ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Blade II’ (2002)
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, everyone: ComicsAlliance's shockingly in-depth look at the Blade film franchise. This week, we're heading back to 2002 for Blade II, and I am not even kidding when I say that I think this might be my favorite Marvel movie. Seriously.
David: I'd never seen it before last night. This movie. Was. Awesome.Chris: Don't get me wrong: I like Spider-Man 2 and X-Men 2 and Iron Man and Thor a heck of a lot, and by pretty much any objective standard, they are way better movies. But Blade II is... The only way I can put it is that it's unapologetically, beautifully ridiculous.
David: I also had no idea who was in it going in, so there was at least one fist-pump "F*** YEAH!" shocker when I saw a certain actor in it.
Chris: They basically filmed a video game.
David: I love the intersection of writer David Goyer and director Guillermo Del Toro's sensibilities, too. It alternates between superslick dancefloor kung fu and Del Toro-esque gross-out fantasy pretty effortlessly. This is a way more stylish flick than the first one.
Chris: It really is. Given the success of Blade, I'm surprised that it took them four years to get around to making a sequel, but I guess that the higher-ups still considered Blade to be an anomaly rather than a pretty good indication of how well these comic book movies could do for them. By 2002, though, the X-Men and Spider-Man had both hit big at the box office.
David: What had Del Toro done before this? I know he wasn't considered the brilliant auteur he is now post-Pan's Labyrinth.
Chris: I believe Blade II was actually his first work in Hollywood. He'd done everything else up to that point in Mexico. In fact, hilariously enough, if you look him up on Wikipedia, you will find the sentence "He is mostly known for his acclaimed films, Blade II, Pan's Labyrinth," and so on. Blade II gets top billing! BLADE II!
David: Yeah, he has a smaller resume than I thought as a director: at least in terms of things with Freshmeter ratings, it's Cronos, Mimic, Devil's Backbone, Blade II, Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy II.
Chris: This was his breakout hit, and he took everything Stephen Norrington did in the first one and took it to the next level wherever he could.
David: And his next movie is Pacific Rim, which, contrary to jokes from last time, actually does star Charlie Day.
Chris: It's more violent, it's more ridiculous, it actually makes more sense, and the characters are all amped up versions of what they were in Blade -- which were already amped-up versions of what they were in the comics.
David: I find it funny that most of Goyer's comics work is restricted to the freaking Justice Society, because the dude writes really, really, really, really funny cursing.
Chris: It's basically his core talent.
David: I'm pretty sure all three Blade movies have at least one hilariously obscene one-liner that people repeated forever afterwards. I've never even seen Blade Trinity and I know the one there. But yeah, Goyer writes awesome vulgar oneliners. All of this despite the movie pissing all over one of the first flick's few actual emotional moments. And it does this in the credits sequence.
Chris: We talked about that a little in the first one, and I actually have a theory about it. So with that, what do you say we get started on the movie Roger Ebert called "a really rather brilliant vomitorium of viscera, a comic book with dreams of becoming a textbook for mad surgeons."
David: And the movie Harry Knowles called... well, I think we all know about that review.
Chris: Oh the hell with you, Uzumeri. I had completely forgotten about that.
Chris: Our movie opens on a blood bank in Prague, so right away we know that we're living in the type of world envisioned by Dr. McNinja creator Chris Hastings, who firmly believes that the Red Cross is run by Vampires. A dude so strung out that he forgets people don't usually speak English in Prague heads in to sell some blood, and has a conversation with a dude in a hoodie with a scar on his chin. And when I say he's going to sell blod, I don't mean his blood: He has brought A JAR FULL OF BLOOD, which has to be the most hilariously dubious sanitary conditions you could possibly operate under.
Chris: Like, if I was a vampie I don't think I'd drink blood that a meth addict brought to me in a f***ing jar.
David: I honestly found this opening kind of confusing -- is this guy a serial killer? Did he steal it from another vampire?
Chris: I think he's just a junkie who shanked somebody and put a mason jar under the wound. Which is what I love about it, that this is what Goyer and Del Toro are using to establish that this place -- this blood bank that is basically arranged like the video game version of Arkham Asylum -- is a little strange.
David: The whole scene is appropriately freaky, shot with fake CCTV footage and overhead shots and everything. It's not as openly provocative and hilarious as Traci Lords leading Lem to a slaughterdanceclub in the previous film, but it's certainly way bloodier. Blade II definitely toned down the sex and played up the violence. Blade I's antagonist was Stephen Dorff, a total prettyboy. Blade II's antagonists are Hellboy and Uncle Fester.
Chris: That is seriously all you know to get the difference between these two movies. The guy without the mason jar of blood -- we learn his name is Jared Nomak -- is led through Central Processing and through a security door, and surprising absolutely no one, it turns out that the people who are buying blood by the gallon, no questions asked, turn out to be vampires. But oh, son, do we have a twist on the way!
Chris: As the vampire phlebotomists get ready to drain Jared's blood, he jumps up and bites their necks, sending hilarious amounts of blood spraying everywhere. Guys: This is a dude who feeds on the blood of vampires. He is... A VAMPIRE VAMPIRE.
David: The technical term is "Reaper," kids, and we'll see a Hell of a lot more of them as the movie goes on, including a particularly hilarious design by who I can only assume is Guillermo del Toro himself due to the similiarities with the creatures in his later film efforts. But here, he's just an old bald dude who eats vampires and s***-talks the CCTV.
Chris: We then cut to a sequence where Blade gives us a voiceover explaining who he is and what he does, using clips from the first film intercut with a montage of making silver bullets, and swinging his sword around, ending with putting on sunglasses. I was about to say that if Blade was a TV show, this would totally be the opening credits, but there was a Blade TV show and I'm not sure if its opening was like this or not. Either way, it ends with Blade saying that he's now hunting down his friend Whistler, who is now a vampire, and we hit what is pretty much the plot's only real snag.
David: The one truly emotional moment in the first movie is when Blade hands Whistler his gun when Whistler asks him to let him commit suicide. We hear a gunshot as Blade walks away. It's the closest the first Blade movie comes to anything resembling "emotionally affecting," and it gets completely retconned in the freaking recap.
Chris: And it's really weird, because it's not like it's a case of another writer coming in and undermining what the previous writer set up. David Goyer wrote all three Blade movies, and -- along with Geoff Johns, the two-hour pilot of the TV show. It's not like he didn't know about it.
David: It's a choice I'd have a lot more of a problem with if Kris Kristofferson as Whistler wasn't one of the best parts of this movie.
Chris: I actually have a theory about this: I think that Kris Kristofferson might've had some kind of standard guaranteed-role-in-the-sequel clause in his contract for Blade, but since nobody expected the movie would even succeed, let alone spawn a franchise, they just went ahead and killed him off anyway. So now, when it's a success and it comes time to make a sequel, they are legally obligated to figure out how to bring him back. I mean really, he doesn't really add anything to the plot except for his hilarious hillbilly cussing, and general Kris Kristofferson awesomeness, so I have no trouble believing there was a completed draft of the script that didn't have him in it at all.
David: They never even explain what they were doing with his body in that tank. They're just using him for some weird purpose that at first it looks like might be related to the main plot, but it isn't.
Chris: You could cut out his character completely and the movie would not be changed at all. Well, that's not completely true, the movie would totally be changed, because it would be way less hilariously amazing. In story terms, however, he is completely superfluous. Either way, Blade heads out and kills a bunch of vampires in this awesome, gloriously over-the-top post-Matrix action sequence, and after terrifying this one dude who took the time to grab his pink feather boa while running from a man who was trying to murder him with a sword, he tells him where they're keeping Whistler. Blade also blows a kiss at his own car, because Blade is a complicated man.
David: I forget, was the first movie the same year as Matrix?
Chris: No, Matrix was a year later. Its influence really shows in this one -- and in all early 21st century action movies, really. My favorite part of this sequence, for instance, is where Blade gets out his Bladearang and throws it at two dudes on motorcycles, and the camera follows in slow motion as it completely misses and then comes back to Blade. It does nothing but look kind of cool.
Chris: Anyway, Blade goes to get Whistler and for a moment, he considers putting him out of his misery, possibly because Kris Kristofferson wouldn't want to live if he knew we saw him in those inexplicable golden jeggings he's wearing in the blood tank. But then, Blade decides to take his best friend back to his Bladequarters and give him the vampire cure that they spent the entire last movie making, which... Okay, let's be real: Not only is it crazy that Blade would think about killing Whistler when he's got the cure right there, it also makes him kind of an a**hole for just going around shooting dudes in the face when he could actually help them.
David: Maybe he only shoots purebloods! Besides, I doubt Blade could walk into a vampire nightclub and go "Yo, purebloods over here, you guys all get shot in the face. The rest of you, line up for an agonizing night."
Chris: Fair enough. Maybe between the movies, he put word on the street that he could cure anyone who wanted it, and these are just the dudes were like "nah, it turns out we're totally into killing people."
David: Well, I mean, it's probably a hard habit to break as a vampire. How many crackheads would line up for a cure for crack addiction?
Chris: The first of many crackhead metaphors we're about to get in this, the least subtle movie of all time. Back at Bladequarters, we are introduced to Blade's new tech guy, Scud.
David: I love how he is smoking a joint for something like 90% of his screen time in this movie, and nobody ever calls him on it. Not even Whistler.
Chris: Hey man, that dude did a song with Willie Nelson. He knows what's up.
David: They're pretty big cannons, too. I admire his moxie.
Chris: It's also worth noting that Scud wears a BPRD shirt when he's introduced, which is a nice nod to Del Toro being a big Hellboy fan even before he got the job making the movie. Anyway, Blade gives whistler an "accelerated retroviral detox" to cure him of being a vampire, which, according to Blade, is "like a heroin addict going cold turkey." So, just to keep you guys up to speed, vampirism is both a virus and an addiction.
David: An addiction you can catch! Now we know where Doctor Hurt gets his ideas from.
Chris: Ebert was right! It really WAS a textbook for mad surgeons! Anyway, Whistler comes out of his little room completely back to normal, right down to having his busted leg that he has to wear a brace on, because apparently when you stop being a vampire, your body just goes back to its crappy old default setting. Yet another strike against the cure; ain't no Lestats want to go back to normal.
David: Shouldn't Whistler have had the bum leg even as a vampire, though? Wasn't it explicitly established in the first movie that scars and injuries you had before becoming a vampire stay as a vampire? That was the entire tell as to how Karen realized Frost wasn't a pureblood.
Chris: Oh hey, you're right! Man, having to spend relative immortality limping around with a bum knee is a pretty raw deal. No wonder he comes out all ticked off at Scud, yelling at him for messing up his operation while he's been, you know, a vampire. But before they can really settle each other's respective hash, Blade's starship Enterprise-style red alerts go off -- intruders in the Bladequarters!
David: Seriously, Bladequarters is an awful hideout. It seriously gets invaded multiple times each movie.
Chris: It turns out to be two vampires in awesome sun-proof ninja suits. Blade gets into a fight with the lady ninja vampire, which is actually really cool up until it turns into CGI that's trying very hard (and failing) to not look like a next-gen Mortal Kombat game. I will admit that I like the exaggeration of it all, though -- nothing else in this movie is realistic when it can be insanely over the top, so why start now? This scene also shows a pretty solid understanding of comic book logic, because after they fight, it is of course time to team up. Lady ninja takes off her hood to reveal the pretty darn good-looking face of Nyssa. The vampires want Blade to meet with "the ruling body of the Vampire Nation," which seems like an extraordinarily bad idea even if they're desperate.
David: I love how they call it "the ruling body" when it's totally just one dude, too. The next scene is fantastic, too, when Nyssa comments on how she's disappointed Blade just came along without any argument or preparation, and he reveals that he's completely wired himself with Semtex. Unfortunately, he did not offer to perform a magic trick with a pencil.
Chris: He has it dangling from the inside of his coat like he's selling knock-off Rolexes in Times Square. It's amazing, and I just love the way Wesley Snipes growls "semtex" as a one-word explanation of why he bothered to come along. Which, again: Did the vampires not even bother to check to see what he was bringing in before they let him walk right into the middle of their secret base and get two feet away from President Uncle Fester?
David: Well, they needed him no matter what to enact their brilliant/stupid master plan.
Chris: But they don't even bother to try to find some kind of neutral meeting ground, or anywhere that they can take him that is not the Vampire White House, where they casually walk him through security without even trying to keep him from looking at their PIN numbers. Guys, vampires are dumb. They are dumb as hell.
David: Caliban Industries security, everybody. Did they ever explain what the front for this company was?
Chris: Company? I'm pretty sure this is just this dude's house.
David: There's a gigantic sign that says "Caliban Industries" outside, bro.
Chris: I have a sign outside my house that says Gotham City 14 Miles. You can buy signs at the store, David. But no, I think the fact that I didn't even notice it means that it's never explained. Given this movie's (awesome) lack of subtlety, though, I'm going to guess they make high-end coffins or something. Anyway, they walk through the door into a Castlevania boss room to meet Damaskinos, a very old man in a very flattering dress.
Chris: Damaskinos and his lawyer talk about how they're actually totally cool with Blade because they didn't like Deacon Frost anyway. Or any of the other forty billion vampires Blade hacked to pieces and/or shot in the face between this movie and the last.
David: His lawyer, man. What an amazing opening line. BLADE: "You're a human." DUDE: "Barely. I'm a lawyer."
Chris: As far as lawyer jokes in vampire movies go, it's definitely in the top six. While doing his best Count Orlok impression, Damaskinos tells Blade that the vampire virus has mutated and created a new monster, basically signaling that we are through the intro stage and into the actual video game now. The monster is, of course, Jared Nomak, the Vampire Vampire.
David: I bet Jared feeds a lot on the Subway.
Chris: Are we going to have to go over the pun rules again, David?
David: What? We all know Big Pun rules.
Chris: Nomak and the other Vampire Vampires he's been making need to feed more often than regular vampires, so unless Blade stops him from turning all the Vampires into Vampire Vampires, everyone's going to blah blah blah, let's team up to fight the greater evil because it's the sequel, here are your playable squad members.
David: And all of them have super-rad names.
Chris: The Blood Pack, a team of vampires who have been training for two years to kill Blade: Chupa! Lighthammer! Verlaine! Priest! Ron Perlman! And DONNIE F***ING YEN.
David: This is seriously a movie with a dude named Lighthammer. How awesome is that?
Chris: Yeah, he and Donnie Yen -- who is named Snowman, presumably after Jerry Reed's character in Smokey and the Bandit -- are the only ones with codenames, and they are the most ridiculous codenames possible. The guy in charge of naming GI Joes saw this movie and was like "Wow, they actually went with 'Lighthammer?'"
David: He's also bald, which practically is a plot point for later.
Chris: The Blood Pack's leader, Ron Perlman, is actually called Reinhardt in this movie, and he is fan-tastic. For one thing, he's Ron Perlman, and for another, he's Ron Perlman with Lemmy from Motorhead's moustache, but since he's bald, there's just one thin line of hair that goes all the way around the back of his head to connect it together. It is, without question, the best facial hair I have ever seen in my life.
David: Everything about Ron Perlman in this movie is pretty fantastic, man, I'm not gonna lie to you. Everything about Ron Perlman is pretty fantastic, period.
Chris: Reinhardt taunts Blade by asking him if he can blush, and while I guess this is actually a racist thing, the first thing I thought when I saw it was that they were making a crack about how Blade uses the serum to hold off his vampire thirst instead of drinking blood, so he wouldn't have the blood in his body to, you know, blush. I mean, it's a complicated explanation, but it makes more sense than the dude throwing around racial slurs when he's leading a team with Donnie Yen on it.
David: Later in the movie, though, Blade turns the line on Reinhardt. Honestly, I didn't get the line in the first place, and I didn't even take it as a racial thing.
Chris: But Blade also refers to Reinhardt as "Adolf" right after it, so there's at least an implication. Either way, he's trying to rile up Blade, so we get an awesome scene where Blade cheerfully slaps Ron Perlman in the face until Perlman tries to stab him with a stake, then counters him, shoves a barbed miniature mine into Reinhardt's skull, and delivers the amazing line "Now you got a explosive device stuck to the back of your head."
David: Blade: ALPHA VAMPIRE MALE. Seriously, it was like watching him establish dominance over a pack of wolves. He's the Vampire Whisperer.
Chris: The absolute glee that Snipes has while he's doing it is so fun to watch. There are scattered scenes here and there where he gets to crack jokes and do goofy fun stuff, but this is one of the few scenes where the movie combines it with its signature crazy kung fu violence and Blade actually smiling. It's a hoot.
David: That's the thing about movie Blade: He's having fun. Like, Frank Miller Batman level fun. He really, really loves cutting up loads of vampires.
Chris: To that end, once vampire dominance has been established, Blade and the Blood Pack head out to a vampire nightclub so that they can catch Nomak and the other Reapers. The whole thing really seems like a big setup for Blade to mark this location on his mini-map so that he can come back and kill everyone later after he's leveled up, but we do get a nice pre-level sequence where Scud gives him his new items.
David: You really love explaining this entire movie in video game metaphors, don't you? Not that I blame you. It's accurate.
Chris: Dude, it totally is! "Blade! Get equipped with PUNCH EXPLODER! Select it and press X to deliver an explosive punch to most enemies!" Also, this part is my favorite scene of the movie, where Blade and the Blood Pack are walking in slow motion towards the door to the vampire nightclub while carrying gigantic assault rifles and "hypervelocity stake launchers" and a giant Fallout 3 sledgehammer and at least three swords. COMPLETELY INCONSPICUOUS.
David: Theoretically, wouldn't the vampire bouncers recognize them as big badass vampires and give them entrance? I dunno, don't they have badges or something? What else are they supposed to turn in when they become loose cannons and need to be kicked off the force?
Chris: The other vampires, yes. But they're meant to be setting a trap for the Reapers. After some talk about how Blade will see some things he won't like -- mostly in the form of gross-out body mod special effects -- they head into the club, and we get another one of my favorite lines when Priest says he wants to just kill everyone in the club because "half ah these bahstards, thar not aiven pyarbluds" in his amazing accent. Vampire racism, y'all!
David: This movie really does an incredible job communicating what dicks vampires are.
Chris: Eventually, the Reapers do attack, and we get a pretty nice fight scene spread across a couple of different levels -- er, set pieces: Lighthammer gets ambushed in the kitchen, Scud gets attacked in an alley in the rain, Nyssa and Blade are wandering around what looks like a spooky abandoned hotel from Silent Hill...
Chris: ...and the others are on the dance floor when it all goes down.
David: Of them, Scud's sequence probably was the most thrilling, since it's just one dude in an RV versus like four reapers, and he still manages to win.
Chris: Also because if you get bored, Scud's omnipresent Powerpuff Girls DVDs are playing on the monitors behind him.
David: Seriously, did Cartoon Network pay for product placement?
Chris: I think it's along the lines of the BPRD shirt he was wearing earlier. I'm guessing Del Toro was just totally into Powerpuff Girls, because it's awesome. Anyway, Lighthammer gets scratched up and bitten, Reinhardt takes like 20 minutes to carefully shoot the same Reaper over and over again with his stake launcher, and Blade chases Nomak into what appears to be an abandoned church that is somehow connected to this vampire nightclub, and you cannot honestly tell me we are not dealing with pure, uncut video game logic at this point. Meanwhile, Donnie Yen is putting suckers on blast with awesome lightning-illuminated jump-kicks.
David: I really don't have any commentary for this section other than "this is a sweet fight scene." I mean, the past like 15-20 minutes of movie have just been Del Toro doing one badass fight scene after another. None of this stuff is even really important to the plot, it's just a way of showing how badass Reapers are.
Chris: Yeah, my only comment is that as much as I love Ron Perlman and Priest's hilarious accent, I really wish this movie would've been just Blade and Donnie Yen teaming up to karate the living bejeezus out of vampires. It's really disappointing how underused Yen is in this movie, but we'll get to that. For now, Team Blade manages to fend off the reapers, but not without Lighthammer and Priest getting bitten. Priest starts to turn immediately, while Lighthammer hides his wounds like the total jerk in every zombie movie.
David: Which brings me to what may actually be the underlying genius of Blade II: it's not just a vampire movie, it's a ZOMBIE VAMPIRE movie.
Chris: A Zombie Vampire Vampire movie! The Blood Pack discovers that silver doesn't work on vampires, but their UV lights are super-effective, which, in retrospect, makes all of them seem like idiots for not bothering to try using them when they've had them the entire time and talk about using them before they even go into the club. The movie gives the excuse that they don't like to use them because the light hurts them too, but you know what? So do the bullets you're shooting everywhere. Just don't point them at each other. Same principle.
David: It would be pretty great if the Reapers just started walking around carrying huge mirrors, like Link's Mirror Shield.
Chris: At this point in the movie, we're seriously not that far from it. In the abandoned church, Blade has a big fight with Nomak, and ends up doing like a 30-hit c-c-c-combo with his exploding punch claw, then stands back while Nomak starts laughing and reveals that he is immune to subweapons! So Blade has to beat him by using his sword to reflect sunlight into Nomak's face. Seriously.
David: Ha! I somehow didn't catch that part in all the special effects. I was wondering how Blade beat him, now I feel like an idiot.
Chris: Back in the club, Priest is turning into a Reaper and begging to be killed, so the other vampires try to kill him by shooting him and cutting his head in half in this brief scene of just ridiculously gory slapstick comedy. Nothing works, the dude just keeps laying there screaming. It's like the hyperviolent equivalent of that scene in Airplane where the people all line up to slap the woman because she's in hysterics.
Chris: Eventually, Blade shoots the wall out and Priest disintigrates into sunlight. The Blood Pack is down a man, but they manage to capture a dying Reaper to study. What will they learn from this monstrosity that, for whatever reason, suddenly decides not to disintegrate when it dies? Will Donnie Yen definitely deserve better than what he gets in this movie? How far away is Kris Kristofferson from Hillbilly Heaven? Find out next week, dear readers!