Monday, April 09, 2007

Blade 2 – review

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Release Date: 2002

Contains spoilers

This is (obviously by the title) Blade’s second big screen outing and I need to get this out of the way right now. I am a big fan of del Toro’s films (as regular reader may have picked up on) and therefore I am biased as I write this review. To me this was Blade’s finest outing – the score is going to be good and I’m going to gush embarrassingly over the film. You’ve been warned!

Once again Wesley Snipes plays Blade but the prologue is specific to the storyline and does not involve the daywalker. A man enters a blood donation service in the Czech Republic and sits next to another, Jarod Nomak (Luke Goss). Nomak is taken through and is asked questions, including how he got the scar on his chin. A childhood accident, he says. As he is guided into a room he is told that his blood contains a rare phenotype that they have never seen before. Nomak is to be completely harvested as the blood bank is run by vampires.

Nomak begins to laugh and attacks the three vampires. Before feeding on the third he looks up at a security camera and says “Vampires! I hate vampires!” Del Toro is careful through this sequence to hide the feeding method, just hinting at something in his mouth – of course I’m going to spoil it later.

Over the title sequence we get a Wesley Snipes voice-over that outlines a little background and also mentions Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), specifically that Blade is hunting him. Remember I mentioned in the Blade review that we did not see Whistler’s suicide shot, well he might have fired a round but he had already turned.

Following the titles we get a group of vampires running from Blade. There is a protracted chase and fight sequence and the main thing to notice is that del Torro made the dusting effects a lot more luminescent. We can also see that there is a tad more humour tinged through the film, such as when Blade leaps on a motorbike, garrottes the vampire rider, takes the controls and stops before his own car that is blocking the alley. Before the action continues Blade blows himself a kiss in the window. To me this indicated a Blade who was more comfortable with himself and his inner struggles, compared to how we saw the character in the first film.

Blade gets the last vampire, Rush (Santiago Segura), and forces him to tell him where Whistler is. He breaks into the warehouse and fights his way through until he gets to a room and finds Whistler in a stasis tube. He releases his old mentor and, for a moment, appears as though he would stake him. He puts the silver stake away and takes Whistler back to his hideout. In the hideout is his new weapon smith/mechanic, Scud (Norman Reedus), who is less than impressed that Blade has not killed Whistler.

Whistler is placed in a cell and given an accelerated retro-virus detox treatment. Whistler still seems insensible but Blade tells him that in the morning the security blinds on the window will be opened, whether he is cured or not. The cure seems to hold, Whistler has been out for two years and repeatedly tortured and then healed – though they never fixed his gammy leg. Scud is still unsure about Whistler and Whistler is less than impressed by Scud. However intruders have breached the perimeter in the form of sun-suited vampire ninjas.

There is a sword fighting sequence and, whilst it is well done, this is one of my (very minor) irks with the film. It is too obvious that much of the fight is CGI. I think the reason is that the movement is too fast and too fluid to be a human. Whilst that shouldn’t be a problem it does jar slightly as, deep down, we know that a human actor or stunt man couldn’t move that fluidly. The fight ends without fatality. The two vampires are Nyssa (Leonor Varela) and Asad (Danny John-Jules) and have a message from the vampire ruling council. They wish to call a truce and have an offer.

Blade travels with them to the Caliban Industries building and meets Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) an ancient vampire, bald and marble skinned. The vampires have a problem, a new strain of the vampire virus (dubbed the reaper strain) has appeared and these voracious vampires are hunting their kind, those bitten turn and the reapers will spread exponentially – Nomak is patient zero. Also at the meeting is familiar Kounen (Karel Roden) who gets a great little comedy line – Blade “You’re human.” Kounen “Barely, I’m a lawyer!”

Blade is asked to lead a group of pureblood vampire warriors named the Bloodpack, who have been training for two years to take him out. The carrot is dangled that, when the reapers have finished with the vampires, they’ll turn on the humans, however Blade is aware that the vampires will betray him eventually but the truce will get them deeper into vampire society and give them more intelligence on how they live. Unfortunately, as well as the possibility of vampire betrayal it seems that there might be a spy in Blade’s camp.

We looked extensively at the vampire lore used in these films in the Blade review. The reapers are something else, however. They are immune to garlic and silver and have bone casing around the heart, with just a slight aperture, making staking very difficult. They seem to shrug off damage and EDTA - the anti-coagulant from the first film – is useless. The only real weakness they have is sunlight. We actually see one have part of its head cut off and the main body sunlight destroyed. The eye on the remaining portion of head continued to move.

The feeding method is very different. Their mouths split at the chin and they have no lower mandible. The lower fangs inject a neurotoxin, paralysing the victim, whilst a strong, snake like tongue actually feeds, barbs on the tongue transmit the virus. They have to feed about every two hours or their hyper-accelerated metabolism will start to devour them from the inside.

The film is much darker than the first in tone and it is with the reapers that this truly is revealed. They hunt in packs and lop along like beasts, their visage is akin to Nosferatu. What we have is an animalistic, voracious killer that is virtually unstoppable and, for once, a film made vampires scary again.

As for the actual vampires, we do get a couple of extra snippets. Damaskinos bleeds green, not red and is so old that he turns to marble on death. We also begin to see more of how the purebloods feel about turned vampires, when bloodpack member Priest (Tony Curran) comments about a nightclub of vampires, “Look at them. Half of these ba***rds, they're not even pure bloods. I tell you what, why don't we f***ing kill everyone just to make sure.” This attitude really comes into its own in the TV series. Blade also gets a new weapon in the film, UV bombs, and he also seems to develope a romantic bond with pureblood Nyssa.

The casting is excellent, with Snipes comfortable in the role and Kristofferson excellent, again, as Whistler. Ron Perlman takes on the role of Bloodpack member Reinhardt and is first-rate in the role – as one would expect. I was a little less sure about Danny John-Jules, though there is absolutely nothing wrong with his performance. The problem is entirely down to me, as I am a Red Dwarf fan and I can’t see him without thinking of the Cat.

Most impressive, however, was Luke Goss as Nomak. Now some of you may be unfortunate enough, like myself, to remember Bros – the awful pop combo that Goss was in. Just hearing that he was in the film turned my stomach. Well, you know what, he was absolutely superb and delivered a first rate performance. Kudos to him.

The story is well rounded, though not as convoluted as the first film as the backstory and main rules are already established. The soundtrack again is quite a pounding, urban piece – again not my cup of tea but fitting the movie perfectly. Still action packed, darker and superbly directed this is a film that did the unusual – a sequel that blew the original away. This is how an action movie should be. 8.5 out of 10.

There’s just time to mention an extra on the DVD, a deleted scene that sees Damaskinos with hair – before they realised it looked really silly. Strange to say, he looks like Michael Bolton.

The imdb page is here.


DarkwingDave said...

The points you were were on target - the first fight scene looked really fake but the others were decent. The ending was great revisiting the one that got away..One point I had about the dusting scenes - why did all the others go up so dramatically yet Nyssa gently goes to ambers like a campfire in our hero's arms?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Good point Dave - obviously for effect only, but rather inconsistent.

The T said...

Good review. I think one of the best things about this movie is the two villains: Nomak and Damaskinos. They both look evil and menacing enough and at the same time have the size and the looks to convince as vampires. Great casting, unlike the atrocious, horrendous choice for Dracula in Blade 3

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The T, the only problem with the look of the villains, in this, is in the extras when Damaskinos had hair - can we say Michael Bolton!