Should I Watch..? 'Blade II'
What's the big deal?
Blade II is an action horror film released in 2002 and is based on the character of the same name by Marvel Comics. The film is a sequel to 1998's Blade but with a change of director in the shape of Mexican visionary Guillermo del Toro. The film stars Wesley Snipes as Blade, a human-vampire hybrid sworn to protect mankind against all vampires who must put aside his hatred for the bloodsuckers to combat a new and more powerful enemy. The film also stars Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Luke Goss, Leonor Varela and Norman Reedus. The film was a hit with audiences with global earnings just over $155 million while critics were largely divided. The film earned praise for its performances, action scenes and atmosphere but the film was criticized for a lack of character development as well as a muddled narrative. It would be followed by a third film Blade: Trinity in 2004.
What's it about?
Rescuing his human mentor and weapon-smith Whistler from a pack of vampires, Blade - the vampire hybrid with all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses - returns to his base and reunites with new-found ally and weapon-smith Scud. To his amazement, Blade is contacted by representatives of the vampire lord Eli Damaskinos who wishes to discuss a truce. Against his better wishes, Blade and his allies accompany Asad and Nyssa to Damaskinos' lair where his true intentions are revealed.
Unbeknowst to Blade, the virus responsible for vampirism has evolved into a new strain known as Reaper which creates a powerful vampire mutant immune to all traditional vampire weaknesses (garlic, silver, etc) except sunlight. Damaskinos has assembled a team of his finest warriors - the Bloodpack - in order to fight the Reaper pandemic and wishes Blade to lead them into battle before the creatures begin targeting humans. Reluctantly, Blade agrees and soon leads the Bloodpack to Prague in pursuit of the carrier of the Reaper virus - the extremely hungry Jared Nomak.
Eric Brooks / Blade
Guillermo del Toro
David S. Goyer*
Release Date (UK)
29th March, 2002
Action, Horror, Superhero
What's to like?
An important but often over-looked part of superhero sequels is that there is no need to slow things down with the origins of character. Wisely, Blade II pitches us right into things with a blistering opening sequence and rarely lets things up afterwards. The film feels a lot more polished and imaginative than before, no doubt aided by del Toro's unique grasp on all things fantastical. The set design - from the faded opulence of the backrooms at the House Of Pain nightclub to Damaskinos' rejuvenating blood pool - is a marked improvement over the first film. The action is also improved with better CG effects that allow Snipes to vault and leap all over the scene and vampires to melt into a cloud of sparks and flame whenever struck by silver. It's a great film to watch.
Snipes simply is Blade, fitting into the role as well as he fits into his leather wardrobe and funky Oakley sunglasses. I never bought Snipes as an action star alongside his Expendables co-stars but here, he feels dangerous and deadly as he dispatches foes like a balletic grace. The fight scenes, choreographed by co-star Donnie Yen, are also an improvement over the first film and at this point, I wasn't that surprised that this middle film is widely considered to be the best of the lot so far.
- The T-shirt worn by Scud shows the logo for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, a reference to the comic Hellboy. By sheer coincidentally, Hellboy was the very next film del Toro directed which also featured his frequent collaborator Perlman in the lead role.
- The idea for the stinger emerging from the mouths of Reapers was inspired by Polish folklore which features vampires having a stinger instead of fangs compared to Bram Stoker's vision for Dracula, the greatest influence on movie vampires.
- Unbelievably, Michael Jackson was due to make a cameo as a vampire pimp at the House Of Pain nightclub but had to drop out for scheduling reasons. The part was instead played by a Czech actor.
What's not to like?
It was only after the film had ended that I could actually ponder this because, frankly, I was enjoying the action scenes too much. And it was only while the end credits were scrolling that I realised that I felt slightly underwhelmed despite my enjoyment of the film overall. The plot never seemed to flow as smoothly as the kung fu with characters seemingly operating a few pages of the script ahead of me - Blade especially seems to have an extraordinary level of precognition. No real surprise as characters never seem to develop as much as you want them to. I understand that a love scene between Blade and Nyssa was dropped but it would have made their relationship more apparent and relevant.
As much as I loved the film's visual appeal, it soon becomes clear that Blade II is about as deep and meaningful as a chat with your hairdresser. I never fully understood any of the character's motivations - why was Nomak targeting only vampires when he could eat anyone and why was Blade so invested in stopping him? Throw in a plot twist or two and I suddenly stopped caring so much. I also wanted to see more of the Bloodpack, especially given how bad-ass they were supposed to be. They looked like interesting characters - the softly spoken Asad, the hulking form of Lighthammer and the underused Snowman (played by Donnie Yen who really should have had more screen time) were far more interesting than the Nosferatu-style Damaskinos or the Predator rip-off of the Reapers.
Should I watch it?
More energetic and imaginative than its predecessor, Blade II does a good job of satisfying fans of the character as well as action fans in general. Like the first film, it's a bloody contrast to the squeaky-clean world of today's Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and I have a hard time thinking where the character would fit in. Regardless, this is a decent action film but one that doesn't demand too much in the way of thought.
Great For: fans of the first film, del Toro's Hollywood reputation, Snipes' bankability as an action star
Not So Great For: younger viewers, the squeamish, expectations for the wretched third film
What else should I watch?
The bloated and confusing end to the trilogy, Blade:Trinity, is not just a sorry way for the series to conclude but is also widely considered to be one of the worst comic adaptations of all time. Featuring appearances from the likes of Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Biel and the hulking form of WWE grappler Triple H, it should have been something but the film was plagued with production issues and Snipes' alleged behaviour on and off-set. It's a shame that a series that promised much ended up a muddled and water-down mess, as well as sending Snipes squarely into straight-to-DVD purgatory.
Fortunately, the MCU came along and helped revive the superhero movie with the classy Iron Man - a proper, big-budget escapist flick that didn't just rely on the passion of fanboys and slick CG to work its magic. In the years since, the MCU has expanded in many different and sometimes unexpected directions like the space-faring misadventures of the Guardians Of The Galaxy and the ground-breaking Black Panther as well as the pay-off, the epic Avengers Assemble. Whether such dominance at the box office is a good thing or not is a matter for debate - certainly, it's buried the efforts of DC trying to play catch-up with its own characters.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox