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ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Blade II’ (2002), Part Two

Over the past year, Chris Sims and David Uzumeri have provided ComicsAlliance with in-depth reviews of the final season of Smallville and the Batman film franchise. Now, they turn their attention to a film franchise with a supernatural edge: Blade.

Chris: Welcome back to Ice Skating Uphill: ComicsAlliance’s Way-More-Thorough-Than-Necessary Examination of the Blade Film Franchise! In our last installment, Blade teamed up with a group of black ops vampires called the Blood Pack in order to take on the Reapers, a group of super-vampires that fed on vampires. Things were not going so well.

David: Shortly after Commander Shepard and the Normandy went through the Omega 4 Relay… wait, sorry, wrong franchise. Shortly after Blade and the Blood Pack, featuring Ron F***ing Perlman, got their asses handed to them by the Reapers, they regrouped to analyze what they’d found.Chris: But before we get to the Vampire Autopsy sequence, which is hilarious, we have something that’s just as hysterically bizarre: We cut back to Damaskinos, a.k.a. President Vampire, who is eating… I mean, the only way I can describe it is “Blood Jell-O.”

David: I’d like to think that in the Marvel Universe, blood Jell-O is advertised on television by Vampire Bill Cosby.

Chris: I think the implication here is supposed to be that Damaskinos is kind of old and, you know, can’t tear through the ol’ necks of the fleeing peasants like he used to, but here’s the thing: BLOOD IS A LIQUID. Turning it into some weird blob of Frisbee-shaped gelatin — which Damaskinos eats with a knife and fork, no less — just sort of makes him seem like a demonic five-year-old.

David: Well, to be fair, that’s basically his emotional state. As much as the first movie focused on blood and its ties, blood means nothing to Damaskinos — he’s a character who’s ready and willing to sacrifice his own progeny, both spiritual and literal, for his own ends.

Chris: I’d say you were reading into things, but this actually is the scene where we find out he’s willing to sacrifice “every one” of the vampires — including Nyssa, who we find out is his own daughter — to get what he wants, so there’s definitely a connection there. Either way, Damaskinos and his dress go for a dip in his blood jacuzzi, and we cut back to Bladequarters to see what the Blade Buddies are up to.

David: This scene is awesome, and super-influenced by del Toro’s visual peccadilios.

Chris: There are so many truly hilarious things about this scene. First of all, that the movie has now decided for whatever reason that vampires don’t explode into flaming dust whenever they’re killed, despite a movie and a half worth of them doing exactly that. Second, that vampires wear latex gloves to perform autopsies. I don’t know why, but that cracks me up. what, are they worried about an infection? Anyway, the first thing they learn is that the Reapers need to feed pretty much constantly, or their metabolism will burn itself out. Nomak’s immune to this flaw because he’s a carrier, and also because it would be a really long, boring movie if Blade had to hunt all these guys down instead of just having a Hell in the Cell match with one.

David: It’s a convenient narrative device, but unlike the random unexploded body, at least they bother to explain it. (Although, to be fair, they probably did explain the unexploding body, and we just missed it and some clever commenter will call us a**holes for not seeing it.) I remember thinking during this scene – since I hadn’t seen the rest of the movie yet – that these Reapers seemed obviously designed rather than some magical evolutionary leap, and I was really pleasantly surprised to find out later that this was completely on purpose.

Chris: Exactly: As goofy and dumb as it gets, the plot of this movie is really fun and interesting, and even a little rewarding. The autopsy also allows us to get some really cool shots of the Reapers and how their mouths work, with close ups that might as well have had diagram labels super-imposed on them as Nyssa points stuff out. It really does play out like a comic book in that way, like when they’d do cutaways of the Baxter Building or the Batcave. Except this time it’s, you know, some dude’s face.

David: I usually hate these kinds of scenes, but the modifications made were genuinely clever. A bone shield around the heart? Not only interesting, but used well later in the film.

Chris: Everything in there is meant to reinforce that these guys are a huge step beyond what Blade is used to dealing with, and like you said, having seen the first movie, there’s even a little tension of wondering if this thing’s going to come back to life.

David: And everyone’s constant “what in the hell?” expression while dissecting him is fun as well.

Chris: It’s a good litlte gross-out scene, especially when they pop open the Reaper’s ribcage and find that its internal organs are basically built around… well, a second anus.

David: All so it can feed when decapitated! Honestly, they had some seriously bright dudes working on this thing. Both in real life and within the halls of Caliban Industries.

Chris: Blade tells the Blood Pack to get ready to hunt at dawn, when the Reapers will be at their weakest, and that’s when we get maybe the best line of the entire trilogy. Like, even better than the one we named this column after.

David: Oh man, seriously, I can’t praise this line enough, and there’s NO WAY to repeat it here. The thing about David Goyer is, he’s really, really, really awesome at writing hilariously obscene dialogue.

Chris: If he would’ve written Wildcat as just foulmouthed Kris Kristofferson, JSA would’ve been the best comic ever printed.

David: Oh man, now I’m just imagining Wildcat saying that to Vandal Savage.

Chris: Basically, after Whistler smarts off to one of the vampires about needing to get some sunscreen, the Vampire tells Whistler that he’s, ah, extremely close to Hillbilly Heaven.

Chris: I rewound this line three times when I was re-watching this movie for the review. It never gets old.

David: For those of you who are adults, search for “hillbilly heaven” on this page. Whistler’s response is great, too: “I love it when you talk dirty.” He’s not even fazed.

Chris: It also points to a really interesting dynamic about these characters. The vampires? They do not like Blade. But they f***ing hate Whistler.

David: Blade’s at least KIND OF one of them. They see him as someone who’s gone native, I figure. Whistler’s just a racist dick to them. I mean, deservedly, they’re damn vampires.

Chris: I think it’s part of their whole Vampire Superiority thing. Like, they get that Blade’s, you know, the Daywalker. All of their strengths, none of their weaknesses, bent on revenge. But Whistler’s just some regular human dude who spent like 40 years just rampaging on them.

David: That’s got to be so dispiriting! Like, some auto mechanic with a whiskey addiction has just annihilated tons of your friends. If vampires can have friends.

Chris: They probably can. I mean, we only see the jerks, but there have to be some vampires out there who aren’t Stephen Dorff and Donal Logue. Somewhere there’s the vampire who helps his bros move or picks up the first round at the blood bank.

David: That’s who Scud was gonna be post-conversion, I’m sure. I mean, the Bloodpack definitely show that the vampires have emotional connections to EACH OTHER.

Chris: The vampires complain about how they’ll be just as vulnerable as the Reapers in the daylight, and Blade just straight up tells them, “Let’s be real: You’re probably all going to die. Oh well!”

David: A list of f***s Blade gives: { }

Chris: He is seriously a terrible leader.

David: That’s because he’s not trying to lead anything. Obviously Blade’s best-case scenario at this point is that everyone dies except Nyssa, and then they go off and have tons of vampire babies.

Chris: Except that Nyssa’s kind of turned off by Blade’s whole one-man genocide thing, to the point where she goes into his room — where he has actually put on his leather duster to wait out the next six hours — and basically goes “aw come on why don’t you like meeeee?”

David: It’s a real modern-day World of Darkness Pocahontas story.

Chris: It’s this hilariously awkward scene, because she asks Blade why he hates vampires as though she is completely unaware that vampires kill and eat people. And then, instead of Blade saying “Oh, you know, because you actually eat people? And sometimes turn them into other earth-bound demons who also eat people, like you did with my mom?” He just goes, “It’s in my blood.” Dude cannot resist a pun.

David: Blood, guys! Get it? BLOOD! And Nyssa is struggling with HER blood! And Whistler was HEALED by blood! HAVE YOU NOTICED BLOOD IS A THEME HERE YET.

Chris: She tells Blade that he’s lying to himself and that at least she had the courage to accept what she is. So, for those of you keeping score, she’s attempting to take the high moral ground of “I don’t deny my desires to murder people and then eat them.”

David: Honesty is totally a more important virtue than not murdering random people because they’re weak.

Chris: Hey, if you add in that she’s a Washington Outsider, that’s a viable platform for 2012. Whistler and Scud bond over making “UV Flash Bang Grenades,” which make absolutely no sense and will make even less sense as the movie goes on, and when daylight comes, all the vampires get suited up for some daylight Reaper-fighting. So brother, if you’ve ever wanted to see Ron Perlman in tight black PVC, have we got the movie for you.

David: Ridin’ through this world… all alone… It’s so hard to see Ron Perlman and not think of Clay Morrow at this point. Thankfully, Reinhardt and Clay Morrow are pretty damn similar characters, in that they constantly threaten everybody with murder and act like total dicks.

Chris: Continuing the theme of this movie basically being a video game you can’t control, everyone goes through their Get Equipped! segment of new armor and, in Reinhardt’s case, pistols with axe blades on them. Blade even tells Nyssa to make sure she doesn’t kill herself with one of the UV grenades, which is as close as he gets over the course of these films to actually expressing romantic interest in someone.

David: And Lighthammer’s growing abscesses on his back! There’s certainly no way he’s turned into a Reaper, and no way that being already bald made him a convenient candidate for conversion since it’d be harder to see.

Chris: Apparently there’s an even more advanced strain of the Reaper virus that causes the infected to change only when it’s dramatically appropriate for them to do so.

David: I seriously thought he was going to sprout angel wings or something, or one of the other Reapers was going to.

Chris: Once they’ve leveled up, allocated their skill points and organized their inventories, the Blade Buddies head down into the sewers, because an Ice World and a Fire Castle were considered a little too out there even for this flick.

David: Yeah, a sewers level really cements your “it’s a videogame” take. Especially the way the whole thing’s shot; at this point, it’s a crack team of military specialists facing off against an enemy that has them outnumbered in a dark area where any of them could become the enemy. This is a zombie movie.

Chris: They violate the #1 rule of adventuring and split the party, giving the vampires ample time to set up an ambush where the dude who insists on going shirtless can kill Whistler, and so that Lighthammer can complete his transformation and, in the movie’s most infuriating moment, KILL DONNIE YEN OFFSCREEN.

Chris: I almost wonder if this was a thing like how they killed off Trini Lopez’s in The Dirty Dozen right before the climax, off-screen, because of a contract dispute. But I think it might just be gross incompetence.

David: It’s pretty cheap for him to go out as the stereotypical first victim in a zombie sewer scenario, I’m not going to lie to you.

Chris: It’s hands down the most ridiculous under-use of a talent this movie could have possibly done, especially since it comes right before the scene where there’s a big fight that he would’ve been awesome in. The whole thing with Lighthammer turning into a Reaper has this weird structure, where it doesn’t really matter because he never meets Blade. As far as Blade’s concerned, Snowman, Lighthammer and Girl-That-Was-Originally-Supposed-To-Be-Traci-Lords just got killed in the sewers by bad guys.

David: Whoa, what? Traci Lords was supposed to be Lighthammer’s girlfriend? I thought Lords died at the beginning of Blade I anyway?

Chris: Yeah, she was originally written to be the twin sister of Traci Lords’ character from Blade. I kinda like the idea I think they were going for, that the Blood Pack was going to all be made up of relatives of people Blade had killed, so they all had a personal vendetta against him like he had against the vampires. But that probably would’ve been way too complex for this movie anyway.

David: Way too complex? That would have fit amazingly with the Goyer/Johnsian blood theme. The BLOOD PACK? Where everyone who was a member hated Blade due to the insult to their BLOOD?

Chris: I mean complex in terms of this being a movie where we mostly just want to see Wesley Snipes cut dudes up with a sword.

David: When you think about it, the effortless way Snipes annihilates his opponents, even in close quarters, is a valuable metaphor for the actor’s real name, where he… okay, even I can’t finish this.

Chris: Yeah, it’s probably best to move on. A ton of reapers, lured by the pheromones Nyssa synthesizes show up and pretty much kill everybody. Chupa gets eaten before he has a chance to finish off Whistler — while Whistler somehow manages to hobble away on his good leg — and for some reason the good guys insist on shooting the Reapers instead of just using their UV lights on them. Go figure.

David: But they might be killed by a beam of light they’re directing away from their own bodies!

Chris: This movie has a hard time understanding how light works. Case in point: The crazy “light bomb” that Blade sets off to kill all the reapers, which involves light traveling around corners and people ducking after they see it so that they don’t get hit by it.

Chris: One more time for those of you in the back: They see it, but then duck out of the way. And we are talking about LIGHT.

David: It’s amazing, because it’s light that acts like a firebomb. The lightbomb has about … what, twelve vertices? Sixteen? Each of which has a window to the light. Why not just make it clear overall, in the first place? And even as it is, why wouldn’t it act like… normal light? Is it some kind of viral light?

Chris: And somehow putting a bunch of them in one place makes it travel down hallways and around corners.

David: You can only fit so much light into one room, Chris. The light will leak out, around corners.

Chris: It’s seriously like one energy bar away from being a Mega Man weapon.

David: Remember, the amount of light that can fit in a three-dimensional space has an equation: f(Light) = 4Light^3 / 2 + c, where c is the base temperature. When you overshoot that, it’s all over.

Chris: Seems legit.

David: I took Calculus once, a few years ago. I’m obviously vetted. It had some equations, and some numbers, that meant some stuff. This is what hematology is about, right?

Chris: So anyway, the Lifestream from Final Fantasy VII roars through the sewers and blows up all the Reapers (and also burns Nyssa a little), but Nomak survives and whispers THE TRUTH in Whistler’s ear like a sitcom, even though no one else is around. He is solely doing it so that we, the audience, don’t learn things ahead of time.

David: A secret royal truth involving signet rings! This is nothing like Hellboy II!

Chris: Believe it or not, this is one of the things I actually love about Blade II: It never acts like it’s not a movie. This is not a movie that tries to create a world or a sequence of events that make sense within its own context, this is a movie where the characters might as well look straight at the camera and say “Hi, I’m Wesley Snipes, and this is Kris Kristofferson. We’re about to put on a little show for you guys! Hope you like it!”

David: This movie has absolutely zero illusions about what it is, and our commenters have come really close to convincing me to actually listen to commentary tracks, something I never do.

Chris: I would listen to the commentary if it was Wesley Snipes, as Blade, in character, narrating his memories. “Oh, so that’s what happened to Lighthammer? Huh.” With the Reapers down, Blade goes to check on Nyssa, feeding her his blood to save her life, when suddenly he’s hit with a tazer and brought to Damaskinos’s Evil Headquarters.

David: Because Blade is getting punished for saving his boss’s daughter. Oh, the betrayal! I still love that Damaskinos’s Evil Headquarters is in Standard World of Darkness Villainous Lair #1. A factory! Run by EVIL! You might even call it an Evil Factory.

Chris: I love that there are pipes everywhere, but everything from the floor to the pipes themselves is clear so that you can see it’s all blood.

David: It’s like the Magitek lab in Final Fantasy VI. Like, that’s actually what I thought about.

Chris: We now get a ton of Big Reveals, one right after the other. Reveal #1: The Reaper Strain was designed, not evolved! Reveal #2: It was Damaskinos who designed it, and now he’s going to use Blade’s blood to refine it to make an army of super-awesome daywalkers! Also, he totally has a bunch of bottled fetuses that he keeps on display in his lobby, because he is a dude who straight up loves being creepy.

Chris: And when I say “bottled,” I mean IN ACTUAL BOTTLES. Like, they have little corks. It’s ridiculous!

David: It’s part of del Toro’s entire sci-fi/medieval mad scientist amalgamation! Damaskinos totally has a sick Dr. Moreau thing going on, and Blade is this noble questing hero. The traditional vampire narrative is really foreign to this movie.

Chris: Reveal #3: Nomak is totally Damaskinos’s son, by which we mean that he was cloned from Damaskinos using vampire cloning technology. Oh, by the way, Reveal #3a: Vampires totally have cloning technology.

David: I just realized that it’s called Caliban Industries because it made Nomak, a bald freak who lives in the sewers, just like Caliban in his first appearance in Uncanny X-Men.

Chris: Man, he really went downhill after that marriage to Kitty Pryde. So then, we get Reveal #4: Scud has been working for Damaskinos all this time, and Reveal #5, the explosive device planted on Ron Perlman’s head was a fake – OR WAS IT?!

David: This scene is awesome for SO MANY reasons. First of all, I really kind of love Scud, and I was legitimately sad to see him go since I just started to like him. Secondly, Whistler repeated my thoughts verbatim in the movie.

Chris: It’s also one of the more complete nonsense moments of the movie. They take away all of Blade’s weapons, but leave him with the detonator. And then, after the big reveal that it was a fake, Blade reveals that he knew all along that Scud was a traitor, and that the bomb was actually real. And he uses it to blow up Scud – f***ing vaporizing him, which is hilarious, but… If the bomb was real all along, why did Blade use it to blow up the skinny little human guy and not the gigantic vampire who was holding a shotgun?

David: Because it’s not as funny to see Ron Perlman blow up. We want to see him go down in a big climactic fight. But Scud? Norman Reedus? Seeing him blow up randomly is hilarious. And, much like Whistler, we DID just get to like him.

Chris: If this was an actual video game, I’d say it was because it happened in a cutscene, but this whole damn movie happens in a cutscene. The bad guys take Blade off to harvest his blood — which was also what they did in the last movie, but if it worked once, hell, why not try it again — and Reinhardt takes Whistler off to another room so he can basically torture him to death. Kristofferson then delivers one of the movie’s legitimately great hardass lines, when Whistler looks up with a crazy axe-gun at his throat and says “Do your worst, chickensh**. We’ll settle up after.” It’s seriously awesome.

David: Kristofferson remains amazing in every way in this movie.

Chris: Damaskinos and Nyssa have an argument where he just flat out says “blood ties mean nothing to me,” and then Nomak launches his own assault on Vampire Headquarters. This allows Whistler the distraction he needs to beat Ron Perlman down — the most purely unbelievable fantasy moment in a movie full of vampires and daywalkers — and then he drops through some vents in the floor, which of course connect to the room where Blade is being held because we are watching a video game.

David: Let’s be fair, the preponderance of vents in videogames all traces back to a movie, namely, Die Hard. Except that most people who play videogames today haven’t seen Die Hard.

Chris: I’m just legitimately surprised Whistler didn’t switch over to Detective Mode or something. Nomak kills basically everyone and Damaskinos tries to escape in his crazy James Bond villain elevator, and Whistler brings Blade back to life by pitching him off a balcony into this just ridiculous blood fountain that Damaskinos has built his lab around. And then we get the best thing ever.

David: RAAAAAAAAAAAAGH! It’s like Ra’s coming out of a Lazarus Pit. Or Batman.

Chris: The fight scene that follows is just… I mean, it’s awesome. It’s Blade just beating the living crap out of dudes with these shock-sticks — which, because it’s a movie, are like billy clubs with actual lightning curling around them — while Ron Perlman stands there and watches it all go down, suitably impressed. Then, at the end of it, for the last guy, it happens.

Chris: I remember when I saw this movie in the theater, it was with a friend of mine named Brandon. And as soon as Wesley Snipes got that front facelock applied, I leaned over and said “Brandon, I know Blade is not about to suplex this man.” And then he did it. Blade suplexes a dude through the damn floor. Like, we might as well stop here. It’s that good. Nothing else in this movie matters once you see a Vertical Suplex through a glass floor.

David: You really love suplexing. I’m just saying, between Blade II and Dark Knight, at each movie you’ve had a personal anecdote about how badass suplexing is. I can’t really argue, though, because the whole thing is so… I mean, that’s a total Apocalypse Now moment when Blade emerges from the blood pool.

Chris: Saying I love suplexing is underselling things quite a bit, but it does make everything else that comes after a little anticlimactic. It’s hilarious how Del Toro has it cut, too: As soon as he does this great slow-motion suplex through the glass floor, Blade just immediately pops back up and Ron Perlman is like “Huh.” And then, of course, Blade cuts him in half and Whistler throws him his sunglasses, which is how we know it just got real. Of course, it’s also worth noting that Whistler then busts out a machine pistol and shoots a ton of vampire fetuses, which… that’s a hell of a choice there for one of your movie’s heroes, Del Toro.

David: So you wouldn’t let Whistler be experimenting on a vampire fetus in Blade I, huh, studios?! Well, then I guess he’ll just shoot a bunch in the face!

Chris: Nyssa believes that Damaskinos deserves to die for what he has done, so she locks him in the house and changes the security codes so that he has no choice but to confront Nomak, who tears his throat out and kills him. Thus, Damaskinos and his fabulous evening gowns are lost to us forever. Nomak then bites Nyssa, and Blade arrives for the final showdown, which takes the place of a truly ridiculous fight scene. After that suplex though, it’s a little underwhelming, even when Nomak comes off the top rope with the Macho Man elbow drop.

David: It’s no feud with the Blood God, that’s for sure. Honestly, for such a badass movie, it’s a pretty unsatisfying ending. Everybody gets theirs, and Nyssa is mortally wounded. Blade loses all around.

Chris: Eventually, Blade wins by managing to get his sword right into the one part of Nomak’s heart that wasn’t protected by bone, which was a foregone conclusion from the moment that they revealed that there was a tiny spot that made this possible. Then he takes Nyssa out to see the sunrise so that she won’t become a reaper, she turns to dust, and apparently we’re supposed to be sad about all this? I’m honestly not sure. I mean, she was an unapologetic people-eater, but at least she felt bad about her dad making bottle-fetuses, so I guess she’s a good guy? Whatever.

HIGH POINTS:

Chris: The sheer Nintendo-logic nonsense of the plot. Nothing in this movie makes sense, but it’s done in such a stylish, ridiculously fun way that it not only doesn’t matter, but the movie’s downright aggressive goofiness becomes part of the fun. In doing away with all the half-assed mystical crap of the first one, they really opened this one up to being this insane sci-fi action gorefest. It’s a hoot.

David: I had a great time with this movie. Is it objectively excellent? Hardly. Is it a huge amount of fun for what it is? Oh, hell yes. I can see how this launched del Toro’s career as a genre-pic maestro.

Chris: Also the sheer visual decadence of everything about Damaskinos. It’s all just pure style. The casting fits right into that, too: Perlman was a great choice for a foil for Snipes, and they seem to have a lot of fun trying to top each other in scenery-chewing.

David: I love the Caliban Industries sets most of all, it’s total videogame set design perfection, this futuristic combat playground with lots of breakable objects to give a sense of mayhem.

Chris: Bladeplex.

LOW POINTS:

David: It ended.

Chris: As much as I love the video game goofiness of the plot, it would’ve been nice if something, anything in this movie had made sense. They’ve had the exact weapon they need to kill the Reapers since the middle of the last movie, and nobody ever uses it, not even Blade. Also, the Blood Pack is really undeveloped. We get a sense of who Reinhardt is purely through Perlman’s acting, but the others are just these complete blank slates. Like, Priest, I think, is the only one who expresses an opinion that is not directly related to Blade; he doesn’t like the non-pureblood vampires. Everyone else is just sort of there as a cardboard cutout, which leads to a great talent like Donnie Yen barely getting any action. I don’t think he even has one line of dialogue.

Chris: The idea that these dudes would have a personal stake in wanting Blade dead wouldn’t even have to be explored, but it’s never even brought up. I think this movie’s an absolute joy to watch, but there are parts where it’s dumbing things down that weren’t exactly all that smart to begin with.

David: It’s still two hours as it is, though, you know? The only thing is, like 45 minutes of them are fight scenes. Admittedly badass fight scenes, but fight scene nonetheless.

Chris: It’s very clear that the movie values style over substance, and it probably should. The style is what makes this movie so fun to watch. But maybe paying a little attention to the substance would work too.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

David: This movie was a hell of a lot of fun.

Chris: Definitely the most successful Blade movie in terms of money, and probably by any other definition as well. It takes a ton of tired old plots – this time, he has to team up with his enemies to fight an even greater threat! – and does them in a way that are still fun to watch. Del Toro and Goyer twist the first movie’s world-building in a way that feels much better for what they want to do, and it’s a gamble that pays off.

David: It also inverts it enough, even if those inversions are obvious in retrospect. And while it flirts with the idea of a romance subplot, it never really engages with it.

Chris: I feel like the movie comes to the same conclusion that we do: Blade’s first love is stabbing vampires. And we’ll be seeing even more of that next week.

David: Time for what everyone says is the worst movie in the franchise!

Chris: They’re not wrong. Be here next week as we take on the finale of the Blade trilogy, written and directed by David Goyer! In seven days: Blade: Trinity!

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