Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Norman Reedus, Leonor Varela, Ron Perlman
MPAA Rating: (for strong pervasive violence, language, some drug use and sexual content)
Running Time: 1:54
Release Date: 3/22/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
Blade II is successful on a few particular and important levels. It’s a sequel that surpasses the original (which was pretty good in the first place). It creates an action/horror hybrid that’s both exciting and scary. It’s a comic book movie that has the look and feel of a comic. Most significantly, though, the film is a parade of the grotesque—a spectacle of blood, gore, startling images, and extreme violence. The movie is intriguing in the way it uses a range of special effects techniques, from computer generated imagery to more conventional prosthetic creations, to create its wide assortment of disturbing scenes and imagery. Effects are also unabashedly used in many fight sequences to give a sense of raw power and defy physical laws. The film is a strong example of how to do an action movie right. Each new element builds from the previous and ups the stakes to a point where we’re unsure as to where the film could possibly go any further, but it somehow keeps going.
Blade (Wesley Snipes), the half-human, half-vampire hero of the first movie, is forced to hunt down his mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), presumed dead at first but in reality kept alive by vampires. After successfully freeing his partner, Blade gives him one night to eliminate the "blood lust." Once Whistler is back, Blade’s secret hideout is invaded by a group of vampires looking to strike a temporary truce with their enemy. The vampires need help destroying a new race of vampires. This new breed, called Reapers, does not simply have a taste for human blood. In fact, they prefer vampire blood—that is until it runs out. Victims of a Reaper attack will turn into Reapers themselves relatively quickly, and with their intense need for blood, the population is growing rapidly. The vampires have come to Blade to help them with their hunt to destroy this common threat. With trepidation, he accepts the truce and with the help of an elite group of vampires called the Bloodpack sets off to destroy the Reapers.
This new mutation of vampires offers one of the more inventive creatures to come along in a horror film in some time. All Reapers have a scar on their chin, which is simply decoration to hide a second mouth that opens wide and contains yet another mouth connected to a tube (much like the creatures in the Alien movies). Once the hunters are able to get their hands on a specimen of Reaper, we are treated to an autopsy. Beyond this aesthetically disquieting feature, Reapers have a layer of bone surrounding and protecting the heart, making the classic technique for killing vampire next to impossible. Add to these an immunity to silver and garlic, incredible strength and agility, and an old-fashioned Max Schreck-like look, and you have quite the creepy customer. The effects work on the Reapers is accomplished, and the ultimate results are frightening. Traditional makeup and prosthetic techniques are molded with CGI work, and while the results are far from flawless, they do work.
The action sequences follow in suit. The fight choreography by Donnie Yen combines swordplay and hand-to-hand combat, and with the help of special effects, they oftentimes defy gravity to exhilarating effect. Director Guillermo del Toro effortlessly switches gears from these sequences to quiet explorations of dark, brooding settings typical of the horror genre and back again. The horror scenes have genuine tension to them, and del Toro is always aware of the grotesque nature of the material. He’s not afraid to showcase pools of blood, dismemberment, characters sliced in half, vampires dissolving, and, of course, Reaper dissections. The story is pure comic book, which essentially means that it should be ignored to enjoy the strengths of the film. Eventually, though, the storyline delves into some mythology similar to another famous horror story, and there’s actually something a bit insightful about these scenes. Along with the more disturbing elements, the film has the feel of a graphic novel. Scenes are dark, dreary, and atmospheric. The performances, led by Wesley Snipes’ complete immersion into the fun of his role, are pure camp—just right for this material.
As pure morbid, entertainment, Blade II fills a void left by so many poor attempts. The movie knows what it’s doing, and each new component that is added redefines our expectations of what will follow. It’s a rousing action flick and a pretty scary horror movie adroitly rolled into one. Perhaps, though, the scariest part of the movie is just how much fun it is.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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