"You obviously don't know who you are f*cking with!" – Blade
Guillermo del Toro f*cked with the formula of the first Blade movie just enough to create a fun, surprising, and endlessly gruesome action-horror mashup with Blade II. I recognize that this flick isn't nearly as good as most of the genre classics we like to celebrate here at HS, but it's one of my favorite vampire action movies of all time. It's also one of Del Toro's most sophisticated efforts, packing top of the line production values, makeup and special effects.
Blade II offers scene after scene of extended supernatural action. The carnage stops only briefly for a few jokey exposition scenes and some ghastly but artfully rendered shots of mutated, sliced, diced and hemorrhaging monster anatomy. Let's dive in and explore the 2002 sequel which, arguably, represents the movie trilogy at its creative peak.
The opening minutes set up what's to come with a grisly scene that turns the "vampire blood bank" idea on its head. Genetically modified baddie Nomak (Luke Goss) surprises his would-be vampire captors by painting the walls with their blood. It's a violent and disturbing scene that promises a new challenge for Wesley Snipes' seemingly indestructible vampire hunter.
Next comes a nicely rendered prologue sequence that tells us everything we need to know about Blade, his pal Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), and their war against the vampires. We follow Blade as he easily dispatches a group of Dukati-riding bloodsuckers while searching for Whistler, who has been turned into a vampire.
The Whistler B-plot plays like something Del Toro had to shoehorn into the movie to keep continuity from the first flick straight. Whistler's rescue and rehabilitation don't really add much to the story, which centers on a new race of feral beasties who feed on humans and vampires. Still, it's fun to see Kristofferson back in action trading barbs with Blade and hurling insults at everyone in his eye line.
To stop the new Reaper vampires, Blade is forced to team up with The Bloodpack, a ridiculous leather-clad group of vampire mercenaries with names like Chupa, Priest, and Lighthammer. There's also Reinhardt, the badass with a bad attitude, played by Del Toro's pal Ron Perlman. The Bloodpack aren't really characters here; they're more like grotesque models and stuntmen. But the pissing contest scenes between Snipes and Perlman are a blast.
After more action, explosions, and bloodletting than most moviegoers can probably handle, it's revealed that Nomak is the "son" of vampire elder Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), who created him in an attempt to design a new super vampire species to rival Blade. The twist is telegraphed way before the reveal, but it's done with such style that you don't really care. And the principal actors, especially Goss, do a great job of building and selling gravitas in all the key scenes.
The action and effects
Blade II is all about the action. From start to finish, the elaborate fight scenes are simply dazzling. Despite some cringe-worthy CGI at the beginning of the movie, all of the speedy stunts, swordfights and violent scenes are crafted with high style and a sense of fun.
The expert visual flair and intense scenes of monster horror are really what separate Del Toro's movie from the original. The CGI does get a little too overwhelming sometimes, but there's always some wonderfully gooey and freaky make-up effect to make you forget about the poorly-rendered animation that came before it.
Some of the violent scenes are a little hard to watch. The mutated vampires are almost indestructible, which allows them to escape hairy situations in some pretty gross and chilling ways. I almost have to look away when one of them purposely slices his lower midsection in half to crawl away from a fight. That's just ... disturbing!
Del Toro revels in the blood, gore and goop with Blade II, but he also offers some stunning visuals beyond the violent scenes, like Blade's solitary time injecting himself with a blood supplement, and vamp princess Nyssa (Leonor Varela) burning up in Blade's arms at the end of the movie.
Norman Reedus is great as Scud, Blade's grungy, j-smokin' sidekick. It took me a while to warm up to the character, but he really works in Del Toro's bleak and grubby world. I didn't care for the reveal of Scud's true nature in the third act. It would've been fun to see him return for Blade Trinity.
Del Toro's a smart guy. He never attempts to turn Blade II into high art. Instead, the Oscar nominated filmmaker uses his endless talent and love of the genre to make a spirited, chilling, and blood-soaked B-picture that horror and action fans can return to again and again. Agree? Disagree? Some fans of the franchise say the movie's action scenes are too long or that the entire thing is just too silly and inconsequential to take seriously. Are you in that camp? Or do you want to see Snipes finally take up the silver stake again in a fourth Blade movie? Let us know in the comments.