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Blade II – 15th Anniversary Spectacular

“You obviously do not know who you are fucking with!”

On one hand, it’s hard to believe that BLADE II was fifteen damn years ago. I mean – I reviewed it when it came out. And I’d already been around for a few years. Am I really that old? On the other hand, an awful lot has changed since the movie came out.

My actual ticket stub from opening night. Also my actual ticket stub from a week and a half later. I never figured out how the abandoned subtitle BLOODHUNT showed up on the tickets.

Let’s start with Wesley Snipes (“Blade”). He made a part 3, had a falling out with the writer, they made a Blade TV show without him, he got relegated to DTV, got busted for tax evasion, did time, got out, now is sort of back and still the Man and hopefully will achieve more greatness. Guillermo del Toro (director) became better known and beloved for his specific visual style and obsessions, was nominated for a best screenplay Oscar for PAN’S LABYRINTH, continued to alternate between Spanish language art films and Hollywood productions, but never did a for-hire gig again, unless you count THE HOBBIT, which he toiled on for a few years before quitting. David S. Goyer (writer) directed part 3, co-wrote Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy and went on to mastermind the DC movie universe, as if trying to earn the extreme hatred many comic fans had long held for him for some reason. Donnie Yen (martial arts choreographer, “Snowman”) had a huge career resurgence at home in Hong Kong, particularly with the IP MAN series, and recently finally had success in English language movies playing the best characters in ROGUE ONE and xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE. Norman Reedus (“Scud”) also became a geek icon by playing Daryl on The Walking Dead, as did Ron Perlman (“Reinhardt”) by reteaming with del Toro to play Hellboy in two live action films and two animated (plus starring in many seasons of Sons of Anarchy). Luke Goss (“Jared Nomak”) was a former pop star from the boy band Bros who had been in a few movies. This breakthrough role led to playing the elf equivalent of Nomak in del Toro’s HELLBOY 2 and eventually being a frequent face of DTV, including starring as Frankenstein in DEATH RACE 2 and 3. Matt Schulze (“Chupa”) – okay, he didn’t become a big thing, but to me he’s an icon because he’s the villain in Seagal’s OUT OF REACH and Vince in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and FAST FIVE.

Maybe more notably than any of this, the techniques del Toro pioneered to combine live action stunts with animated doubles for super-powered fights and camera moves evolved into the modern style of comic book action (and blockbusters in general). His smart ways of adding digital effects to practical ones have also been influential. Getting a genuine visionary to do the sequel to a movie like BLADE is one of those things you always wish for as a movie fan but shouldn’t hold your breath for. This time you could’ve, though. It happened.

Now, most people talking about del Toro these days, they’re not gonna consider BLADE II to be one of his best. They just look at it as an aberration, a gig that he took before he had the clout to make movies like PAN’S LABYRINTH that seem to pour directly out of his imagination onto the screen. But as much as we generally prefer an original, unbridled vision, there’s something hugely exciting about someone like del Toro just this one time aiming his magic beams at a sequel to somebody else’s movie, putting his unmistakable fingerprints on the already beautifully established world of BLADE. It would be cool if this was just one of many Blade adventures in different parts of the world, with different directors doing their thing like it used to be with the ALIEN and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sagas. Del Toro does an incredible job of recapturing the vibe of the character and transplanting him into del Toro land. The Daywalker has left the nameless American (or Canadian) city for a seedy area in the Czech Republic where we seem to almost exclusively encounter vampires and their familiars.

The opening takes place at a blood bank so questionable that there are several stray cats wandering around in the lobby. You might assume that this coughing, desperate blood donor (Goss) is falling into a vampire trap like the dance club doofus who opens part 1, but when the fascist vampire medical staff pull him into the back he’s the one who surprises them by drinking their blood. “Vampires! I hate vampires!” he says.

This is Jared Nomak, patient zero for the deadly Reaper virus turning vampires into these things that fiend on vampire blood like it’s crack.

Some day I’ll have a frame and a wall for this beautiful silver Mondo poster my friend J. Brian bought me

BLADE’s first appearance in part 1 is one of my very favorite character introductions. But I also love this sequel approach where we need no buildup at all, we already know and love him and are thrilled to see him appear mid-combat, briefly first-person-narrating his back story for those who came in late, Marco Beltrami score seeming to suggest he’s some kind of vampire James Bond.

If he is then who’s Whistler, is he Q? Goyer and/or del Toro were wise enough to know they should cheat and pretend Blade’s weapons expert and mentor played by Kris Kristofferson didn’t actually die when he shot himself off camera in part 1. Turns out the vampires kept him barely alive in a tank and now Blade is out to retrieve him like he’s frozen Han Solo. It seems like maybe Blade’s plan was to put him out of his misery, but we know he’s got a soft spot for the old man. One look in his eyes and he decides to sling him over one shoulder like John Matrix carrying a log.

Back at HQ Blade tries to de-vampire Whistler with his serum, but it’s a tough love intervention type scenario: he throws him in a room and warns that the blinds are coming up the next morning, whether he’s cured or not. We know our old friend is truly saved the next morning when Blade asks him how he feels and we hear his first words of the sequel: “Like hammered shit.”

Yeah, that’s our Whistler all right.

Whistler’s time among the suckheads gives us reason to be suspicious of him, as Blade’s spunky new mechanic/weapon inventor Scud (Reedus) does. For his part, Whistler has every reason to hate this kid who replaced him in his own operation, seems to have a TV playing cartoons in the background at all times and has the habit of calling Blade “B” even though it’s the same amount of syllables as just calling him by his actual name. I mean why would you do that? Blade would never call him S.

But more than this new dynamic, the beauty of resurrecting Whistler is obviously that we get more of Kristofferson’s lovable, crusty crudeness and shit-talking (he calls Reinhardt “ya fuckin nipple head”). And this doesn’t get as much attention but his fatherly feelings toward Blade give the movie a little sweetness. There’s a genuinely touching moment when he looks at Blade, impaled onto a slab by the bad guys, and tells him he’ll never leave him.

I haven’t even mentioned BLADE II’s ingenious premise yet. Reapers are such a threat to the Vampire Nation that they send two goggled vampire ninjas to the Blade Cave to offer a truce (via scroll). They convince him to work with the Blood Pack, the “small tactical unit” of vampires who have been training for two years to fight him. So it’s a problem-solving challenge to build weapons to use against Reapers that won’t hurt this squad of colorful vampire badasses who are his tenuous teammates. They squabble and backstab but there are times when they work together well. I love when a call comes over the walkie talkie that, “Daylight’s coming. You’re on your own, Blade.”

BLADE’s villain Deacon Frost was a young hip dance club promoter. Del Toro brings in the gothic horror, with Lord Eli Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann, THE PIANIST, HOSTEL PART III) being an ancient vampire of the pointy ears, bald head, wearing-robes variety. He has bluish, transparent skin and lives in a chamber full of ancient stone carvings but eats his blood in Jello form and has a normal human lawyer (Karel Roden, 15 MINUTES, LARGO WINCH) as a sidekick. Nomak is a more physical threat – both as a Reaper and as a martial artist – but he’s also more sympathetic, a tragic Frankenstein’s monster out to destroy his creator.

Hats off to del Toro for making it a legit creature feature. We’ve seen many split-mouthed monsters since the Reapers, but it’s still a powerful design. They’re so weird and believably animalistic when, for example, Whistler finds one with his arm stuck under a rock like a fox with his paw caught in a trap. Or what about the one that Snowman (Yen) stabs into the wall with his sword and it just scurries up like a spider, tearing itself clean open on the sword, dangling entrails like it’s no big deal?

And I know it’s kind of a nod to ALIENS, but the scene where Nyssa (Leonor Varela, WRONG TURN AT TAHOE, SLEEP DEALER, HELL RIDE) cuts open a Reaper and speculates about its physiology is a winner. So believable and gross and sets up the crucial detail that their hearts are encased in a thick plate of bone that’s only penetrable on one side. It’s tricky to stake these guys. Like picking a lock.

I guess as an extension of the first film’s MORTAL KOMBAT-esque dance club friendly soundtrack (or a tribute to JUDGMENT NIGHT‘s rap-meets-rock pairings), this one teams rappers with electronica dudes – Ice Cube with Paul Oakenfold, The Roots with BT, Mos Def with Massive Attack, etc. I think the songs are fine in the movie, but Snipes has a problem with at least one of them. On the commentary he complains about the use of the (admittedly weak) Ice Cube song during a suiting up montage:

“This is wack! Terrible. Terrible choice of song. What is this?… I mean, it could be so much more funkier, and like ‘Yeah, alright, I’d love to be with these guys if they’re goin out to do what they wanna do.’ Now it’s like, ‘Tssshhh… you guys go ahead, I’ll catch you when you get back.'”

For his part, I know del Toro is embarrassed of some of the digital shots for looking too “video gamey,” which was a complaint even at the time. Not all of them are perfect but I continue to think there’s some cartoony charm to even the fake looking stuff, especially the vampires in the ninja suits swinging through the rafters like Ninja Turtles.

I heard somewhere that del Toro studied all of Steve Norrington’s raw footage from part 1 to understand how he put it together. Beneath the bright yellow tinting and supercharged camera gimmicks is a perfect revival of that show-offy style with the dance beats, the super heroic Snipes poses, the whoosh of spinning blades and clanks and clicks of metal machinery as he stabs and slashes vampires into clouds of embers.

Del Toro’s love of atmosphere and weirder, more complicated villains doesn’t get in the way of delivering the badass goods. Right at the beginning you got Blade on foot chasing a vampire who’s on a motorcycle. He does a flip and lands on the bike, beheading the driver, turning him to dust, stealing the bike and skidding out next to his car, which he blows a kiss at. Then he uses the motorcycle’s spinning wheel as a torture device.

And there’s the sword fight with the two ninja vampires – I’m assuming that was Yen’s work, and if so he expresses more through spinning blades than dialogue (which he has none of). And the fights with Nomak, where Blade gets flung and his head busts through a stone pillar. The groundbreaking effects work to combine real Snipes with flipping animated doubles gives it a larger than life comic book feel, but not at the expense of natural fight choreography.

Maybe the most badass part is when Blade finally takes out racist Reinhardt (Perlman) and his dumb alt-right facial hair. First Blade quickly plows through his armored security goons, ending with a straight up WWF style suplex – man, it still feels thrillingly taboo to use a move like that on film – onto glass and then popping back up so fast it makes a whoosh sound.

Even better than Blade’s ass-kicking capabilities is the fact that he’s always three steps ahead of everybody. When Reinhardt first insults him, Blade pulls a Seagal, giving the goon a chance to take a shot at him that you know will fail. Then Blade pulls a Blade, grabbing the chump by his head and attaching a miniature bomb to it. Much later, when Scud reveals that he’s been a mole the whole time and that he even sabotaged that bomb, Blade lets him gloat for a minute before revealing that actually he knew all along and secretly unsabotaged the bomb! I love the goofy paint-Blade-into-a-corner-and-then-say-that-he-meant-to-do-that style of the writing here, but on repeat viewings you can see that it doesn’t come entirely out of the blue. Blade seems to be accusing Whistler when he says “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer,” but actually he’s tipping him off. Notice Scud is in the background when he says it.

Blade’s Batman-like unfuckwithableness, always tougher and smarter and better prepared than his opponents, is one reason his movies stand out. But the series also represents a genre hybrid almost as rare as Daywalkers. These movies were obviously an influence on the UNDERWORLD series, but otherwise you don’t see too many attempts to mix gothic horror and straight up action. I’m sure even if you did BLADE II would remain the very best version of that. Here we have a genuinely great monster movie that doesn’t skimp on the tough guy shit that I love most. Sometimes the two even overlap, for example there’s a visual reference to APOCALYPSE NOW (and many ’80s action movies that copied it) as Blade rises in slow motion not out of water or mud but a rejuvenating pool of blood. Ready for a fight, he simultaneously cracks his neck and bares his fangs.

Nomak also exemplifies this action-horror blend as a literal monster who has an acrobatic martial arts duel with the hero on a catwalk. And in the middle of a fortress-invasion sequence of running through squads of paramilitary guards, withstanding machine gun bullets to bang their helmets together and leap through a series of closing security doors, we find him at the top of a pile of dead bodies he’s just fed on, roaring victoriously with his alien-like split mouth.

We get our beloved Blade lines and Whistler throwing him his sunglasses like the Lady in the Lake giving Excalibur to Arthur, but also del Toro gets his bittersweet melodrama. When Blade defeats Nomak by getting his broken sword through the side of that bone plate it’s Nomak who sees relief in death and pushes it in himself. “It’s… strange. It hurts… it hurts no more.”

I know some people who love BLADE II but don’t like BLADE at all. That doesn’t compute for me, but I can understand liking part II better. It’s one of the great sequels, an unmatched mix of director and material, a pairing that simultaneously makes perfect sense and no sense at all, a volatile mix that turned out to be chemically sound. Somehow it exceeded my high expectations on opening night, and a decade and a half later there’s still nothing like it.

So here’s to you, BLADE II. I raise my plate of blood Jello in your honor. Listen all you motherfuckers.

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 Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 at 10:48 am and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

64 Responses to “Blade II – 15th Anniversary Spectacular”

  1. Vern, I think you should have mentioned del Toro’s friend Santiago Segura (BLADE II, HELLBOY II, CODY BANKS II, PACIFIC RIM). Rush isn’t a huge part for him, but Segura is a huge star over here. TORRENTE 1 – 5, anyone?

  2. I’m due for a rewatch of this one, but for some reason I remember having a serious problem with the CGI stunt doubles. During the live-action scenes Blade moves like a human being, albeit a human being who is Wesley Snipes. But then a second later he’s jumping all over the place in a blurred-out smudge, falling faster than gravity would seemingly allow, things like that. It’s jarring. In the original Blade obviously had super-human strength and reflexes, but those abilities were better displayed. Here it just felt incongruous, and instead of being thrilled I was just wondering why sometimes he fought at normal speed and sometimes at Looney-Tunes speed.

  3. 15 years already…I remember watching the trailer on Apple’s websight (Remember when you had to go there for the newest trailers?) and telling my buddy after a minute “That’s already better that part 1”. Yeah, I’m one of those people, who don’t like part 1, but fucking LOVE part 2. I’m glad that I didn’t give up on the series, although the first episode didn’t do anything for me. *whistle*

    Although to be honest, I was also interested, because by that point I was already a bit of a del Toro fan. Or let’s say, I had seen CRONOS and MIMIC by then and had an interested eye on his career.

    Coincidentally I finally bought the Soundtrack album a few weeks ago. The previous version that I owned was a 128 MBps MP3 rip from a friend and that one got lost around 10 years ago. It still holds up. Sorry, Mr Snipes.

    In conclusion, watch BLADE 2 again.

  4. Yup, BLADE II is still awesome. I saw it Saturday morning the day after opening and honestly I didn’t have very high hopes for it. I was seeing it more out of boredom and curiosity than interest. Also this was going to be the first movie I drove myself to the theater and saw by my damned self! At the time I didn’t like the first BLADE as much as I do now. Much like THE MATRIX, my enjoyment and love for it gradually grew. No such issue with BLADE II though, loved it and saw it again the next day. This thing totally blew me away and I even went and saw it a second time the next day. Then I read your review on AICN and learned that I totally agree with this guy and between that review and your RING (original Japanese ones) motivated me to start visiting your site (I was already familiar with your reviews via AICN).

    In regards to Yen, I remember this weird footnote of his career. Since he successfully seemed to have burned every bridge he had (several times) in Hong Kong he decided to go for a Hollywood acting career (this, HIGHLANDER ENDGAME, SHANGHAI KNIGHTS) that went no where and there were even times it seemed he was just going to become a world-class fight-choreographer (check out his work in TWIN EFFECT aka VAMPIRE EFFECT, you’d never believe the leads had no real training and it also has arguably the best late-period Jackie Chan fight) but then lucked out and got back in good with the Hong Kong audience.

    Honestly del Toro directing it interested me more than seeing Snipes again. I saw and really loved CRONOS and enjoyed MIMIC and his new Spanish language one THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE was getting real good word-of-mouth. To make it even better, DEVIL’S BACKBONE was released down here the same day as BLADE II so I got to see del Toro’s two greatest movies for the first time in theaters the same weekend. That cemented me a del Toro fan for life. Then he made HELLBOY II, PACIFIC RIM, and CRIMSON PEAK (also to a lesser extent a really shitty Netflix cartoon that I couldn’t get through) and now I can no longer say I’m a fan (except for his audio commentaries). But dammit, he was unstoppable to me late-90s and especially early-00s like he was making movies just for me.

  5. The vampire squad Blade works with falls within the badass epistemic paradox. They’re such cool characters with unique looks that you want to know more about them. But at the same time, they’re such badasses precisely because you don’t know too much about them.

  6. Seeing BLADE II for the first time back then I kept thinking, they can’t do this in a comic-book film! But they totally fucking did.

    It took what BLADE did so admirably and then added so much more awesome shit.

    Still the coolest comic-book film ever made, and Wesley is still the coolest, period.

    (Man, I wish I could remember who it was that told me that BLADE II was “vile action porn”.)

  7. I love listening to the Guillermo commentary, because he’ll call out the fx shots he thinks look bad, but it was fun to hear the joy in his voice as he talked about the movie. That joy translated onscreen, and I love the flick even more.

    I remember being disappointed when the Bloodpack turned on Blade and I got angry with the movie for having to follow the plot instead of letting me hang out with these characters for awhile longer.

    Oh, and Vern, I worked at a theatre when this was released. The “Bloodhunt” was from some early point where it was entered into the system’s network, and nobody was corrected on it. It also appears on the schedules we had to print out. Weird

  8. I hate to be contrarian but I hate Blade II.

  9. Let me rephrase, I don’t hate Blade II. I just don’t like it that much.

  10. I guess I’ll be the philistine and admit that these movies don’t really do much for me anymore. I ran the series last year and felt kind of ambivalent about the whole thing. I just don’t relate to any of it. There’s nothing for me to latch into. Blade is really more of series of poses and attitudes than a character, which makes it hard for me to feel any kind of attachment to him at all. Plus I just don’t think the techno-goth world he lives in is very interesting or well thought out. As for this one, I’ll never forgive it for almost entirely wasting the Blood Pack, and while I appreciate its innovations in special effects techniques, none of them except the Reapers even looked good at the time. They were good ideas that needed someone else with more time and money to execute properly.

    I mean, they’re mostly entertaining movies but I’d never consider any of them classics.

  11. Did anyone here see the TV Series? I liked the deeper look into the Vampire House and mythology. Bookine Woodbine showed up in a few eps as well.

    Blade VS Marcus Van Sciver

    From the season finale of the Blade TV series...edited the sword fight...kinda choppy...but enjoy

  12. It’s like I don’t even know you people anymore.

  13. The Steven Johnson make-up effects tour included on the DVD is almost as good as the film itself.

  14. Once I was watching BLADE 2 on my home theatre and when Blade suplexed Reinhardt it was so loud that it created a speaker short and blew a fuse in my amplifier. Blade suplexed a guy so hard that it blew out my AV receiver! Anyway, I love it how they incorporate WWE-style wrestling moves into the final battle. I don’t even watch wrestling, but I wish more action movies did this. It’s still baffling to me how WWE has a whole movie studio pumping out action vehicles for their stars, but none of these movies bother including suplexes, piledrivers or other signature wrestling moves. What gives?

    I have to disagree about those CGI stunt doubles. I don’t mind it too much when it’s purely CGI in isolation, like the vampires flipping through the rafters, but when it’s integrated into the action it looks like straight-up garbage. I’m sure in a couple of decades we’ll all come around to Vern’s way of thinking and look back on that era of clunky, weightless CGI as charmingly quaint, like Ray Harryhausen stop-motion or something, but for now, for me, it just looks like a jarring eyesore.

    I’ll never forgive Hollywood for wasting Donnie Yen for so many years, but I don’t know if I’m necessarily clamouring for more screentime with the Bloodpack. I mean they look cool and have fun gimmicks, but they’re basically the expendable Space Marines from ALIENS. If anything, blame Del Toro for being too awesome at distinctive character design.

    Is that all your Blade shit, Vern? Is that little statue at the front from the short-lived TV show?

    I’ve still got my fingers crossed for a BLADE revival with Snipes. I’d even take the rumoured Buffy-style reboot with Snipes in a mentor role.

    In conclusion: Make America BLADE Again :sunglasses emoji:

  15. When I saw Hellboy 2, all I could think about was how it was basically Blade 2 with Hellboy characters.

  16. This movie was the first place I heard of Guillermo del Toro.

    Also, didn’t Harry Knowles write a pretty infamous review where he compared del Toro’s work on the film to a master of cunnilingus and even went as far to say in an interview del Toro has a look on his face “like the wet beard thigh splitter that he is” or something like that?

    Harry Knowles is a weird dude.

  17. So many great badass moments. Another very “Blade” gesture: the scene in the night club where Reinhardt pinpoints Blade in the crowd and maliciously trains his gun’s laser sight on him. Then his colleague laughs and points at Reinhardt’s chest, to reveal that Blade’s already got HIS laser sight on HIM. Beautiful.

  18. Griff, Knowles’ review is cemented in net infamy. Less said about it the better.

    This is one movie like X2 (another Marvel licensed sequel) I regret never seeing on the big screen. In the case of X2 it was cause I didn’t really like X-MEN (the movie ovie not the franchise) so I wasn’t interested.

    With this I just never got the time despite absolutely loving the original (which I did catch at the flicks). I did buy the DVD on day one but it’s not the same. Maybe in about 5 years I’ll finally get the chance. Somebody is bound to screen it for it’s 20th. Right? Or am I overestimating the normals’ appreciation of BLADE?

  19. Crustacean: I think he’s comic book Blade.

  20. I watched it yesterday, right after reading this piece. It is funny how I started watching in a sceptical mood; I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t hold up. For the last hour, I sat there hypnotised, drinking it all in, no different than watching it in 2004.

    This was the first time that I watched my trusty Platinum Edition dvd in surround sound, and I was really struck by the greatness of the sound mix. Then I found out that there is a DTS mix on the disc as well, so now I have an excuse to watch it again very soon.

  21. Crustacean, I remember that John Cena chokeslams someone in THE MARINE. But yeah, that might be all.

  22. The Undefeated Gaul

    March 23rd, 2017 at 3:52 am

    There are few films that I love more than this one; not even DEEP BLUE SEA surpasses it and that’s a big compliment. Really the only thing I strongly dislike is the CGI vampire ninja bullshit at the beginning, but it’s such a small part of the whole thing and it comes so early that I can easily ignore it. Indeed there is some not-so-great CGI inserted into the final fight as well, but although it’s very noticeable (Blade’s head through the stone pillar especially) I didn’t mind it. In fact it was kinda thrilling, because I recognized it resulted in a super powered fight scene the likes of which I had never seen before, which could not have been done on that level without the CGI. So not a perfect film maybe, but it still really does feel like one.

    Thanks to this film I still get goosebumps when I listen to the opening seconds of that Crystal Method song. Thought the Mos Def/Massive Attack song worked really well in the film too.

  23. I thought I was the only one who kept my ticket stubs. My oldest was from Return of the Jedi (’85 re-release).

    I’m in the Blade 1 camp myself. It’s a perfect blend of horror and action. 2 is still great though. I’m still holding out hope that they can find a way to slip Blade into the MCU.

  24. I still have my ticket stubs for GRINDHOUSE, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and…. SNAKES ON A PLANE.

  25. Loved Blade. It’s the premier vampire action movie. But I didn’t like Blade 2 so much. It’s 50% the film that the first is in terms of coolness. I guess I don’t like the fact that the woman from the first film isn’t even referenced, and the reboot of Whistler, as badass as he is, was just silly. I don’t buy the fact he wouldn’t kill himself. He hates vampires too much. Plus, all the neon and lights and shit reminded me too much of Batman Forever.

  26. Ah, the Meridian 16! Went there many times during my days in Seattle. Did you hit up Gameworks after, Vern?

  27. Okay, fine. I’ll admit BLADE II is better than pretty much all other MATRIX-y horror-action hybrids. Which is not that high a bar to clear but it does it handily. There’s some cool stuff in here. It’s really just a character problem. There isn’t enough personality in Blade to make him interesting. There’s no badass juxtaposition to bring him into focus. He’s just a vaguely antihero-shaped cypher in the middle of the action.

    Also, I still have nearly every stub for every movie I’ve seen since TERMINATOR 2. Including BLADE II.

  28. I recently found a box full of old ticket stubs, from 1999 to 2004, aka the short timespan in my life, where I could afford to go weekly or at least once every two weeks to the movies. It started with the Jamie Lee Curtis/Donald Sutherland/Some Baldwin Brother joint VIRUS and ended with BIG FISH. Too bad that I stopped collecting them afterwards.

  29. I won’t claim that Blade is a super complex character. He’s not Mrs. Dalloway or some shit, but there are shade of self-loathing that makes him a bit more interesting than the average action hero. He’s a vampire who hates vampires.

    But at the same time, what’s wrong about just being a stylistic badass who always has a drop on his enemies? Blade isn’t much different from the characters Bruce Lee played. He similarly cut through his enemies through sheer force of will and badassery.

  30. geoffreyjar you are rigth. It’s been a downhill since Hellboy 2. I think he has good concepts and ideas (storywise), but then the execution is poor. The characters in his last proyects are awful (Crimson Peak, The Strain).
    Have anyone watched The Strain? It`s such a letdown. I keep watching in hopes in gets better (because I loved everything Del Toro did), and never happens. After three season I’m done.

  31. ej – ha ha, no, I’m not really a Gameworks guy. But Meridian 16 or Pacific Place are where I usually see a movie if it’s not at Cinerama.

  32. It’s true that there are subtleties to Blade’s character, mostly conveyed quietly through Snipes’ expressions. But I really like that he’s so much simpler and less down-to-earth than you’re usually allowed to do in a movie. I wouldn’t want them to do like the James Bond movies and keep trying to tell us about the secret of his past and how it affects him psychologically. I want to see him be Blade.

    But then again, is he any less complex than John Matrix? I’d say they’re about on the same level and that’s why they stand out.

  33. Yeah, but I don’t really like Bruce Lee that much either.

    In theory, I have no problem with the way Blade is characterized. In execution, though, he leaves me cold. There are little hints that he might have some personality (every time he says “motherfucker,” for instance) but not enough to make me enjoy his company.

    I am perhaps overstating all this. I don’t dislike the movies, and I’m probably softer on the third one than most of you. If I didn’t feel compelled to offer an alternative viewpoint to the opinion of Vern and so many of you that these are great films, my basic opinion would probably be “The Blade movies? Not my favorite but they’re alright.”

  34. Also, I’m not asking for complexity. Complexity is overrated. I’m asking for personality. Two different things. Neither Mickey Mouse nor Donald Duck are very complex, but Donald has personality out the ass while Mickey is just kind of there. You can guess which one I prefer.

  35. After all these years of being the *only* person keeping the “In summary, go watch Blade II again” catch phrase running, it finally pays off.

  36. Mr Majestyk, I guess you like the…eh…angry one?

  37. i just rewatched the blade DUOLOGY (get it i dont like 3 so im pretending it doesnt exist) this year and they are still so good… blade is incredibly underrated when compared to the matrix, as it really was groundbreaking in its action style… blade 2 of course practically the platonic ideal sequel. it was also a super important movie for me and integral to kickstarting my personal del toro obsession.

    i saw blade in theaters but an 18yr old asshole and sort of semi-scoffed towards it as not being lofty enough and having CG and having dance music and other things that i thought i was better than, but shortly after that i got (partially) down off my high horse, heavily into hellboy, and heard mignola and del toro were palling around and that del toro wanted to make hellboy. pretty sure i saw devils backbone SOLELY because i knew del toro was trying to make hellboy :D

    i also knew mignola did concept art on blade 2, so i was just massively excited about it. i was excited about the prospect of hellboy getting made if blade 2 hit big, and i was talking blade 2 up to all my friends, playing the soundtrack on my college radio show (i loved the cheesy blade 2 theme, i remember del toro saying in an interview he wanted to give blade a funky iconic theme song. i even recorded myself singing along to it but just saying “blaaaaaaaaaaaaaade 2!” over and over)

    it more than exceeded my expectations, and i was just so overjoyed at what i was seeing that i took the bus from my college to the theater to see it like 5x even though the schedule meant i couldnt take the bus back and had to walk 3 miles back to my dorm every time :O

    around then i was posting on the hellboy message boards that the studio put up (remember when studios made an ARG, big website, message boards, etc. for every big movie!?) and GDT would hang out and discuss stuff with us. then we all moved to the deltorofilms.com message boards, and because i posted there i got invited to a hellboy 2 fan premiere… and now that im telling the story it sounds crazy! does stuff like this still happen? did it ever happen before? how did GDT manage to get the studio (or maybe he paid for it himself?) to host a special screening and q&a with him, mignola, and all the principal cast except ron (who was busy shooting SOA)?! maybe he told them we were very important tastemakers and not just a bunch of hellboy nerds :D

    i got to bring my dad along as a fathers day gift, and apart from my wedding it was probably the single greatest single experience i’ve been able to give him. he was so excited and he still brings it up fondly (he especially enjoyed talking about jesus with the ultra-christian(!) luke goss!)

    anyway for this and many many other reasons, i will forever love GDT and hug him whenever i see him because he is one of the most strikingly genuine and beautiful souls i’ve ever met.

    in summary, go watch blade 2 again (thx tawdry)

  38. Nicolás – GDT really seemed poised to conquer the world after the double whammy of PAN’S LABYRINTH and HELLBOY 2 didn’t he? I think what went wrong was there was a period of time where every other project he wanted to do fell through and I think that sapped him a bit (I think it would get tiring for anyone), he wanted to follow up it up with AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS but that couldn’t happen because why would you want to make an HP Lovecraft movie around the late 00s and early 10s when Lovecraft was at his peak modern popularity? It just makes too much sense, so Hollywood didn’t go for it.

    Then he worked for years on THE HOBBIT only for Action Jackson to pull the rug out from under him when he realized his relevance was fading, I’m still pissed we live in the world where we got the LOTR equivalent of the Star Wars prequels in stead of Del Toro’s THE HOBBIT.

    By the time all that was over it took him 5 years to come out with a new movie, which by that time his post PAN’S LABYRINTH momentum had mostly faded.

    But still I liked PACIFIC RIM quite a bit and while CRIMSON PEAK was not great it is still a visual powerhouse, so maybe don’t write him off yet.

  39. Crimson Peak was wonderful. It had the most romantic scene I have seen in years, (SPOILERS) – “You lied to me” / “I did” / “You tried to kill me” / “I did” / You told me that you loved m–“/ “I do!” (SPOILERS)

    Also, I love that it’s a movie featuring ghosts… but it’s not about ghosts. They never make movies like that.

  40. I still love GdT and think he is the real deal. It’s just that in phase 2 of his career (= after PAN’S LABYRINTH) he began to steal from himself a bit too often and copy certain themes, visuals or even plots from previous movies.

    Still, I can’t think of any other director these days, who is equally or more interesting, while having the same amount of arthouse and popcorn credibility.

  41. After PACIFIC RIM and CRIMSON PEAK, del Toro only has one strike left with me. I despise all of the tenets of gothic romance to the core of my soul so there was no chance I’d ever really connect to CP, but PR fucked up so utterly at such a seemingly unfuckupable task that I just don’t trust him anymore. Still love the guy, but I’ve got to admit that I’d rather hear him talk about his films than watch his films, and that even goes for the ones I like. He’s really going to have to knock his next one out of the park if he doesn’t want to get thrown on the same diminishing returns pile with Tim Burton.

  42. Griff: After the mixed bag of HELLBOY II, the terribleness of PACIFIC RIM and CRIMSON PEAK and his TROLLHUNTERS cartoon (never saw his STRAIN TV series), I’m unconvinced THE HOBBIT would have turned out any better.

    Twady: I’m sorry but when your movie has to have an opening narration telling you what the movie is fucking about… Also, what about HARRY POTTER, that features ghosts but isn’t about ghost. Why you gotta be dissin’?

    Mr M: I don’t mind Gothic Romance and all that and even I thought CP was a total disaster. A movie that pats it’s self on the back for being feminists while have one of the stupidest damned main characters I’ve ever seen (but the movie keeps telling us is really smart!). I concur though, his interviews and commentaries are still aces though.

    I hate accusing people of this but I’m starting to think more and more if del Toro didn’t invite the Movie blogosphere over to his house to play with his toys I’m not sure he’d get the love/passes that he gets.

  43. This excellent write up made me immediately run over to Amazon and purchase this as an addition to my digital library. Kudos, Vern.

  44. I disagree with the assessment that Del Toro is going the way of Burton. I enjoyed Pacific Rim, even though it has a Charlie Hunnam shaped hole in its center. And at times the world that Del Toro builds is more interesting than his characters. But, overall, I found it an enjoyable, if uneven, time at the movies.

    Crimson Peak is a great throwback to the gothic romance films of the 1940s, and the mansion at its center is brilliant piece of design and art direction. When I first saw the movie, I was thrown off a bit because the trailers promised a horror movie. But when I rewatched it, I found that it was much better than I remembered, probably because I knew what I was getting into. It’s not a wholly unique film, but it does have Del Toro putting his spin on a genre that’s fallen out of fashion these days.

  45. I would say it’s fallen out of fashion for a reason.

    Also, I feel like del Toro hides behind his chosen genres sometimes. It’s not that people didn’t like CRIMSON PEAK, it’s that people just don’t understand gothic romance. It’s not that PACIFIC RIM was badly plotted and full of flat characters, that’s just the way kaiju and mecha films work. I don’t buy it. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was an homage to a bygone genre, but you didn’t have to know jackshit about old adventure serials to understand it. It worked perfectly well on its own without making any excuses. If something about the format it was aping didn’t work for modern sensibilities (like having the female lead be a useless damsel in distress), they changed that shit. They made it better. They didn’t try to place their own inadequacies into a grand tradition of previous inadequacies.

    I guess maybe it’s just that the things del Toro loves, he loves uncritically, so he recreates them warts and all. If you don’t share that love, though, it sure does look like plain old bad storytelling.

  46. I loved CRIMSON PEAK, except for the “Oh, del Toro forgot that he did the exact same thing in a previous movie” moments. It has a classic Hollywood era sensibility, that no other modern filmmaker was able to recreate before and it wasn’t even the nostalgiaturbating main attraction of the movie. They didn’t print posters that looked “old”, there were no opening or closing credits like in the old days, in the end it was a modern movie, made for modern audiences, that felt beautifully old fashioned in all the right places.

    But I also don’t get the hate for Tim Burton. I guess once he became the favourite director of “misunderstood” teen goth posers, people started to hate him and accused him of things and flaws, that weren’t his. (Like a few years ago, there was a FUNNY OR DIE skit, where an [admittedly very funny] Tim Burton impersonator pretended to make a new movie, but nothing in it was accurate. Like “Let’s make another movie where the suburbs are evil” or “Let’s make another dark version of a beloved kids fairy tale”.) I’ve said it before, the only two Burton movies that did nothing for me, were ALICE (which felt like one of those FUNNY OR DIE people tried to make a real Tim Burton movie, but of course had no idea what a real Tim Burton movie is) and BIG EYES (in which Burton coincidentally abandoned all of his trademarks, but the result was a boring “My abusive husband and me” Lifetime movie). Even his studio-noted-to-death PLANET OF THE APES has a certain entertainment value, that makes it impossible for me to hate it.

    But I guess that’s the problem with autheurs and people, who are looking at the screen, but don’t really SEE the movie.

    Oh whatever, it’s Saturday night and spent this week way too much time discussing movies with people, who seems to be grumpy ass bitches who hate everything good. (No offense. And the worst people were none of you and it happened on different websights.) Let’s have pizza.

  47. Tim Burton hasn’t made a good movie since Mars Attacks.

  48. The scene in Blade II that always stuck with me was the ending where Blade stays with Leonor Varela as the sun comes up. It’s sad yet beautiful, with a great score, and even though her character was pretty underdeveloped (the dvd has a deleted scene where i guess she hooks up with Blade I think?), it still affects me because it’s just such a strong idea and I loved seeing a kickass action movie end with this quiet, melancholy goodbye between two characters. Apparently another vampire movie that I haven’t seen ripped off this exact ending I hear, so I guess someone else really liked it as well!

    Re: Crimson Peak, I don’t understand why if anyone says they don’t like it, they immediately get the “Well it’s Gothic Romance and you were expecting a horror movie!! That’s why you didn’t like it!” defense. (It’s the new “You only didn’t like Halloween III because you were expecting Michael Myers to be in it because you apparently live under a rock!”). First, yeah pardon me for not realizing that this wasn’t horror, since ear-splitting jump scares and long CGI ghost stalking scenes, and face-stabbing, skull crushing violence is such a staple of “Gothic Romance”. I mean, seriously, there’s just as much horror and ghost emphasis/screentime than there is in pretty much most haunted house/ghost movies – if GDT/the studio didn’t bring up the “it’s not horror, it’s gothic romance!” line, absolutely nobody would be saying “this isn’t horror”. Second, by the time I saw the movie I kept my horror (and movie) expectations low, and still couldn’t get into a story that basically crossed every scary-yet-benevolent ghost movie like What Lies Beneath with every “You were supposed to con her, not fall in love with her!” movie. (With an incestuous dash of the love triangle from Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers). It looked nice though and I’m glad GDT got a studio to greenlight a big budget movie like this with actual stars and put it in to actual theaters, it’s just too bad the movie wasn’t better.

  49. This is a fun movie and the high point of the franchise. I rewatched part 1 & 2 a year or so ago. Many of the effects don’t hold up, but the technique on display is undeniable. This is probably my favorite del Torro movie. I am not saying it is his best film just the one I enjoyed the most. Guillermo is a talented director with a unquie vision, and I can see the comparisons to Burton because they both have such a passion for art direction, world building, and the fantastical but del Torro reminds me more of Ridley Scott. They are both have spent their careers spending a great deal of time on the smallest details when it comes to set and character design but don’t always show the same care when it comes to character development or story.

    I forgot Donnie was in this one until rewatching it.

    Vern, I saw this at the Oak Tree Cinema in north Seattle? Do you know if that theater is still around?

  50. Griff. The mountains of Madness would have been so cool! Lovecraft was very popular at the moment, but I think still was very twisted for the mainstream audience necessary for the budget that movie needed.
    The creatures designs Del toro made for The Hobbit were so sweet. All the creatures/monsters/ghosts from his movies look amazing, unlike the generic cgi things from most of Hollywood movies.
    I liked Hellboy 2, but the romance subplot feels so out of place. Maybe I was expectig something different, more in line with the comic.
    In Crimson Peak, I don’t think that the starring couple really work (bad castting? bad writting?). The dilapidated mansion set is gorgeous.

  51. Neal2zod –

    I sincerely found CP to be achingly romantic. My heart swelled during the elevator scene I described. I wish more movies had brutal violence, monsters and complex romance stories. I’d go see all of them. #DateNight

    Too, The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, and many other entries in the Romantic canon have strong horror overtones, so I think it’s pretty consistent with the literary heritage.

    In summary, go research the Lakeside Poets again.

  52. Wow, I’m a little surprised to see some hate for PACIFIC RIM, it’s not a flawless movie but I thought most everyone agreed it’s still a lot of fun?

    I’m pretty lukewarm on CRIMSON PEAK, I went in expecting a horror movie and it just wasn’t really scary at all, now I understand that’s a “Gothic romance” and I’m willing to give it another shot one day, aybe I’ll like it better, but the first go ’round I just remember being kind of bored save for ogling the incredible sets.

    Also, one more thing about Harry Knowles, how roasted do you think the guy would be in the modern climate by comments like “chocolate covered pussy juice” (used to describe the Speed Racer trailer) if anyone remembered who he was and his website?

  53. Tawdry – BIG FISH was pretty amazing and SWEENEY TODD was alright. Burton isn’t consistent anymore but to say he has put nothing out that is worth it since his weakest movie from the 90s (which I do love BTW) isn’t quite right.

  54. Burton’s APES would’ve been pretty awesome had it not been for that nonsensical ending that even he bit his writer could ever explain. It was a decent romp up to that point.

    Still worth it to see great actors like Clarke Duncan, Bonham Carter, Roth and Giamatti do their best to convincingly pass as apes with the addition of a crapload of prosthetics and actually succeed. Which is not as challenging as was the mocap guys in the recent APES movies have to deal with.

  55. Sorry damn voice text meant to say it was more challenging than what people like Serkis deal with today.

  56. The problem with Pacific Rim is that it’s not nearly as kick ass as the look of the film suggests. It actually almost feels like the sequel was released first because I would have preferred to see it when they were trying to figure out how to defeat the monsters.

  57. Hi Vern. I watched this again as well, and after not liking GDT’s previous 3 movies I was anxious to see if BLADE 2 was as great as I remembered. It was a relief to find out that it’s just as cool today, and that there definitely was a time when GDT really knew what the hell he was doing as a movie artist.

    I’m one of the people who does like this more than the original BLADE. And don’t get me wrong, I love BLADE and believe Snipes, Kristofferson, Goyer and Norrington deserve all the credit for creating the timeless characters of Blade and Whistler and for making such a cool world for him to exist/battle evil vampires in. But GDT did an equally impressive job of enriching that world and adding some great characters and mythology of his own, while also making a mission out of showcasing every way he could possibly imagine for Blade to do badass things. His ability to add a melancholy dimension to the evil monster also is something that not many other directors would have had the ability to pull off, and in my opinion is a much more successful version of the evocative twisted fairytale vibe he more explicitly chased in some of his later films.

    To me this is a movie as entertaining as ALIENS or PREDATOR, and frankly I enjoy it even more because its action is based on martial arts asskicking and gore sprays more than gunplay. The addition of longer takes and wrestling moves to the BLADE action scene repertoire still gets me jacked as fuck when I watch it. What’s Blade do to the bad guy at the end, a flying elbow drop? I love it. Makes me wanna hoot at the damn screen.

    As for the appeal of the Blade character, I can’t believe I have to explain this in the year of our lord 2017, we love him for the same reason we love many Clint characters or even the better Bond portrayals: He has an archetypal coolness, you believe that he’s bad as hell, he’s got a funny/grumpy/cool personality and great chemistry with Whistler, and more than anything you love watching him fearlessly step into situations where he’s outnumbered and outmatched and yet he still comes up with the Win. But even more than all that…

    He’s a black badass who stands nearly alone against an army of fancy white devils. These vampires are living large, having decadent parties, treating innocent people as prey to be toyed with and killed, and out of nowhere commando Wesley Snipes bursts in and decapitates them all. Basically Blade does the famous suiting-up scene from COMMANDO but instead of killing a bunch of Nicaraguans in the next scene, he’s brutally slaying the secret elite of uptight assholes who ruin the world from their seats of power. Better yet, HE’S ONE OF THEM. The FABLED DAYWALKER, he who travels between both worlds, the only guy on the planet who knows the vamps well enough to stalk THEM like prey, yet human enough for him to take a moral stand against the act of killing people and drinking their blood. Plus his best friend is Kris Kristofferson. Who the hell can resist that???

  58. Charles – yeah, pretty sure Oak Tree is still there, although I haven’t seen a movie there in years.

  59. That’s good to hear that it is still around. Lots of memories. Growing up I saw more movies at that theater than I can count.

  60. In the interests of fairness I rewatched CRIMSON PEAK. Unfortunately my opinion hasn’t changed. I followed it up by listening to the del Toro commentary and after his commentary track for PACIFIC RIM, I REALLY wish del Toro would make the movies he describes in his commentaries.

  61. If you’re wondering, del Toro says/thinks the movie failed because it was sold as a horror movie and it was unliked because the audience is threatened by a ‘strong female leading character.’

    Sure thing buddy.

  62. “Luke Goss (“Jared Nomak”) was a former pop star from the boy band Bros who had been in a few movies. This breakthrough role led to playing the elf equivalent of Nomak in del Toro’s HELLBOY 2”

    Glad people are noticing this. Exiting the theater after seeing HELLBOY 2, I thought that it’s basically the same story line as BLADE 2. Just replace vampires with elves.

  63. Lovecraft In Brooklyn

    April 4th, 2017 at 2:06 am

    I read a bunch of the 70s TOMB OF DRACULA comics & Blade is just as badass there. His main flaw is that he’s TOO GOOD at killing vampires, the more traditional Van Helsings want to get information & Blade just kicks ass instead.

    I like BLADE better than BLADE 2, Hellboy more than Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim more than you guys do.

  64. The AV Club’s A History of Violence – Blade (1998)

    Marvel finally scored a big-screen hit with Blade

    It’s hard to overstate just how exciting it was to see Blade in the theater.

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