In one particularly telling scene in Guillermo del Toro’s “Blade 2,” a vampire is nailed to the wall by another character’s sword, but instead of pulling the sword out and escaping that way, the vampire scurries up the wall thus slicing open his pelvis area! That scene epitomizes the feel, look, and execution of “Blade 2.”
“Blade 2″ follows a few years where the original “Blade” left off, with Blade, the half-human half-vampire vampire slayer doing what he does best — slaying vampires without mercy and looking very cool while doing it. As anyone who has seen “Blade” knows, Kris Kristofferson’s Whistler character, after being bitten by a vampire, committed suicide by way of a bullet to the brain rather than turn into a vampire himself. “Blade 2″ opens with Blade in search of Whistler’s body, and locating him inside a vampire safehouse. Whistler is still alive and after being injected with a serum, still human. Although, under writer David Goyer (who also wrote the original’s screenplay) and director Guillermo del Toro (“Mimic”), that last statement might be in some doubt. The filmmakers continue to insert doubts into our minds about Whistler’s loyalty, and the real answer doesn’t come until the end.
Problems for Blade and his vampire-hunting crew (now joined by a new and younger version of Whistler named Scud (Norman Reedus, fresh from “Deuces Wild”)) arise when the vampire nation (think Corporate Vampires) recruits Blade to hunt down a new species of deadlier and tougher vampire called the Reapers. As the vampires tell Blade, the Reapers evolved from the vampire strain, and are currently feeding on vampires exclusively, but will soon move to humans. (In the Blade universe, vampirism is actually a contagious virus, and the Reaper strain is a mutated version of said vampire virus.) Blade agrees and hooks up with the Bloodpack, the vampire nation’s best soldiers. And oh yeah, the Bloodpack was originally created to kill Blade!
“Blade 2″ is nearly two hours of nonstop action, exploding bodies, incinerating vampires (the vampires incinerate like napalm when killed), and enough hardware to put the Pentagon to shame. Under del Toro’s direction, “Blade 2″ is a furious film that goes out of its way to wow the audience with its innovative action and special effects. Of particular interest (because I believe this is the first time it’s used so extensively) is the nearly flawless use of real actors and their CGI counterparts. The technique is done in a way that a character, moving onscreen, will literally turn into its CGI version, thus allowing the characters to leap from floors to ceilings and do other impossible acrobatic feats. That isn’t to say the CGI are any more lifelike than say Spiderman swinging through Manhattan. It’s just that the transformation from human actor to CGI creation is so smooth and convincing that the audience will be completely fooled for a brief moment before realizing that it’s the CGI doing the gravity-defying stunts.
Besides the hyperkinetic action (and make no mistake, “Blade 2″ gives the phrase “wall to wall action” a whole new standard), there’s a burgeoning love story between Blade and co-star Leonor Varela, who plays Nyssa, the daughter of the vampire nation’s leader, as well as being the leader of the Bloodpack. Varela is attractive and has a smoldering sexuality, and she works well with Blade. The two are natural enemies (he’s dedicated his life to killing her kind, and she’s been trained exclusively to kill him), but manages to find common ground in their (grudging but) growing respect for one another’s skills and conviction. It doesn’t hurt that Leonor Varela (“Texas Rangers”) is incredible to look at.
The design of the Bloodpack is nice, but unfortunately they’re not all that interesting. There are few characters that stand out, with one being Ron Perlman as Reinhardt, a hard-nosed vampire who can’t wait to kill Blade. Chinese movie star Donnie Yen (“Legend of the Wolf”) also shows up as Snowman, a sword-wielding member of the Bloodpack. (Yen may have had a couple of lines of dialogue in the film, although I can’t be sure.) The rest are interchangeable, which is also true of the Reapers, who despite being very hard to kill (they’re impervious to garlic and silver, but not sunlight), aren’t all that interesting. They don’t actually look very tough, and even their leader, Nomak (Luke Goss) is rather bland in look and character.
Guillermo del Toro has crafted a really find action film here. Del Toro and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain lenses the film using tinted yellow filters that gives the movie’s Prague location a gritty, almost doomed, vibe. It’s too bad del Toro gives up the downtrodden Prague landscape for (the strangely very clean) sewer systems and, toward the end, a sophisticated metal complex. I would have liked to see more of this Eastern European city’s urban sprawl, but I guess you can’t have everything.
On the basis of delivering what it promises, “Blade 2″ succeeds in spades. That doesn’t mean its storylines are always plausible, and the obvious absence of any law enforcement is a little hard to swallow. We’re talking about explosions, gunfire, and entire buildings being destroyed, and yet no police officer ever bothers to show up.
Goyer makes up for the plot gaps with a nice, underlying theme of trust and brotherhood. Blade and Whistler’s relationship is very well done, increasing the two men’s need for each other from the first film. There is a sense of growth and closeness between them now, which means both actors’ return is crucial for a successful (and inevitable) second sequel.
It should also be noted that the action sequences within “Blade 2″ are more spectacular, elaborate, and exciting than anything I’ve seen in Chinese martial arts films in recent memory. It might be a little premature to say so, but with films like “Blade 2″ and “The Matrix,” Hollywood is slowly but surely threatening to eclipse Hong Kong as the chief purveyor of hyperkinetic action films. Only a few years ago this notion would be laughed at, but that seems to no longer be the case.
Guillermo del Toro (director) / Guillermo del Toro, David S. Goyer (screenplay)
CAST: Wesley Snipes …. Blade
Kris Kristofferson …. Abraham Whistler
Norman Reedus …. Scud
Leonor Varela …. Nyssa Damaskinos
Ron Perlman …. Reinhardt
Luke Goss …. Jared Nomak