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Blade II (2002)
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
review by Christopher Geary
Stephen Norrington's Blade (1998) was an enjoyable slice of vampire slaying action with high levels of martial arts and splashy gore, and a scattering of digital illusions, based on a comic-book series. This overdue sequel marks the return of vengeful hero, Blade - alias half vampire half human 'Daywalker' (Wesley Snipes), and his mentor Whistler (a hairy Kris Kristofferson) - rescued from years of imprisonment during the film's opening.
Back at Blade's hideout, the reunited old friends are unexpectedly invited into the fortress lair of their archenemies, for a meeting with Nosferatu-like vampire overlord Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), who persuades the stony-faced Blade to lead his 'Bloodpack' (a squad of assassins trained to slay our hero!) against a mutual threat to both vampires and humans posed by a genetically modified breed of undead called 'reapers'. These reapers appear as super-energetic zombie flesh-eaters, with sickly marbled skin and probably the grossest feeding habits since Cronenberg's The Fly (1986).
As you would expect, the Bloodpack - which includes Reinhardt (genre veteran Ron Perlman), samurai Snowman (Hong Kong star Donnie Yen), and ninja babe Nyssa (Chilean born Leonor Varela) - are not keen on following Blade into battle against a new, and rapidly multiplying, hard target. The reapers are, perhaps, a variation on the inhuman creatures of Guillermo del Toro's earlier SF-horror, Mimic, but whatever the director's source of inspiration for these horrifically gruesome food-chain antagonists, they are - for the most part - effectively hideous and dangerous adversaries for Blade.
Unlike the many and varied Dracula films, or TV's Buffy, the milieu of Blade maintains a determinedly science fictional take on vampirism. There's almost nothing here to suggest any supernatural or magical origin for the bloodsuckers. They are depicted in rather more clinical terms as bizarre mutant hybrids, which have overrun a futuristic - or alternative - world like a viral plague. That's not to say this film lacks a sense of morality, but Blade's one-man war is about right and wrong, not good and evil.
With its plot involving 'racial' genocide and total bloody warfare in eastern Europe, it's tempting to read this as a twisted allegory of ethnic cleansing. Climactic revelations about a bid for eugenic supremacy add a further dark aspect to the unfortunately muddled plot, partly derived from contemporary GM fears and other monstrous 'perversions' of modern science. Despite such allusions, it's important to note that like its predecessor, Blade II is concerned with style over content. Fashion is just as important as winning the battle, so when he strides towards his final encounter with lead reaper Nomak (Luke Goss), the hero's cool designer shades are as indispensable as his body armour.
The CGI visuals of Blade II are adversely distracting, especially when they are used to replace real actors during impossible wire-stunts in fighting sequences. This may be due to limits of the technology or lack of sufficient funding to polish effects work, but it definitely undermines the frantically paced superhero action - which is unfortunate because, generally, the film delivers the goods when it comes to exciting combat with guns, UV light-bombs, and decapitating swords.
Trivia fans should watch out for Danny John-Jules (the Cat from Red Dwarf) in a minor role.
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