Plot: What’s it about?
Viewers new to the “Blade” saga get a cliff notes version of the legend during a voice over narration that covers the opening credits. The filmmakers assume that 99% of the people who see the sequel know the set-up. No time is wasted in getting down to business. While there is an interesting premise to the sequel, “Blade II” seems to have more in common with “Mortal Kombat” than the original film. The movie is relentlessly loud and the frenetic editing left me with a headache. In the hands of a better director, “Blade II” could have been as good as the first film. Instead, we have some very cool ideas, likable performances and a terrifying new villain lost amid a thrash-metal music video from hell.
At a blood bank in Eastern Europe (run by vampires) homeless bums with no family members disappear for ever. A sickly looking junkie enters the cavernous building. He is led to his doom. Well, not quite. The junkie turns on the three vampires who are about to harvest his blood. He drinks their blood. Security guards watch on the monitor as the beast turns to the camera and says “I hate vampires.” Roll credits.
Blade (Wesley Snipes) has been hunting for Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) for two years. Apparently, the vampires led by Stephen Dorff in the first film turned Whistler into a vampire before he died from his self-inflicted gunshot wound. Blade looks for Whistler to either cure him or kill him. After disposing of more than a dozen souped-up motorcycle vampires, Blade rescues Whistler. He takes his fanged friend back to his stronghold and injects him with the vampire anti-virus. By morning Whistler will be cured or dead. Of course he is cured. During the two years Whistler was one of the undead, Blade found a new weapons and security expert. Scud (Norman Reedus) is a rock and roll prodigy who always has one of BladeÆs many security monitors tuned to “The Power Puff Girls.” Whistler and Scud butt heads when Whistler returns from the dark side. In the middle of their argument, the security system is activated. There are intruders.
In one of the filmÆs best action sequences, BladeÆs stronghold is infiltrated by two humanoids in outfits that make them look like martial arts mosquitoes. Blade battles the two in a scene which owes much to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Blade and the female mosquito battle to a Tarantinoish Mexican stand-off. The other mosquito yells out that they only attacked because BladeÆs people shot first. The two reveal themselves. They are vampire diplomats. Asad (Danny John-Jules) and Nyssa (Leonor Varela) bring Blade an offer of a truce. Cut to the Vampire NationÆs stronghold. Blade, Whistler and Scud have accompanied the diplomats to hear the terms of the truce. The father of all vampires tells Blade that there is a new threat which must be destroyed immediately. Blade is shown the film of the blood bank massacre. The junkie-looking beast on the video tape is Nomak (Luke Gross). Nomak is a reaper. He has mutated from a normal vampire into a beast which feeds on other vampires. Those bitten, in turn become vampires. Blade is asked to lead an elite group of vampire warriors called the Bloodpack against Nomak and the other reapers. Blade is told that the Blood Squad has been undergoing intensive training for two years. Blade responds that if the mutation has only recently occurred, what has this team been training to do. “To hunt you,” responds the vampire leader. Will Blade and the blood-sucking brigade destroy the reapers before they take over the world? Will Blade be able to trust the beings he leads into battle? Will Blade be overcome by NyssaÆs hot body and vampire philosophy?
The setup for “Blade II” had so much potential. The reason “Blade II” doesnÆt live up to the scriptÆs potential must be laid at the feet of director Guillermo Del Toro. A majority of the filmÆs numerous fight sequences are filmed in extreme close-ups and are edited with so many quick cuts that it becomes hard to appreciate the choreography. Wesley Snipes has proven that he is an exciting and more than competent movie martial artist. Such filmmaking style distracts from the very thing many “Blade” fans came to see. This isnÆt a fatal flaw, but it may make the difference between a big opening weekend and box-office longevity. Mr. Snipes takes awhile to hit his stride. This too is the fault of the director and to a certain extent, the screenwriter. Until Blade meets the vampire diplomats, he does nothing but strut and stomp. Once he gets to talk, SnipesÆ Blade comes to life. The characterÆs inner conflict between his human and vampire sides is one of the things that makes this character worthy of a series of movies. If folks wanted nothing more than a deluge of martial arts they would go see Steven Segal or the muscles from Brussels. The biggest mistake in the movie is the WWF style fight between Blade and Nomak. Using poor CGI effects, the filmmakers stage a fight as if they were putting on a “Wrestle Mania” pay-per-view.
Another weakness is the rescue of Whistler. It defies logic. I had to let go of this mistake in order to give the movie a chance. Leonor Varela as Nyssa is sexy, strong and for the most part silent. She and Snipes have good screen chemistry. Their interaction is one of the movieÆs bright points, even though the outcome is a bit sappy. Norman Reedus as BladeÆs new security expert is also very good. Ron Perlman as Rienhardt, the baddest of the bad blood squad members steals the show. He is fierce, funny and fast. The tension between he and Mr. Snipes is fun to watch.
One of the filmÆs biggest strengths and ultimate weaknesses is are the “reaper” special effects. These super undead creatures are truly terrifying. Many people in the sneak preview audience visibly jumped when the secret of these monsterÆs physiology was revealed. It is scary as hell. The problem is that the makers of this movie over-expose this feature to the point that it losses its shock value and the viewer finds themselves comparing the effect to other movies which it resembles. These guys need to go back and watch the monster movies of the 50s. Less exposure is more suspenseful. Then the shocks have more impact. One of the reasons for this overexposure is to have the audience empathize with the mutated monsters. It works to a point. You pity Nomak his fate.
My biggest complaint was that “Blade II” was less of a vampire movie than a martial arts film. The first film had a wonderful balance, a synthesis even between the two genres. “Blade II” should have had more molars to balance out the martial arts. All in all “Blade II” follows the rule of sequels. It isnÆt as good as the original, but fans will forgive its shortcomings and send the signal to the studios that they want a third film.
Video: How does it look?
The 1.85:1 image is anamophically enhanced and looks great. Colors are bright and very, very vivid. There is almost a 3-D like quality to the image, it’s so clear. Black levels are right on target and fleshtones are very natural without the slightest bit of artifacting to be found. I could go on and on, but trust me when I say that this is one of the better transfers that I’ve seen on DVD. When we say “Reference Quality”, this is what we’re referring to.
Audio: How does it sound?
When you have to turn down the volume at the menus, you know you might be in for a very loud movie. This is the case here. Included is a Dolby Digital EX soundtrack along with a DTS ES track. I listened to the DTS ES track first and was so impressed with the sound that I had to mute it just to comprehend how loud it was! The entire movie feels like you’re standing right in the middle of a nightclub. The bass and the surrounds rarely stop for anything and it does everything to enhance the viewing of the movie. There’s little else to say, if you want to show off your system, turn it to almost any scene in this movie. You won’t be disappointed. Top notch as was the original Blade.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Blade II is a two-disc Special Edition from New Line. While the film, and the franchise, has been successful; they loaded it down with features to entice any of the would be buyers out there. *Deep breath* Ok, here we go…The first disc houses the film and two commentary tracks plus the DTS ES and the Dolby Digital EX mix along with some other material. The commentary tracks are good, the first is by Guillermo del Toro and Producer Peter Frankfurt. They combine for a relatively good track, obviously concentrating on some of the more technical issues of the movie and how it was shot. For the "better" of the two commentaries, I’d tune into the second commentary track with Wesley Snipes (also a Producer) and David Goyer. It’s a bit more down to Earth and tells of the shoot and things from an actor’s point of view; mixed in with some details on the locations and such. An isolated score is also included on this disc. For the majority of the supplements, we head over to the second disc…
The second disc is broken down into three main sections and the Production Workshop is the first of these. Inside the Production Workshop, we find five sub menus for "The Blood Pact", "Sequence Breakdowns", "Visual Effects", "Notebooks" and "Art Gallery". Let’s look at "The Blood Pact" first. Running at nearly an hour and a half, this section is broken down into a few other sections, but it’s all part of the same feature. Telling how the movie was made, and even a feature similar to The Matrix, you can click on the vampire and easily be transported to another place on the disc. Not confusing after a few times with it! Next we have the Sequence Breakdowns which cover six different scenes in the movie "Blood Bank", "Ninja Fight", "Reapers in the House of Pain", "Underground", "Chapel Fight" and "Caliban". For each of these you can view both of the original script, the shooting script, the storyboards of the scene and an F/X breakdown of the scene. You can also view the final scene. Very interesting…
Next up are the Digital Effects and if you’ve seen the film, you know that plenty of the movie is based on this supplement. Essentially, this is two featurettes entitled "The Digital Maw" and "Progress Reports". They both tell of how the effects were placed in the movie, what it took to get the final cut of them and how they were digitally integrated into the final film. Interesting, but I found it a bit redundant. Still, it’s a great supplement to have if you’re into this sort of thing. The "Notebooks" section is pretty straight-forward and with a video intro. by the Director, Guillermo del Toro; we can guide through the three different notebooks. The Director’s, Script Supervisor’s and finally an Unfilmed Script pages are all shown. While only a few pages in length, it’s another great feature to have. Lastly, we find the "Art Gallery" which is essentially five different sections of still photographs. Sixteen deleted scenes are shown (this is selected from the main menu) and with a corny introduction by the director who says the word "Sperm" waaaay too many times, can be played all together or separately. Each scene has commentary by del Toro and Peter Frankfurt. The "Promotional Material" included houses the trailer, a short featurette on how to survive the Blade II video game a theatrical press kit and a music video by Cypress Hill "Child of the Wild West". All in all, it’s a rather good movie complimented by a substantial amount of supplements. This, however, is what we want so no complaining out of me! Fans of the movie and genre will be more than satisfied.