I knew about Guillermo Del Toro before he made Blade 2, but I didn’t really have much of an opinion about him positive or negative, he’d made a couple of OK films, promising but not groundbreaking stuff.
When Blade 2 was released (2002) I was given a dodgy pirated copy of the DVD way before it was released to cinemas in Australia, maybe only a week or two after it was released in the US. I was sceptical, as pirate DVDs are almost always crappy quality and aren’t too kind to SFX heavy movies, and you usually get the silhouette of the guy standing up trying to find his seat just as things get interesting.
I had seen the original Blade and thought it was OK, but it didn’t blow me away, so I had no special urge to see Blade 2 in the first place. It was for this reason that I decided screw the quality I’ll just watch it to kill some time.
Then a funny thing happened, I watched the first 5 minutes and realised this was not a hand-held camera in the cinema job, but a genuine DVD quality version, and not only that it was a very cool film… for the first 40 minutes… then my DVD player said “no more”, and kept spitting out the DVD. I tried another DVD player; no dice, and another; same result.
So now I am left with two options, wait two or three months to see the ending to a movie that I know is at least very good, or find a DVD player that works. Now I have a mate, let’s call him Ringworm that at the time had a pricey DVD player and speaker setup in his home, and he lived around the corner from me, so I gave him a call.
One lazy Saturday arvo we caught up, slumped on his couch and slipped in the DVD with the speakers cranked up, and had a cracking two hours. I still recall the shared “woah” when the Reaper’s jaws started…. and now I’ve said too much.
Suffice to say, this is the movie that made me a GDT fan, and though I haven’t been wowed as much by Pan’s Labyrinth or Hellboy 1 or 2 as Blade 2, I have faith that he has at least 2 or 3 more classics in him. I am prepared to give him the time to get to them.
Blade 2 opens in a seedy looking “blood clinic” in the Czech Republic, where the guy who was in the 80s boy band “Bros” (seriously) anxiously awaits his appointment time. Bros is Nomak, and it looks like he is to be a victim of a trap until…
The credits start, and Blade gets us up to speed, a useful technique that is over in around 3 minutes, and kills two birds with one stone. Newbies and those that forgot are updated, and we know who edited the film and other miscellaneous stuff that no-one pays attention to.
We catch up with Blade in a 6 minute scene that effectively shows us everything that is cool about Blade, (and why he deserves better films than Blade: Trinity).
– Cool weapons and toys, including a muscle car.
– Heavily stylised movements, violence and stunts.
– Cheesy jokes and dry dialogue.
– Cool karate moves and a no mercy approach to killing vamps.
– The man wears his sunglasses at night! COME ON!
At the end of the scene Blade does what he said he would do in the credits, he saves Whistler, played by the haggard Kris Kristofferson, who I would never picked as the guy who would say “Like hammered shit” and make it sound cool.
So we’re 10 minutes in, we know the primary guys and their background, now we can go into the Blade 2 plot. Mmmmmm, that’s good moviemaking.
After a momentary digression to meet Josh, Blade’s new “assistant” who calls himself “Scud” and called Blade “B” for some reason, Blade announces that he is giving Whistler some… stuff.
Might I say now that I vote for calling anything mysterious and made up “Dilethium crystals” in honour of Star Trek, similar to the movie convention of having every phone number begin with 555. This would free up a lot of time for writers struggling with whether to call the miracle cure “Magic beans” or even “Prozium” from the most recent film that used made up stuff that I have watched, Equilibrium.
Then the vampires drop by for a visit to tell Blade and crew about the latest threat to mankind, called Reapers. But not before it is clearly evident by some very dodgy CGI work that not all the budget went to special effects.
As a Red Dwarf fan I immediately recognised the Cat as one of the vamps. This wasn’t much of a stretch for him I’d reckon, same fake teeth, just a different species.
After a brief chat the Blade posse hitch a ride to Vampire HQ for the exposition part of the film, where the next 90 minutes are nicely mapped out for us, allowing Blade to get to the serious business of killing various things.
After Blade is told all about the Reapers by head vampire Damaskinos, which in short are a threat to both vampire and human, he is introduced to his soldiers for the mission. They are called the Blood Pack and include the usual Gen X crew of tattooed, pierced muscle bound freaks, including the underrated Ron Perlman and the horribly under-utilised in this film Donnie Yen. I’m not sure if GDT wasn’t aware of what Donnie can do, or if he was concerned Donnie would show up Wesley’s karate “skills” with his own (which he sooo would have), but in any case he gets about 4 minutes of screen time and not one line of dialogue.
There is very cool bit where Blade effectively shows the Pack, including Ron, just who is running shit, it’s worth watching more than once, and as GDT realises that, he makes Blade do the same thing again.
There are three “BIG” scenes in the film. The first is the stakeout and search of the House of Pain, a vampire club. Coincidentally the best bit of Blade by far was also the scene in the vampire club, at least Blade 2 has several other scenes which are almost as good, which the original did not.
I know I’m getting older now, but I still would think it a bit odd when 8 odd heavily armed and shirtless guys walk into a club unchecked, and no-one even bats (pun not intended) an eye.
The scene is given time to play out, we witness all the kinks and quirks of the vampires in their “natural habitat”, and the tension builds once it is evident that Blade will face the Reapers for the first time.
And when the Pack finally do meet the Reapers in the flesh, it still gives me tingles when the “Woah” moment arrives.
In the first showdown between Blade and Nomak it appears that they are quite evenly matched, and that Nomak has had some karate lessons on the sly, we are given a taste of what might come, but ultimately it is left for later.
The second BIG scene occurs when the Blood Pack and Blade venture into the tunnels to take on the Reapers in their home turf, even though it contains much of the action and killing in the movie it is simply a prelude for the even BIG-ger finale to come.
The final BIG scene is the showdown that occurs at vampire HQ, and it has everything that a grown boy needs from his vampire flick: torture, stylised violence, faceless henchmen that are really only fodder between boss fights, WWE Smackdown moves, blood-baths and of course SUNGLASSES!
If you were underwhelmed by Blade, or can’t be bothered with most comic book adaptations I would still urge you to check this out. Blade 2 isn’t just Del Toro cutting his teeth, it is a really solid movie when considered on its merits. It stands head and shoulders above Blade and (especially) Blade:Trinity, neither of which I own.
The movie is violent, of course it is. But once you are able to get your head around the fact that Blade is simply butchering vampires and reapers, (none of which exist guys), all thoughts of how gratuitous it all is should vanish. This is the same with zombies really; vampires and zombies don’t exist, and if they do they’re already dead anyway, so killing them is perhaps a little redundant and therefore warranted.
This movie is so stylised that I argued one day that it should almost be the first movie shot entirely in slo-mo, that “honour” eventually went to Zack Snyder’s 300, which turned 80 minutes of action into a 2 hour flashy crawl.
All in all I strongly recommend Blade 2, it obviously has good production values, with set design, costumes and even music that complements the action, and Del Toro knows when to build up to something, and then how to stage a big set piece.
Final rating – 8.5 / 10. Up there with The Dark Knight as one of the best comic adaptations going. I’ve watched this 4 or 5 times now and it never gets old. Highly recommended.