bother with the exposition of the first film and tell us who Blade is, how he injects himself with a serum so he never harms humans, how his mother was bitten by a vampire etc. Del Toro is free to just get on with it and doesn't waste any time at all with the blood splatter carnage and martial arts. Blade was created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan and first appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics in 1973. He's a monosyllabic and grimly determined vampire hunter who just happens to be half vampire himself and has the power of an immortal, the soul of a human and the heart of a hero. With his super genetic vampire powers, ever present sunglasses, trusty sword, high-tech weaponry and irresistible weakness for swirling black leather clothes, Blade forever battles a dastardly covert vampire infiltration and takeover of human society.
The series was surprisingly successful and entertaining (as far as vampiric action capers go it drives a rusty stake deep into the heart of that dreadful Kate Beckinsale Underworld series and reduces it to dust) and found a perfect role for Snipes - who is not a great actor but is a decent tongue in cheek action star. Despite the vampires and copious CG blood splats, the Blade series is more action than horror and heavily influenced by the Hong Kong martial arts genre. It's closer to a dark superhero film than anything with Blade like an amped up version of the nineties cinematic Batman. It was actually the success of the first Blade film that gave Hollywood renewed confidence in superhero pictures again after Batman & Robin and Steel had tanked and met a hostile critical reception. The high octane techno boomed crimson daubed Blade II takes place two years after the first one and Blade is now in Europe looking for his old friend and mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) - who he finds he has been captured by the vampires and held in a tank of blood for the purposes of torture. He rescues him and takes him to Prague where Whistler finds that in his absence Blade has taken on a new weaponsmith and gadget inventor extraordinaire, a cocky young stoner named Scud (Norman Reedus). Can Whistler still be trusted after his time in the clutches of the vampire rascals?
A more pressing concern arises though when Blade's secret HQ is infiltrated by two vampires - Nyssa (Leonor Varela) and Asad (Red Dwarf's Dannny John Jules). After a frentic techno boom neon glare scrap, they stop fighting Blade and announce they are here on behalf of the Vampire King Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschman) to offer a truce and an alliance between Blade and the Vampire Nation. If they are there to offer a truce it doesn't make an awful lot of sense for them to sneak in and start fighting him! It transpires that a terrifying new breed of super vampires known as 'Reapers' has emerged and are now feasting on both vampires and humans. The Reapers are far more bloodthirsty and bestial than traditional vampires and Blade is told that the human race will be at their mercy if they aren't stopped. It is proposed that he take charge of a vampire team known as the _Bloodpack_ - which consists of Rheinhardt (Ron Perlman), Chupa (Matt Schulze), Snowman (Donnie Yen), Verlaine (Marit Velle Kile), Lighthammer (Daz Crawford), and Priest (Tony Curran). The Bloodpack was originally created to capture him but under Blade's leadership it can battle the Reapers and their first-born, Nomak (Luke Goss) instead. A reluctant Blade concedes that Reapers are a bigger threat to humanity than normal vampires and so this very uneasy and suspicious alliance begins. "There's an old saying," reasons our hero. "Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer."
Blade II is a gloriously glossy and stupid sequel that does what it says on the tin and doesn't outstay its welcome. The film offers minimal plot and logic and a few twists that don't make much sense but it doesn't really matter as we move from one action sequence to the next with the garish colours and dark shadows always making it an attractive film to look at. The film offers a bit more tension than the first one as the Reapers are rather grotesque - their jaws fanning open to reveal barbed suckers and they are reminiscent of both Nosferatu and Stan Winston's Predator creature. In one of the best set-pieces in the film they surround Blade and the Bloodpack in a dank sewer below the city streets. Del Toro infuses a lot of gothic imagery into the film but also maintains vivid comic book hues. The fight sequences are flashy and fun and it's enjoyable to be taken deep in the high-tech lair of the vampire HQ where Thomas Kretschman presides as Damaskinos, taking a dip in a bath of blood and speaking like Bela Lugosi. This vampire headquarters is very James Bond villain. One thing that does sometimes tarnish the film though is the noticeable influx of more CGI into the series. It does look rather hokey and fake at times, especially when used for blood splats and fight sequences. It's like those Spider-Man films where - although the effect is often impressive and pretty - you are always aware that the Spider-Man you are watching swinging through New York is a pure CGI creation.
The Bloodpack themselves look like they've just emerged from the hairdressers and are on their way to a fetish club but it's all part of the fun and I suppose even the costumes in that first cycle of Batman films got rather kinky by the end. Donnie Yen, as a mute swordsman (Yen also choreographed many of the film's fight scenes) and the always dependable Ron Perlman as Rheinhardt probably come off best. Perlman plays his usual bad tempered and foul mouthed nutty Ron Perlman character and is given a particular dislike and distaste for Blade in the film. Their verbal exchanges are enjoyable. The striking Leonor Varela as Nyssa is the female lead and a vague love interest for Blade. She's the daughter of the Vampire King and comes to admire the noble qualities in Blade. She can't really act much but then no one is required to display any great emotional depth or much range here. I don't think they made this film with an eye on the BAFTA nominations. Luke Goss (hidden under much make-up) is surprisingly good as Nomak, a rather tragic villain who has a big secret. His introduction in the film - in a blood bank - is nicely done. Blade II is a highly enjoyable and inventive piece of throwaway popcorn gloss that makes good use of Wesley Snipes' monosyllabic deadpan hero.
Summary: Enjoyable action/horror nonsense