Richard gives Guillermo Del Toro’s first comic book romp another watch after his Oscar win.
Who made it?: Guillermo Del Toro (Director), David S. Goyer (Writer), Peter Frankfurt, Wesley Snipes, Patrick J. Palmer, Tomas Krejci (Producers), New Line Cinema.
Who’s in it?: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Luke Goss.
Tagline: “Last time he fought against his sworn enemies….This time he will fight with them.”
IMDb rating: 6.7/10.
I’ve always imagined that, within the fraught and tumultuous waters of the Hollywood production system, that success-based sequels must be something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s a film that comes prepackaged with an audience; you clearly bought tickets to the first film and therefore it becomes ingrained with a certain positive word-of-mouth and press. On the other hand, if it bombs at the box office, that’s easily seen as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and is likely to lose somebody up the food chain their jobs.
So, if we allow ourselves a moment to step into the shoes of a New Line Cinema executive, what do you imagine you could do to add some level of guarantee to the next outing of your surprisingly-popular leather-clad vamp hunter? Well, you get the same writer as the first film, which is a good start, and as is perhaps natural under such circumstances. Here, the idea is put forth that the only thing better than vampires is, of course, super vampires! You decide to shoot somewhat on location in the Czech Republic, which probably saves some money, and you pump up the original film’s budget by another ten million. In the hands of a decent director, you’re looking probably at more 90s club wear and some bigger action scenes. In the hands of a good director, you might get some truly awesome set-pieces, action and a nifty-looking set of super vamps. Or, you could deliver this film into the welcoming hands of Guillermo Del Toro, hands that believe there is no kill like overkill, and who wondered what Nosferatu would look like if pumped to the eyeballs on steroids and PCP. In short, the perfect hands!
We catch up with Blade, played by Wesley Snipes, two years after the events of the first film, as he hunts through Eastern Europe for his mentor, Whistler, played by Kris Kristofferson, who apparently survived Blade I with a simple case of vampirism. Long story short, Whistler is saved and cured just before the ancient vampire leadership approaches Blade with a deal. A recent mutation in the vampire genetic code has resulted in a strain of super vampires, called Reapers, who are immune to garlic and silver but are driven into a state of constant bloodlust, making them mindless killing machines. Think 28 Days later, but now all the infected are undead-looking mega vamps, who happen to like feeding off other vampires as well. The vampires want to exterminate this threat to their existence, and so recruit Blade and his team to work with their own elite unit, The Blood Pack, to take them out. This outbreak is being led by the mysterious Nomak (Luke Goss) who acts as the carrier of the infection and is playing by his own agenda in his war on the vampire nation. Throw in the fact that the head vampire Damaskinos, played by Thomas Kretschmen, looks like Dracula’s grandfather and has a similar sense of interior design, and you’re in for a hell of ride.
Where the original Blade was trying to walk the tight rope between a modern action film and a comic book flick, Blade II has absolutely no such reservations. The action scenes look like they were ripped right from a black-and-white Vertigo comic with more badass moments than I can easily keep track of. This doesn’t always play in the film’s favour as this level of “see how cool this is” doesn’t lend itself to any kind of tension, but it does look freaking cool so it’s not a big problem. The only times the action becomes too cartoonish is when the early days of CGI make themselves known and I found myself wishing I had my trusty PlayStation controller in hand. Those moments are relatively few and far between but, boy, do they stand out, especially nowadays. Watching Blade II is like reading a comic book, watching a film, and playing a video game at the same time, with both style and look finding an interesting middle ground between the three – there’s even a sewer level! However, the true beauty of Blade II is in its downright magnificent monster design; whilst the effects may fall down during the action, it has rarely been better used than in the realization of the Reapers. The splitting chin and tongue are simultaneously unnatural and yet believably organic, with an autopsy scene pretty much setting a new benchmark in monster effects all on its own.
The acting is pretty much exactly where it should be, just one quick hop and a skip away from Ham Central. This was always one of Snipes’ best roles, and he again plays it here with real gravitas, finding a nice combination of stoicism and dangerous charm which sells the badass persona to the hilt. Since this is a Del Toro film, you can always rely on Ron Perlman to show up, here as Blood Pack team leader Reinhardt, and he brings his A game as the kind of bastard you just love to hate. With the exception of semi-love interest Nyssa, played by beautiful but unexpressive Leonor Valera, the rest of the Blood Pack doesn’t make much of an impression, even though it is fun to see Donnie Yen kicking around. In many ways, Blade II is a simpler film than its predecessor and forgoes the former’s touches of moody atmosphere and drama for a fuller commitment to the monster movie aesthetic.
Much like so many of the films I love, Blade II is not a perfect film so much as it is an extremely good version of a certain type of film. Vampires have changed so much throughout the years, only now beginning to reclaim their former glory after Twilight and its offensive ilk. In trying to find the monster behind the human mask, vampires have been portrayed as both mindless and as merely superhuman. Del Toro decided to take the best of both worlds and gave us a film where one faces off against the other, with the Daywalker there to keep both teams in line. It has more plotholes and goofs than I care to count, it is simple, single-minded and silly, but you know what? It’s also more fun than a barrel of vampire monkeys swinging ninja swords and wearing super 90s sunglasses.
If all that isn’t enough, well, I’m afraid I can’t help you…
Blade meets the Blood Pack and Snipes is allowed to chew the scenery to an epic magnitude. Better than any special effect.
- Over thirty members of the cast and crew were temporarily blinded by the misuse of UV lights in the vampire autopsy scene.
- Scud wears a T-shirt featuring the logo of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, a reference to Mike Mignola’s Hellboy (2004) comic, the film adaptation of which Guillermo del Toro directed and Ron Perlman starred in.
- During the fight with Nomak in the church part of the House of Pain, the stained glass window is a replica of Dr. Strange’s medallion, The Eye of Agamotto.
- Michael Jackson was originally going to have a cameo in the “House of Pain” sequence as a “Vampire Pimp” that Nyssa encounters as she searches the upstairs hall. Jackson had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and the part was played by a Czech actor. The sequence was ultimately cut out entirely for pacing reasons.