Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.
One of my favorite movie fight scenes was in 2002’s Blade II. The movie is a sequel to the first Blade movie; itself considered a martial arts masterpiece. The second movie had the challenge of surpassing its predecessor and it did so. Right from the beginning of the movie, you can tell that Wesley Snipes upped his game in the fighting and even more so in the intensity of his fights.
So when everything led up to the final battle between him and the vampire Nomak, it really delivered in terms of both depth, impact, and even subversion. For context, Blade and his allies had been working with the vampires to defeat a new species of vampire, only to discover that the species was developed by vampires to supplant humans in daylight. The vampire allies betray Blade after all but two of his team are wiped out. Blade is tortured and nearly bleeds to death until his remaining ally, Whistler, rescues him. In the ensuing flight sequence, he defeats a bunch of guards and one of the vampires who betrayed him.
All this leads up to the final climactic moment where the vampire clan leader is himself betrayed by his daughter, Nyssa. She betrays their father because of the callousness he has shown to his own family. It turns out that Nomak is his son, who was betrayed by his father. In a double-cross of their own, Blade had apparently allied himself with Nomak as he now launches a one-vampire attack on the headquarters.
After slaughtering a bunch of guards in pursuit of his father, Nomak finally catches up to him thanks to his sister. Nomak kills his father just as when Blade arrives. He proposes for the second time Blade should join forces with him because they both have the same enemies. Blade, however, is in a rage, and thus begins this epic battle.
A Time of Unlikely Brutality
The reason why I consider this one of the best battles I have ever seen is because of its brutality and the uniqueness in which it is delivered. This was a time where superhero movies were still considered small-time and one-dimensional. Little about the movies of this time where nuanced, and this was represented in the the final battles as well.
They usually follow the simple script of hero shows up, hero fights well, starts to lose, gets a second wind from some sort of inspiration, and hero triumphs. Blade II does not follow this precedent.
Already, the vampire’s leader, whom Blade is sworn to kill, is not killed by Blade, but instead by his other antagonist, Nomak. Already we are made to sympathize with Nomak because the first time we see him, he’s killing vampires. He's been betrayed, and with the exception of killing a bunch of people, seems to come off as a decent guy or have some type of code that other vampires don’t.
All that said, the ensuing fight begins with the two rushing each other, yelling battle cries. Nothing fancy, nothing pretty, just two animals charging at each other ready to rip each other's throats out. The initial fight is very even. Both Blade and Nomak seem to be unable to outdo the other because each one tends to overcome the others' advantages. Blade being the martial artist is faster and strong, yet Nomak is able to match Blade’s strength with his brute strength and rage, and his healing abilities heal any severe damage Blade inflicts. However, as the fight goes on, Nomak slowly begins to get the upper hand, and it becomes apparent that Blade is barely surviving.
At this point is usually when the famous second wind of a fight kicks in for Hollywood fight scenes. The character remembers something that inspires him or the villain becomes cocky or goes into a monologue. None of this happens in this fight. Blade is on the ropes and he's nearly done for. There is no second wind to be had for him. However, what he manages to do is to outsmart Nomak. Being tossed near his broken sword that he previously stabbed him with, the wounded Blade hides it and allows himself to be manhandled by Nomak to bite him. Once in range, he blocks Nomak’s attempt to bite him, in turn stabbing him through his ribs, which is the only weak point that he has. Mortally wounded, Nomak willingly finishes himself off while still appearing sympathetic.
There are a lot of intricacies in this flight that make it special. The first one being Blade not winning through superior fighting ability or strength as he has been throughout most of the movie, but through guile and intelligence. Also there's the matter of who is the villain here. For a good portion of the movie, though Nomak is seen killing people, he is also projected as a victim. That he was a prince among vampires and did not choose to be this way, yet was sacrificed by his ambitious father to create the perfect vampire.
He has redeeming qualities, seeking a truce with Blade rather than fighting him at nearly every turn. It is Blade in fact who initiates all their engagements. The argument can easily be made for the necessity to eliminate Nomak, however, that does not change the fact that he was for the most part taking the high road.
Another intricacy is the intimacy of this battle. Both men were highly motivated by personal stakes, with Nomak having just killed his father and is about to kill his sister, and Blade seeing that he had already bitten Nyssa and is already in a blood rage. So that's what makes the fight in many ways different from other typical fights which are more straightforward and bland.
Another thing that is special about this fight was its viciousness. At this time, you did not get a lot of superhero movies, much less superhero movies that featured such a level of violence such as bone breaking and even heads being thrown into walls, which is what happened to Blade during his fight. Also it's worth mentioning the intricate maneuvers and techniques used in the fight.
While Nomak was a brute strength fighter, he was not a novice to certain levels of martial arts techniques and does use them in his style. Yet he more frequently relies on his superior physical attributes. Blade, meanwhile, had been fighting almost at leisure prior to this battle, as shown in the fluidity and quickness of his movements. Nearly all of that is not apparent with this battle. It was up close, it was brutal, and it was personal. There was no sense of prettiness or looking cool to this fight.
And yet even within this chaotic mess, it still looked cool. And I find that amazing. So that is my take on this final on this fight for Blade II. A unique standout among so many other superhero fight scenes because it's intentionally more violent while still having nuances to it that are settled but there.
© 2021 Jamal Smith