USA, 2002. Rated R. 125 minutes.
Wesley Snipes, Leonor Varela, Kris Kristofferson, Norman Reedus, Ron Perlman,
Danny John-Jules, Matt Schulze, Donnie Yen, Daz Crawford, Luke Goss, Rey-Phillip
Santos, Tony Curran, Marit Velle Kile, Thomas Kretschmann
|Grade: C+||Review by Carlo Cavagna|
"hat is sexy?" asks the Victoria's Secret advertisement, right before a bevy of half-naked supermodels parades across your television screen. In a similar vein (ba-dum ching) Blade II asks, "What is cool?" Is it Wesley Snipes in wrap-around shades and slick black leather, wielding an assortment of guns, swords, and sharp-edged boomerangs, ridding the world of vampire scum? If you think it is, then Blade II is for you, a movie whose action and style surpass that of the original. If you don't…stop reading and get thee to an art house theater for the next showing of Monsoon Wedding.
Let's begin with the obvious: This is a comic-book movie. Wesley Snipes is Blade, a half-man, half-vampire who has sworn to stamp out the vampire race. He is a superhero, possessing all the strengths of a vampire and none of the weaknesses…except one. The thirst for blood. That's right, we're talking archetypal hero here, and archetypal heroes have fatal weaknesses. Missing an opportunity for subplot or subtext, Blade II fails to create much drama with Blade's weakness or dual nature, however. Blade controls his thirst with some sort of serum invented by cranky sidekick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), whose butt Blade must save in the opening segments of the film. (Whistler, in case you don't recall or don't care, was left for dead at the end of the original Blade and unfortunately has been revived for this sequel.)
In Blade, Snipes thwarted a plot to turn all of humanity into vampires (but what would they eat?), ripping scores of vampires to shreds in the process, all to the sound of pulsating techno/dance beats. How do you top that, given a rather fixed, inflexible premise? You invent an even more powerful mutant vampire called the "reaper" that feeds on vampires and humans alike, forcing a fragile alliance between Blade and his erstwhile foes. He joins forces with the Blood Pack, an elite vampire commando unit originally formed specifically to fight Blade. That's right, vampire commandos. Outfitted in state of the art gear, these are not bald, bestial ghouls modeled on Max Schreck's titular character in the F.W. Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu. The reapers, however, are kind of like Nosferatu, and their faces do something really wild right before they dine.
Blade II is crammed with action. Guillermo del Toro directs with considerably more flair than Stephen Norrington, whose original Blade dragged badly after the novelty wore off. Greater diversity of settings and choreography keeps Blade II chugging along at a better pace. Influenced by The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (what action movie isn't these days?), the fluid choreography features the now-ubiquitous wire work of those films, with some professional wrestling moves thrown in for good measure.
The story proceeds along expected lines, featuring violent tension between Blade and Blood Packer Reinhardt (Ron Perlman of Alien: Resurrection) and tension of a different kind between Blade and Blood Pack leader Nyssa (Leonor Varela of The Tailor of Panama). Revelations, betrayals, and butt-kicking ensue. Don't expect any of it to make too much sense. Note, for example, how all the undead disintegrate when they die, except the one time a reaper corpse is needed for dissection.
The honorable Nyssa is another missed opportunity. "I came to terms with what I am a long time ago," she remarks to Blade. Yet she is a creature who must murder to live, and she is also the daughter of the duplicitous ruler of the "vampire nation," Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann). The contradictions Nyssa grapples with are sketched only thinly, as they would be in a comic book, and their dramatic potential left unmined. Blade II isn't interested in drama, after all. Drama is not its purpose, and it's not what the people lined up at the ticket booth are interested in seeing. Whether you should join those people depends on your answer to the question that's already been posed… What is cool? Is it Wesley Snipes in wrap-around shades and black leather, facing off against the creatures of the night?
© March 2002 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2002 New Line Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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