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Blade II

Earlier this week I saw a highly anticipated sequel, based on an old comic book character, a half man/half vampire who has become the best vampire killer there is. He travels the world, even during sunlight, cloaked in black, wielding a sword, slaying vampires. This time around he is after the same prey as a macho team of fighters who are both his rivals and reluctant allies. Their quest takes them to the seat of vampire royalty, and along the way – against his nature – he forms a tender friendship with a female on the rival team of fighters, and stays with her until the end.

That wasn’t Blade II though, it was some cartoon called Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Actually that’s what it says on the box, but the title screen just calls it Vampire Hunter D. (Just like the ticket stub for Blade II called it Blade II: Bloodhunt, but the title screen just called it Blade II.) This movie has rightfully been praised for its cartoon drawing, which is very detailed and elegant. Much more interesting than that blue hair, big eye japanese stuff certain musty smelling individuals can’t get enough of. But what surprised me though, I thought the story was real good.

It’s got kind of a Hong Kong feel because none of the characters are really the good guys or the bad guys. At first you have to side with D, because he’s hired to save this girl who’s been kidnapped by a vampire. But later you learn that she’s actually in love with the vampire, and went willingly. D’s quest starts to become morally questionable, especially since he’s doing it for the money. At first he convinces himself that the girl doesn’t know what she’s doing, she’s been seduced, whatever. But the vampire really seems to like her – I mean, he walks into sunlight, his skin boiling, screaming in pain, just to embrace her. How many cartoons have art this good, characters this ambiguous, full of this much violence and monsters AND emotion? Definitely one of the best cartoons of last year, it pees all over those movies that were nominated for the cartoon oscar. Even the monsters one.

My one complaint is the voices. I thought the dvd was just cheap because it only has an english track. But my anime correspondent tells me it was made in english. Anyway the guy who plays D sounds like Daria from that mtv cartoon that girls watch. At least he doesn’t talk much. And at least there aren’t any celebrity voices. I thought a couple guys sounded like Roddy McDowall, but they turned out to be the dude that played “Murdock” on the A-Team, so that doesn’t count as a celebrity.

Blade IIAnyway Vampire Hunter D was great but it could hardly prepare me for BLADE II, which is about pretty much the same exact crap and somehow manages to be every bit as good as the original BLADE. And how is that possible when BLADE wasn’t even possible? A vampire movie, starring wesley snipes, based on a marvel comic, with martial arts and techno music, and GOOD? In the eloquent words of Blade himself, “Some motherfuckers always tryin to ice skate uphill,” but they did it – not once, but twice now! In a row! What in christ’s lord and name of god and the bible is going on? How did we, as a movie-going society and culture, get so god damn lucky?

I guess I never reviewed BLADE so let me have a paragraph about what a great movie that is. Which is kind of like having one sentence to describe the contributions of Miles Davis to american music. BLADE is a Badass action movie, with perfectly choreographed comic book ludicrousness, hilarious macho one-liners, thrilling fight scenes with effective use of electronic music, original vampire ideas, all brought together with elegant lighting, a rare instance of effective “MTV style editing”, a moody John Carpenter heartbeat type score, and perfectly iconic acting performances by Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff and especially Wesley Snipes. Forget the miracle of a good marvel comics techno kung fu vampire movie – what about the miracle of Wesley Snipes? Here’s a guy known for actual acting, like in Spike Lee movies and shit. Dramas. Then he tries a few weak action movies like PASSENGER 57 and US MARSHALLS, and pisses his career away on crap like “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE: AN ADRESS THAT CHANGES ALL THE RULES.” Suddenly, out of nowhere, he is an actual action hero, like Shaft reinvented as Batman meets Van Helsing. Completely ripped, mostly stoic, covered in tattoos without looking silly, and doing much of the fighting himself. Turns out he does some African martial art you’ve never heard of that looks pretty fuckin good on screen. He did some of the choreography, even produced the film himself. Suddenly Wesley Snipes is cool again! I love BLADE.

So I was pretty fuckin anxious for BLADE II, especially when I heard the directionist was Guillermo Del Toro. His first movie was CHRONOS so you knew the occasional brilliant touches in MIMIC weren’t a fluke. And you know how I felt about THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE. BLADE II seals it, this guy knows what the fuck he’s doin. He’s captured the tone and texture of BLADE but injected it with some kind of weird Del Toro serum. The look is more gothic, the monsters are weirder, the villains are more sympathetic and mythic. It’s gorier and more brutal and not always in the phoney video game kind of way of the first picture. It feels faster and more action packed than BLADE but has more moments of tragedy and beauty. Blade spends the movie inside the vampire underground, so you don’t get the culture clash comedy of him walking around town with a sword on his back, shooting at a cop in broad daylight in front of a crowd of witnesses, etc. The emphasis is on Blade the samurai, with his code of his honor, and the start of his acceptance of being half-vampire.

(Did you ever notice in BLADE how before the final battle he does a little samurai ritual, burning incense at an altar to his dead mother – not realizing that his mother is actually a vampire, and that she’s one of the enemies who he’ll be fighting? OH JESUS the irony. There’s another, less ironic but equally great samurai moment in BLADE PART II where he poses in front of Japanese windows, holding a gun like it’s a sword.)

Though Del Toro has perfectly captured the tone and character of BLADE the movie is far from a rehash. He’s thrown into a whole different world, the vampire society in Prague, this time not a lone avenger with a couple of allies, but a member of a team of colorful characters. BLADE had Udo Kier (Andy Warhol’s Dracula) as a vampire leader. Now we go to the top of the totem pole to find a Nosferatu-like king who bathes in blood like Vlad the Impaler or Elizabeth Bathory, but probaly doesn’t get a boner from it because he’s so old his skin is practically see-through.

There are homages to other sequels: Whistler’s fate in the first film is treated like Hans Solo at the end of Star Trek 2, and now Blade has to track him down. Soon after the Blood Pack, a team of highly trained vampire fighters shows up for a truce with Blade to fight a mutant vampire strain called the reapers, you know you’ve got ALIENS with a bunch of tough guys wading through sewer water looking for monsters in the dark – you even got a reaper autopsy that’s more disgusting than the alien autopsy in that movie. But just about the very moment when the ALIENS shtick gets old, the story suddenly changes gears and you get something else you didn’t expect.

It’s the story that makes this movie great, but it’s still an action movie. Now first off let me say this, BLADE invented bullet time. I don’t care that the technology in the Matrix was much more elaborate, that the technique was used in the gap commercial, that the animator from Oregon did it years before that. The point is, BLADE already had a scene where Stephen Dorff dodged a bullet in slow motion. Same thing that happened in the matrix. I think THE MATRIX is a great movie and it was obviously a huge influence on every other american movie in the years since but BLADE was there first, combining comic book ideas and computer animation techniques with asian action movie influences.

That being a true and inarguable scientific fact of law set in stone and backed up on disc, it would be understandable if the fight scenes in BLADE PART II: THE GODFATHER 2 OF COMIC BOOK MOVIES seemed a bit, you know, matrixy. But they don’t. I didn’t notice anything that seemed to involve wires. Donny the from Iron Monkey Yen has a small role as one of the Blood Pack, and even did some of the choreography, but most of the fighting is more Japanese swordplay or more grounded, street fight type kung fu. When they do get acrobatic, Mr. Del Toro is doing something I’ve never seen before: replacing actors with computer generated fight doubles, even within the same shot. So for example Wesley Snipes will jump, his computer double will do a bunch of ridiculous flips, and then Wesley Snipes will land in that cool pose from the last fight scene in BLADE, all in the same shot. It takes a bit to get used to, and a couple times it seems mortal-kombat-the-video-game-not-the-movie-like, or like that part in BLADE when Stephen Dorff started zipping around in fast speed. But mostly it works and I guarantee you they’ll be borrowing this idea for the next Batman movie. How come nobody ever thought to use animation for live action comic books?

The filmatism in the fight scenes is very slick and high tech, lots of flashy camera moves and motion control type crap and that doesn’t sound like something I’d agree with but this time it works. In the last, best fight scene the camera throws your head around and disorients you so much you feel like you’re getting your ass beat along with Blade (just like in DEVIL’S BACKBONE when you felt like you really were in the explosion, battered and tossed and filled with shrapnel). But this being GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S BLADE 2, the highlight of the scene is not any of the fighting, or even a Blade one-liner, but a sad line of dialogue from the villain.

The feeling of going to see BLADE II – that’s enough to keep me out of trouble for life, if I can have some more of that. That feeling of looking forward to something for so long, and when you finally see it it is even better than you were hoping, and you can’t stop thinking about it. That’s why individuals like us love movies, isn’t it? The only thing better is when you don’t expect anything, and the movie still hits you that hard. A surprise. But come on, what kind of a fuckwad didn’t see Blade II coming? It’s BLADE II, for crying out loud!

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, March 25th, 2002 at 5:29 pm and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Horror, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

26 Responses to “Blade II”

  1. I have a qustion: If Blade has a serum that can cure any (former human) vampires, then why does he just go around slaughtering them? Couldn’t he shoot them full of antidote and turn his enemies into allies?

  2. Brendan – because he’s an asshole, that’s why.

  3. I didn’t notice it before, but there is the one scene where Blade meets the Blood Pack for the first time and after Reinhardt makes his (incredibly lame) joke about blushing, Blade starts taunting him by spinning a stake in one hand and repeatedly slapping him with the other. I wonder if that was a homage to that classic Terence Hill routine:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNRWIh_ZWwI

    Guillermo del Toro is after all a Spencer/Hill fan, as far as I remember.

  4. I know this is sacrilege around here, but I rewatched Blade II on Netflix last night and I didn’t think it worked. I just thought Guillermo del Toro’s aesthetic didn’t fit with Blade. The new vampires felt like a different movie, then the blue colored light made it look like a Screen Gems horror film.

    Of course Blade is awesome in it, when he has the whole vampire squad by the balls and basically any time he faces off against Perlman. It’s maybe the absolute best vehicle for Snipes’ martial arts ever, but then you can totally tell when they become CGI characters doing video game movies.

    Sure, it’s better than Blade: Trinity, but havingnot seen Blade II in 10 years, I can easily go another 10+ after this viewing.

  5. Weird. I watched BLADE 2 yesterday and it was still awesome.

  6. I must have watched the wrong one :)

  7. It seems Blade II is very popular with the spambots. I didn’t know they had such good taste.

  8. Couldn’t find the Blade review (wtf?) so I have to point out here that Blade finally comes to Blu-ray in the UK next month! I have waited a long time for this day.

  9. Make sure you read the reviews first Jimolo, all the Blade Blu-ray releases so far have been savaged and not just for the aspect ratio being wrong. I wold have picked them up myself but at this point at least in terms of framing the Blu-rays can’t replace the DVDs.

    As for Blade it is one of a handful of movies Vern constantly references but has never had a formal review like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (only a DVD review that doesn’t touch on the film).

  10. Cheers for the tip, Clubside. I came close once to buying the Canadian once before, but thank God I read the amazon reviews first. Hopefully, this will be a new remaster. Think of that nightclub scene in 1080p. Why the hell would those cretins pan and scan that shit?!

  11. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    September 26th, 2012 at 7:50 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever actually read this review before, which is odd. Gotta say I love Vern’s enthusiasm, even if I don’t share it. Y’all know I’m somewhere between Fred and Vern here – there were definitely parts of the film that worked well, but as a whole I thought it was just ok. I guess “Blade 2” is to me what “Kill List” was to Vern.

    Some day I gotta get in on the blu-ray action. When they bring the prices down to sub-DVD level, maybe. But by then I suspect the notion of buying a film on copy-protected disk will seem ludicrously quaint.

  12. Well, i’m gonna dump this comment here until the inevitable (hopefully) Pacific Rim review goes up.

    PACIFIC RIM was a movie I very much would have liked to enjoy, but wow did I fucking hate it. The love it is getting baffles me. I mean, it’s all gravy that it’s an original IP and all, and that Legendary seems to love del Toro, and the guy has made some really solid flicks (see above review) BUT JESUS I WAS SO BORED.

  13. BLADE 2 is the GODFATHER 2 or ALIENS of vampire films. It’s Del Toro’s best film. It’s Snipes best performance in iconic cool.

    I stated last week on the Captain America First Avenger thread that Marvel don’t do ‘dark’ very well. I was wrong. Damn wrong. I forgot all about this baby right here. Avengers are a bunch of pussies compared to motherfuckin BLADE.

  14. Rumor going around that Snipes and BLADE 4 are happening.

    http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/TheSewer/news/?a=106775

  15. Yeah, I heard that. I hope the rumours aren´t iceskating uphills.

  16. Has anyone read the comic book BLADE: UNDEAD AGAIN? I read the first six parts and that was some crazy shit. Did you know that Wolverine gave Blade his coat? How about a sequence where Blade is fighting a possessed Santa Claus in a mall? Have you always wanted Blade to kneecap a Spider-man who at the time had turned into a vampire? Or how about time traveling antics feat. Doctor Doom?

    jesus, as fun as it sounds, I am quite concerned about Blades cinematic future, now that Marvel wants the character to share pages with PG-13 friendly characters.

  17. Oh yeah and there is a “letter” at the end from the creator which basically said “well, Blade doesn´t sell so we had to come up with all this bullshit instead and hopefully you´ll like it. Blade fans probably won´t, but we don´t give a shit. Causé we want $$$$$”

  18. I also can´t believe that Blade is wearing a Cosby sweater, getting beat up by a kid and constantly getting captured. Sure, there may be a logic behind it, but it´s bad logic because it makes Blade look fucking stupid. Knee capping Spiderman is the only thing I can think of in this travesty that makes Blade awesome. The development of a storyline with his white father (ohhh!racially edgy!) seem to lead to usual daddy issues and *FUCKING SPOILFUCK* has a stupid self conscious EMPIRE STRIKES BACK ending.

    The whole thing seems like a half assed compromise of trying to make Blade part of the Marvel community without sacrificing his back story of which there is a lot more information about but it is not great and just leads to stupid tie ins with other characters. What happened to the worldbuilding of the movies and the television series? The difefrent houses and lore and shit? Fuck that, let´s throw in S.H.I.E.L.D nonsense and try to tie it with the movies and perhaps someday we can have Blade as a sidekick in a future AVENGERS-movie where Robert Downey Jr can make corny jokes about him.

  19. That comic book is over 7 years old. I highly doubt Marvel even considers it relevant to whatever they do with Blade today. Especially since they’re going to redefine and unite their compartmentalized comic book universes into one pretty soon. If there is another Blade comic book after that it would be an all new Blade.

  20. Didn’t the movies re-invent the character and world anyway? From what I understand he was originally a sidekick to the totally different original version of Ryan Reynolds’s character. He wore red and yellow and goggles and they were hunting a more traditional Dracula than what we got in part 3. Later he was part of the Marvel Universe just like any of their other characters.

    Since it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever be going back to Wesley I am now okay with Blade being in the movie universe, preferably played by MJW (good call on that, Newsies of 15 years ago). But he would have to be kind of a Snake Plissken character who doesn’t want to play with the others and preferably he would get to chop the heads off of Spider-man, Ghost Rider, at least two of the Fantastic Fours and 7-8 other major characters who have been featured on pajamas.

  21. “But he would have to be kind of a Snake Plissken character who doesn’t want to play with the others and preferably he would get to chop the heads off of Spider-man, Ghost Rider, at least two of the Fantastic Fours and 7-8 other major characters who have been featured on pajamas.”

    Blade doesn´t decapitate Spider-Man in the book, but a gory knee capping of him is a foundation to build on, I guess.

    Broddie- I know it is 7-8 years old. It was just a bit of a culture shock to see Blade play with others ,and my initial impressions were not exactly great. I´ve never read a Marvel comic in years so I was just naive enough to expect another great Blade adventure unknowing that Marvel likes to cross over characters and play around with them.

    I am certainly not averse to new renditions of Blade. I mean how could you? That is ridiculous! Preposterous! But part of the rest of the Marvel universe? I don´t know if I like that route. I´d rather they continued to explore the world and lore of the films and television series. I mean there must be something more to dig out?

    However, I did like how they used some of the aspects from the 70´s comic (London setting, Lady Vanity) with the aspects that the films brought to the table. I´ve read some of the 70´s Blade stuff and they are really hokey but good kind of b-movie fun. Even though Blade seems like a black character as written by a white guy. “Can you dig it,fang-baby?” and that kinda thing which made me wish we had a Blade blaxploitation flick back in the day.

  22. Honestly, I don’t think what’s so bad about Blade being part of the MCU. Granted, it would be weird seeing him slaying alien robots next to Iron Man while delivering Joss Whedon banter, but I can see them taking a more GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY approach. Meaning that while they reference things and characters from the other movies, he is more in his own “world”, doing his own thing. Let’s see how they introduce the fantasy stuff in DR STRANGE. Maybe vampires and such will fit in much better then.

  23. CJ- I think the real issue would be that Blade is a defiantly R-rated series, (hell, his signature line is “Some motherfuckers always trying to ice skate uphill”) and the MCU so far has been much more focused on mainstream, family appeal.

    Feige’s talked for years about taking the fringe-y Marvel characters and doing smaller, cheaper films with them as sort of an antidote to the AVENGERS-based characters, and I could see that working for more BLADE movies. Or maybe he could turn up in the Netflix shows, depending on what sort of tone those strike.

  24. But even here I think that at least the violence is not THAT much of a problem anymore. We probably wouldn’t get some extreme blood splatters, but if the vampired bleed black or not at all when they explode, they can get away with a lot today. Shit, IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA got a seriously high body count for a PG-13, with Cap having even a scene of someone diving head first into a propeller! And while his most famous line involves an F-bomb, Blade is not THAT much of a potty mouth. True, when in doubt, I would prefer an R-Rated Blade, but honestly, I wouldn’t mind a hard PG-13 either.

  25. I guess since it is fantasy violence Blade might get away with a lot more. But if UNDEAD AGAIN is anything to go by I hope Marvel filmatists does a better job of incorporating the Universe with Blade. I guess despite all my complaints about it I´ll at least give the Marvel writers credit for actually trying with Blade. But I seriously don´t care for the other Marvel characters and would like Blade to exist in his own universe, have his own world and lore rather than to try to shoehorn him into something he clearly does not belong in. . Blade does not play well with others.

  26. The Original Paul

    February 3rd, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Shoot – I agree with YOU sir. I don’t want the rest of Marvel’s properties anywhere near a fourth BLADE movie. Although considering the trajectory of the previous ones (#1 was awesome, #2 was good but seriously flawed in many respects, and #3 was just awful) I’m not sure that I’d like to see a BLADE 4. Unless it’s done by someone within Marvel who wants to make up for the epic disaster that was #3 and really loves the character and iconography of BLADE and – oh fuck me, I can’t even finish that sentence. Man, if 2014 showed one thing about Marvel, it’s that whatever creative integrity they might once have had is completely lacking in their movie studio department now.

    It occurred to me while I was writing this… Marvel’s first few successful movies were all about the underdogs. At its heart, the original BLADE is the story of a woman who’s infected by a vampire and has to find a way to survive and retain her humanity in the process. The first X-MEN movie is mostly about a teenage runaway outcast, and the second X-MEN movie expands this idea to more widespread racism and / or homophobia. Y’know, relatable characters. Doesn’t the fact that Pepper Potts was probably the most popular character in the entire Marvel film universe for a serious amount of time tell them anything?

    Compare that to now, where the latest X-MEN film is utterly soulless (I seriously have no idea who I’m supposed to root for in that movie. I’m going to go with “nobody”.) Hell, CAPTAIN AMERICA should on paper be the most “relatable” of the Marvel heroes by very wide margin, yet his latest outing starts off as being critical of the security services and ends up with what’s practically a PSA for the NSA (you guys know the whole “alternate reality” idea where the American Government can be flat-out evil? Yeah, good luck getting anything like that in the movieverse.) It was so damn obnoxious, it made me kinda resent the movies that I’d actually liked when I first watched them. Maybe I was way too lenient on the IRON MAN movies and their insistence that the rich white guy has all of our best interests at heart, eh?

    Yeah, it says something that the two recent Marvel movies with the most relatable characters, that were just the most fun overall for my tastes, would be the ones about a freakin’ Norse God in human form. Fun characters, good action, and a general lack of obnoxious political subtext (or in the case of the recent Cap movie, actual text). When did Marvel go from being the plucky underdogs, trying to bring the unfairly maligned and marginalised art form of the comic book into the light of the mainstream, to the thuggish bullies who ruled the school and would put a size-ten shoe on your face if you disagreed with them?

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