Blade II


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Blade II
"As a side-effect of all this style and imagination, there’s no room for substance or depth."

Following the surprising success of the genre-rejuvenating Blade, the team return for a second stab - only this time with director Guillermo del Toro calling the blood-stained shots. And the result? Well, while certainly accomplished and miles from terrible, Blade II doesn’t leave the same impact as its predecessor and ends up spinning its wheels by constantly trying to outdo Stephen Norrington’s franchise-starter.

When a new breed of vampiristic creatures called "Reapers" begin to threaten both man and bloodsucker, Blade (Wesley Snipes) is forced into an uneasy alliance with the underground vampire community. With old mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) resurrected, the pair team up with vamp hit-squad The Bloodpack – originally trained to hunt Blade - and head out in search of the Reaper’s leader, Nomak (Luke Goss).

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Part of the reason for this is the constant barrage of noisy action which leaves very little time (if any) for plot. Yes, yes, the first movie was also choc-a-heart-staking-block with set pieces, but here they’re sadly not as exciting and fall into the ‘more is better’ trap of frequently lasting way too long. Sure, a few of them are suitably pulse-pounding (particularly the excellent Aliens-esque sewer tunnel skirmish), but nothing comes close to the ultra-memorable abattoir bloodbath from last time.

However, given that it’s a del Toro picture, proceedings rarely look anything less than beautiful. Creating a canvas that reeks of his usual European sensibilities and gothic noir, the Mexican helmer laces all the violent carnage with strikingly inventive flourishes and a very distinctive palette. Though he reportedly watched every painstaking daily Norrington shot for the original to keep a certain level of continuity, by tinting the screen with washes of dark yellow, deep scarlet and bright blues, Guillermo ensures Blade II has a noticeably different feel.

On the other hand, as a side-effect of all this style and imagination, there’s no room for substance or depth. Granted, aside from a few computer game-ish shots the effects are constantly commendable (particularly the seamless integration of live-action with CGI), but here our tatooed hero is given even less character development as the powerful internal angst that worked well in the franchise-starter is replaced by excesses of badass (which, to be fair, will please many fans).

That’s not to say that Snipes isn’t up to it, though, as he leads the line well while doing his martial arts thing and making potentially clichéd lines cool (“keep your friends close, keep your enemies… closer”). While the rest don’t get enough material to work with, Goss is so impressive (and unrecognisable) you forget he was in Bros, Leonor Varela makes for a hot vamp-chick, Norman Reedus fits the bill as our new scruffy tech nerd and Ron Pearlman is a stand-out as the Blade-hating vampire Reinhardt. Whistler being brought back from the dead will anger some viewers (hand firmly raised), but Kristofferson lends so much grizzly cool that you stop caring after a while.

Though combing comic book science fiction, shadowy horror and bucketloads of gory action, by taking the emphasis away from the story Blade II unfortunately doesn’t match the first instalment. In short, it has teeth aplenty, but lacks any real bite.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2009
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Wesley Snipes returns as the half human, half vampire destroyer of evil.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writer: David S Goyer

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Thomas Kretschmann, Luke Goss, Matt Schulze, Danny John-Jules, Donnie Yen, Karel Roden, Tony Curran

Year: 2002

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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