Blade II
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Blade 2: Bloodhunt

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While most action sequels seem to feel that more disgusting the better, few actually even try to come up with an original approach. Blade II fortunately provides a good enough twist from the original so that it stands on its own while continuing the themes of the first. Based on a popular comic book (now called graphic novels) the story follows Eric Brooks (Wesley Snipes), also called Blade, the Daywalker. He is a hybrid half human half vampire that has all of their powers but none of their weaknesses. It is his mission in life to eradicate vampires. Now, a new strain of the virus that causes vampirism has mutated creating a super vamp, the Reapers. Patient zero, Jared (Luke Goss) has infected a growing number of reapers that feed on both humans and vampires. The head of the vampire nation (are they a political party?) Eli Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) sends his daughter Nyssa (Leonor Varela) to talk Blade into heading an elite vampire-fighting unit to destroy the Reapers. The plot is fuller than most action driven flicks. For one thing there is the natural tension created by having Blade lead a group that was originally created to destroy him. There is also the mandatory growing attraction between Blade and Nyssa. Since this film is almost 100% action there are no love scenes to bog things down. Speaking of the action, it is several notches higher than the original flick. From the first minutes of the film there are major fights, explosions and more fake blood used in the entire Rambo series. I have to give credit to the writers that there is actually an interesting set of circumstances created that add to the film rather than just give the speakers a rest every so often. We see a different Blade than shown in the first film. He seems to enjoy having to lead vampires that a few days ago were dedicated to his destruction. He visibly gets off on the irony of the situation. Adding to the fray are several little side plots such as tension between Nyssa and her father, Blades old side kick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) and new side kick Scud (Norman Reedus) and of course Blade’s two sides, vampire and human. These subplots create a sensation of tension where the audience actually finds relief when the circumstances literally explode. There is also some comic relief added, my personal favorite, when Blade notices a vampire brand on a man in a business suit he states "You’re human" to which the man replies "barely, I’m a lawyer’. It is the attention to little details like this that elevates this film above many of its contemporaries in the genre.

Snipes is one of the most charismatic action figures in cinema today. He exudes confidence and yet can permit a more vulnerable side to show through. Physically he is in the best possible shape here. He moves like a cat in the fight scenes. He also has an extremely expressive face. With action movies it is a great benefit when the hero can convey his emotions during even the most heated battles. Varela as Nyssa was a brilliant move by the casting director. Lithe and agile in every movement this young actress brings more to the mix than just a pretty face. She has talent in expressing the proper mood for the story. Kristofferson is typically great as the curmudgeon Whistler. You got to remember that this is a highly intelligent man, Rhodes Scholar, song writer and musician that seems to be able to succeed in more endeavors than most of us can dream about. I’m glad that they brought his character back and can even forgive the rather derivative method used for this resurrection. One of the best presentations is by Ron Perlman. Best known for his romantic role of Vincent in the TV series ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Perlman has been almost constantly at work. He has appeared in all types of films, provided his voice to animation and now is one of the truly great character actors around.

The career of director Guillermo Del Toro was greatly helped by his working for a while as a special effects makeup artist. This training has given him a great eye for the lost art of the close-up. Many directors think that just filling the frame with a face constitutes a close-up. Del Toro gets his actors to really expose their character’s emotions in these tight shots providing more impact than pages of dialogue could provide. Del Toro is no stranger to strange films. Among his previous works are Chronos and Mimic, both display an infatuation with oddly mutated creatures. In this he is similar to the fascination Cronenberg has with all aspects of flesh. The pacing of this film is incredible. Del Toro rides each scene with the balance of action and story to keep the audience wanting more. Among the newer techniques used here is the L-Cam, a computer animation system that permits the overlaying of digital stunt men into a scene. This was used here first and went on to such film as Spider-Man. There is a sense of gravity missing form these scenes, like the animated characters lacked the proper mass. Still, it permits the use of some incredible action sequences.

The two-disc set is reference level for modern DVDs. The audio is presented in both Dolby ES and DTS EX. I felt a greater depth to the DTS sound field. With both the mastering gain was set very high. I had to really push the volume down to void shaking things off the shelves. At times the dialogue was overwhelmed making me resort to the subtitles to follow what was being said. The picture is 1.85:1 anamorphic. Some covers will state 2.35:1 but this is a printing error. There are two commentary tracks, Director Guillermo Del Toro and Producer Peter Frankfurt and a second by Writer David Goyer and Wesley Snipes Personally I liked Snipes’ comments a bit more. The second disc is packed with extras including director’s notebook, a set of interviews and documentaries and alternate and deleted shots. There is even an isolated 5.1 score. For those aspirating directors out there the DVD ROM has a script to scene feature so you can follow along. This is on the must have list for DVD owners.

Posted 10/5/02

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