Super Movies – Blade II

Sorry for the late drop on this. A lot of things have piled up here lately, and last night, I suffered a bout of stupid that delayed things even more. But here we are.

To cap off our five-week festival of Superheroes Who Are Monsters movies, let’s look back at Blade II. Both Wesley Snipes and screenwriter David S. Goyer returned for the second go-round, but director Stephen Norrington did not (he instead directed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which apparently drove him to quit directing altogether). Taking the director spot this time was Guillermo Del Toro.

Oh and there was one more returning cast member. After a brief prologue, the credits inform us that Whistler, Blade’s mechanic/right hand man (played by Kris Kristofferson) who died in the first film, didn’t really die. He was turned into a vampire and spirited away. Blade has spent the last two years searching for him.

Cue the opening action sequence!

Blade is in the Czech Republic, doing what he does best. He kills a few vamps, and like the first film, they disintegrate into flaming ash when they die, a really cool effect that ups the ante from the standard Buffy vamp dust. He gets one to take him to Whistler’s location, and kills a bunch more. He even stabs one in the balls. Man, he really does not like vamps.

The action choreography is different this time from the first film. Wesley Snipes himself was credited with the martial arts choreography in the first film, but for the sequel, they brought in a specialist from Hong Kong. More about him later. Suffice to say that the choreography goes to more extremes now–more cool stuff, but also a lot of superfluous hand-waving and silly posing.

So Blade kills off all of the vamps except the one he made the deal with to bring him here.  Instead of killing him, he gives him the Ghost Rider Point.

Things look bad for that guy in the future. Just saying.

So Blade goes into the room where the vamps have Whistler imprisoned. And let me just take a moment to comment on the set-up here. Apparently, the reason Blade was unable to find Whistler for two years was that the vamps kept moving him around. So was Whistler working with them, telling them Blade’s secrets, or maybe making them the same kind of awesome weapons he was making for Blade?

Nope, they were just torturing him, then healing him, then torturing him again (and also making him wear shiny bronze-colored leather pants, the fiends). Thing is, in the 6 minutes Blade has been onscreen so far, he has killed 14 vamps. How many of their kind has Blade killed in his two-year, single-minded search for his former partner? Wouldn’t somebody have realized at some point that they were just making him madder? Vamps are stupid, is what I’m saying. Remember this for later.

Oh yeah, Blade finds Whistler in a Star Wars healing pod.

Blade cures Whistler using the retrovirus Dr. Karen developed in the first film. This doesn’t sit well with his new partner, a pot-smoking tool named Scud. Scud doesn’t trust ex-vampire Whistler, and Whistler thinks the young punk is doing everything wrong.

Suddenly, Blade’s headquarters is invaded by a couple of vampire ninja in cool hoods that protect them from light. And if the bad-ass suits look like something out of del Toro’s later Hellboy, well, that’s because Hellboy creator Mike Mignola served as conceptual artist on this film.

After a quick fight to prove to everyone how bad-ass they all are, the vamps offer Blade a truce. They need Blade’s help, because there is something else out there hunting vampires. Something worse than Blade.

So Blade agrees to go to the meeting with the vampire overlord. But he opens his coat to show the female vamp, Nyssa, his little surprise.

Get your minds out of the gutter. It’s explosives, as insurance against treachery. Nyssa takes Blade to vampire corporate headquarters to meet her father, vampire overlord Eli Damaskinos. He’s slimy.

Damaskinos and his lawyer tell Blade about their enemy–Nomak, a vampire carrying a mutated version of the vampire virus they have dubbed the Reaper strain. Nomak and his infected minions hunt vampires, and when they run out of vampires to eat, humans are next on the menu. The proposal: Blade joins with a special vampire commando unit called the Blood Pack (originally set up to hunt Blade himself) to hunt down Nomak.

Blade agrees and meets the Blood Pack, a motley group of pseudo-badasses with cartoonish names and costumes, but really, they might as well be called “Five Redshirts and Ron Perlman.”

Some directors have their go-to guys, the ones they always seem to love working with. Perlman is del Toro’s, having also featured in Cronos, Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

Blade out-badasses the redshirts and leads them to a vampire nightclub where they have their first encounter with the Reapers. And this extended sequence is where you can really start to tell just how much more complex and expensive this movie is than the first one. The club is huge and elaborate, and the fights happen in parallel across several different locations, all incredibly full of detail.

So it’s a real treat for the viewer, but not so much for the Blood Pack, because their enemies are not vulnerable to either silver or garlic (which is what their gun ammunition is made from) or the anticoagulant Blade used to kill Frost in the first film. And they can do this.

Nasty. It doesn’t seem to bother this guy, though.

That’s Snowman, played by Donnie Yen. And I only single out this one member of the Blood Pack because he’s also the guy they brought in from Hong Kong to do the fight choreography. He doesn’t speak a single word in the entire film. Why speak softly and carry a big stick when you can not speak at all and carry a badass sword?

The fight doesn’t go well for the Blood Pack. They manage to drive the Reapers away, but lose one of their own in the process. But they learn that the Reapers are still vulnerable to UV light. It seems to be their only weakness.

And Blade and Nyssa finally meet Nomak face-to-face.  He looks… vaguely familiar.

Scud is upset that Whistler disappeared during the fight. Whistler, however, has a good reason. He has found a live Reaper, trapped and unable to escape. They learn two other weaknesses in this way. Without blood, the Reapers die quickly because of their heightened metabolism. And during an autopsy, Nyssa discovers that the heart is shielded from frontal attack by bone, but vulnerable from the side.

Blade decides that their best bet is to hunt the Reapers during the daytime. The vampires aren’t happy with this plan, or with the weapon of choice: grenades that create a burst of artificial sunlight, which will kill the vamps as well as the Reapers.  Blade dismisses their concerns none too gently, which upsets Nyssa, who is developing a fondness for Blade.

While Blade is taking his serum, the one that lets him control his thirst for human blood, Nyssa confronts him with the fact that he, too, shares their vampiric nature. Why deny what he really is to work for the other side? Damn, Wesley Snipes, she just called you an Oreo.

The Blood Pack enters the sewers to hunt down the Reapers. They have a bunch of UV grenades and a big UV bomb that Whistler and Scud have somehow managed to design, test, perfect and manufacture in quantity in about three hours. But in true redshirt fashion, they split into teams: the good, the bad, and the useless.

The useless team kill themselves without encountering a single Reaper except the team member who has been keeping his infection a secret. The bad get far enough away that Blade can’t interfere, then attack Whistler. The good, including Blade and Nyssa, actually find a bunch of Reapers and kill them.

But a lot more appear, so they retreat to regroup around the big bomb carried by Reinhardt (Ron Perlman). There are only three left: Reinhardt, Nyssa, and Blade. Whistler has managed to set off the pheromones and has traded being beaten up by a vamp to being trapped by Reapers. Blade sends Nyssa and Reinhardt for cover and sets off the UV bomb.

He finds Nyssa badly burned; she wasn’t able to find complete cover. She is dying. And since Blade has developed feelings for her, he cuts his own wrist and lets her feed so she can heal. Which is when he gets zapped from behind by a bunch of vampire stormtroopers.

See, the vampires had a secret agenda. The Reaper strain wasn’t a natural mutation of vampirism; it was designed by Damaskinos’s vampire scientists to try to overcome the vampires’ natural weaknesses. Nomak, the carrier and Damaskino’s son (via test tube), was supposed to be the vanguard of a new vampire master race.

But he got out of control and had to be put down. So they brought in Blade, with the help of a spy infiltrated into his organization. And of course, it’s not Whistler who just spent two years with them. It’s Scud, Damaskinos’s familiar.

So get this: the vampires want a way to get at Blade, who has no mechanic/weaponsmaster to work with. We’ve seen Blade make his own silver bullets, but it’s a stretch to think he can do all the things Whistler could. So the vampires give Blade a new Whistler, who makes Blade new weapons with which to kill them and even helps Whistler perfect the UV grenade that he had been unsuccessful at making before. And at the price of making Blade an even more effective killer of their own kind, they got what, exactly? See, vampires=stupid. Oh and also, Scud=blowed up.

But Blade is still a prisoner and Nomak is still vulnerable to sunlight, which means the vampires still have work to do. They decide to start by draining all of Blade’s blood and bone marrow to find the element in his genetic code that allows him to walk in daylight. Then they’ll use it to perfect their uber-vampire.

But of course, they don’t count on Nomak, who has followed the vamps to Vampire World Central and begun tearing his way through the stormtrooper guards. In the confusion, Whistler manages to break free of Reinhardt and helps Blade into a bloodbath to heal. And remember last week when I said Blade never gets a drop of blood on him? This time, he emerges from being completely drenched in blood, and within seconds, there’s no trace of it.

Blade kills Reinhardt and about 30 stormtroopers, then searches for Nomak, who is hunting Damaskinos and Nyssa. Nyssa is upset at the ways her father used her and her team to get to Blade.  So she turns on him, trapping them both with Nomak. Nomak kills Damaskinos and infects Nyssa before Blade shows up.

Time for the big final fight. Blade and Nomak go at it with everything they’ve got, including martial arts, pro wrestling finishing moves, and lots of work by their virtual stunt doubles from the Uncanny Valley.

Blade manages to finish off Nomak by stabbing him through the heart sideways, and then he rushes to Nyssa’s side. What’s wrong with her can’t be fixed by simply letting her feed this time, so he carries her outside at her request, to see the sun. And we get the most romantic immolation by sunlight ever.

Poor Blade. Still alone, except for Whistler. Would that change in the third movie? Find out in two weeks when we finish off the Blade trilogy with Blade: Trinity.

Why two weeks, you ask? Because next week, we’ll have a special presentation for the weekend of the Fifth of November.

And be sure to come back tomorrow for our very special Halloween surprise!

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2 Responses to Super Movies – Blade II

  1. Sargon says:

    On the commentary track Del Toro said they actually had a different person choreograph each fight, and that Yuen’s contribution was pretty much strictly his own scene in the club. This movie actually has a really informative, funny director’s commentary. Also on the deleted scenes, where he is basically mocking Thomas Kretchman’s alternate Damiskenos look (with hair) as “looking like Micheal Bolton”.

  2. Tony Frazier says:

    I don’t have the commentary track on my cheap version of the movie. I would like to see it with the commentary sometime.

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