Blade II

I went to see Blade II as a fan. Not a raging, slavering at the mouth, vampire teeth wearing, sword toting fan. Actually, perhaps I’d be best described as a highly interested viewer, someone who enjoyed the first film, but honestly hadn’t given it a second thought since seeing it. However, now that I have seen the second installment, I plan to spend a fair amount of time shopping for leather coats and silver stakes to fit my new “slavering fanboy” persona.

Blade II once again stars Wesley Snipes as Blade; half man, half vampire, he hunts those who prey upon human flesh by night and hide from the light by day. Blessed with all of their strengths, but none of their weaknesses, save one, their hunger for blood, which he satiates with drugs, Blade is bound and determined to rid the world of the Vampire race. Now though, there is something much worse out there than vampires: The Reavers, a new race of bloodsuckers, which prey on vampire kind. Desperate, the vampires team up with their ultimate enemy, Blade, to rid the world of this much more dangerous foe.

Yes, Whistler is back, and no it isn’t some stupid “oh he wasn’t really dead” soap opera excuse. It works. And thank god it does work, because man it’s good to have him back. Kris Kristofferson crashes through and grinds up dialogue like nobody else. Snipes needs him as balance, every bit as much as Blade needs his mentor/father figure, Whistler.

Wanna know what else works? Everything. Every last thing. Blade II is so far beyond the original, which was in its own right a good action film, that I fear the original may be quickly forgotten in this stellar sequel’s shadow. The action is tougher, the shooting is sharper, the plot is tighter, the characters better. Director Guillermo Del Toro took Blade and made him twice the hero he was before. No, his personality hasn’t changed, the tone of the series hasn’t changed, nor has anything really tangible about the character or his surroundings been altered in some radical “make this my own” way. It’s just better.

Blade is everything he ever was in the first film or in the comics, just to the nth degree. As a result, the character, though he says little, comes off stronger, and more heroic than he ever did in the first film. Wesley needs this character. He IS this character. The same way that Christopher Reeves is and forever will be Superman, Snipes lives and breathes Blade. He looks it, he bleeds it, and we believe it. Wesley, keep playing this role! Don’t pass it up. This is the defining movie of your career. This IS your career buddy. Live it, love it, Blade is all you.

Even that would be enough to make me like this film. But Del Toro wants you to love it. No, no, he wants you to WORSHIP it. There has been no greater action movie in recent years. The action is PURE. Pulse pounding, thrilling, and tangibly dangerous. Blade II is a tremendous storm of manic tension, at the center of which stand Snipes, calm, cool, immobile. The rock of Gibraltar! Each and every shot is beauty to the eye. The kicks are super-powered but imminently believable. The jumps are outlandish but impossible not to buy into. True, there are a few moments of CGI that do go slightly awry. I wish directors would step out a minute and work on other ways to do things. CGI is a wonderful tool, but sometimes we need to be reminded that it isn’t always the best tool for every job. Overall, such inconsistencies are very minor and rare, in an otherwise amazingly choreographed and directed film.

Gore… my god this is a gory movie! Yet it’s not the least bit gratuitous. Every scene has a horror/gore element to it, but it feels right. It feels necessary, not sickening. Ok, the film isn’t exactly swimming in blood… though the weak stomached might feel a little sickening… but I can’t remember the last time I saw a film with this much goo and guts that let it flow so well without seeming excessive and forced.

In between the walls of withering bodies are a group of villainous vampires and disturbing reapers, diligently sculpted and delightfully cast by a wide assortment of high caliber Hong Kong masters (Donnie Yen), disturbing movie monsters (Luke Goss), and ego tripping baldies (Ron Perlman). It’s really more of an ensemble of villains than one central foe. Each is running his own game, cross within double cross, betrayal, secrets, and lies. From love interest, to maniacal crone, the entire lot plays its role to admirable efficiency, scumming it up better than most modern movie villains have even bothered to aspire to.

Despite consistent thumping action and hard hitting beats, Blade II develops plot and character in sweet harmony with its horror/action nature without stopping to miss a single sword swinging, gun toting beat. This is comic book brought to life. A superhero of a different caliber. Action at another level. Blade II is to action/horror what Alien was to horror/sci-fi. The upshot is, Snipes is aging a lot better than Sigourney Weaver.

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