Blade II  (2002)R

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I had high hopes since this was directed by Guillermo del Toro, the guy who made the high-class Mexican horror film Cronos, which achieved what now seems impossible: a wholly original take on vampirism (something that Blade definitely isn’t). Many have said that this sequel is better than the first Blade. Alas, it is not. For one thing, there’s too much reuse of story bits familiar from the first film. And one or two of the fight scenes are shoehorned in with only the skimpiest plot justification — i.e. somebody saying “We came here to talk, not to fight!” five minutes later than they should have.

The character of Blade, as played by Snipes, is now one of the most one-dimensional roles in comic book films... they carried it off in the first film, with enough subtlety and suggestion of greater depths so that the character felt more like a complete person who was just showing a one-dimensional exterior. Not here. Blade has no discernible personality other than tough-guy-ness. And Snipes’ acting, I’m afraid, gets most of the blame.

The Hong Kong style action is now augmented by an additional fighting style in some of the later scenes: professional wrestling moves. These are augmented by CGI, to show things like characters leaping up twenty feet to drop elbow-first onto an opponent. Unfortunately you can always see the difference between which bits of action are CGI and which are flesh-and-bone actors. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s the way people move that is hardest to capture realistically in CGI. Some other CGI effects, such as dead vampires disintegrating into burning ash, come off quite well. And there are some pretty good traditional rubber effects, such as the grotesque mouthparts of the super-vampires that are feeding on the normal vampires.

Yeah, super-vampires. The plot is that the regular vampires form an alliance with Blade to fight these new critters. And though the story is nothing revolutionary, it is something other than a standard action-movie plot, and del Toro does deserve a lot of credit on one point: he dares to strip vampirism completely of all the pseudo-erotic bullshit that everybody else keeps trying to pile on top of it. From F.W. Murnau to the successors of Anne Rice, everyone has tended to keep making the vampiric bond more and more sexualized, until we’re all sick to death of the sleazy pretentiousness of the subject, but del Toro’s super-vampire is nothing but a humanized leech, an object of pure unambiguous revulsion.

All in all, what we’ve got pretty much resembles an exceptionally bloody and humorless episode of Buffy, with an R rating. But that in itself is not such a bad thing...