(C) New Line Cinema

After watching and thoroughly enjoying the first Blade film (check out the review here), my expectations were sky-high for Blade II. Directed by the legendary horror master Guillermo del Toro, and featuring the brilliant Wesley Snipes reprising his role as Marvel’s daywalker, I was expecting a thrilling action/horror hybrid that was worthy of the Blade name. For this reason, I regret to say that Blade II was a bit of a disappointment.

In Blade II, Wesley Snipes returns as the eponymous vampire-hunter, alongside his tech whizz-kid Scud (The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus) and back-from-the-dead mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). This time around, Blade’s sworn enemies, the Vampire Council, call upon Blade and his team to help them defeat the Reapers, a new form of vampire that feeds off not only humans but vampires too. So, with the help of Nyssa (Leonor Varela), Reinhardt (Ron Perlman) and members of the elite Bloodpack, they must defeat the Reapers and save themselves – and the world – once more.

The first thing you notice about Blade II is its action. As in the 1998 original, the action scenes here are superbly choreographed, masterfully executed, and fantastically gruesome. The lighting del Toro uses during these sequences is brilliant, with my particular favourite when the scene is drenched in dark blue throughout a certain fight. The swordplay is brilliant here as well, with the stunt-work absolutely top notch, and thanks to the most of the action’s lack of CGI, these sequences have aged superbly, and remain as tense, brutal and gory now as they were in 2002. The death scenes are also fantastic – albeit slightly dated – and stay true to the incredibly gruesome and violent portrayal of this world. That said, I do feel like the film relied too heavily on action, with a large majority dedicated to fight scenes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the action is sublime, but it did get a bit tiring and I would’ve preferred a bit more story in between the brawls.

On the topic of Blade II‘s story, it doesn’t quite match up to the first. Admittedly, the first Blade had a lot of world-building to do – introducing Blade himself, showing the viewer the entire vampire underworld and mythology whilst still making the film accessible – and to all intents and purposes, it pulls this off, so a sequel would definitely need to build on what we learnt in the original. Unfortunately, the plot here isn’t quite as strong as the original’s, and feels awfully generic. It reminds me most of James Cameron’s Aliens insofar as a ragtag group of fighters have to bring down an army of almost unstoppable enemies. Aside from some expository dialogue to catch newcomers up and a few callbacks to the original, the first two acts of this film aren’t particularly focused on the story, only really doing the bare minimum to introduce this plot. It plods along well during this period of time, not doing anything special, but once we hit the end of the second act and the beginning of the third, the plot really kicks in. A series of twists are a bit hit-or-miss, with one in particular very weak, and another being a real sucker-punch. This is a reasonably predictable film, but I doubt anyone could’ve seen it coming.

Like in the first, characterisation in Blade II is pretty good. Of course, Wesley Snipes’ eponymous daywalker is the star of the show, delivering his lines fantastically with the perfect mix of snarky quips and efficient brutality depending on the situation. It was also a pleasant surprise to see Kris Kristofferson back as Weaver, since he was supposed to be dead at the end of the first film, and his character is just as brilliant again, providing some excellent comic relief with well-delivered jokes, being my favourite performance here. Nevertheless, some of the best performances in Blade II are from the newly-introduced characters. Norman Reedus’ Scud stands out, and although I initially thought he was quite poorly-written, his character definitely grew on me, with some really well-executed character moments making him by far the best newcomer. Also joining the cast is a del Toro staple, Ron Perlman, who plays one of the Blood Pack’s main fighters, Reinhardt. Despite him usually playing heroes, he does a great job of being a pseudo-villain here, working with Blade while also plotting his downfall. The same can’t be said for Leonor Varela, who plays Nyssa, the Blood Pack’s leader, whose monotonous delivery and weak performance let her character arc down. The worst sinner, though, is Luke Goss as the film’s main villain, Nomak. It’s not his fault that the character falters but the writer’s: he’s in the film for 15 minutes tops and in the end just becomes a veil for the film’s main – yet also as poorly-executed – villain to emerge.

From a technical side, nevertheless, Blade II is a great improvement on the first. The CGI here is pretty good, and when the vampires dissolve it looks great, much better than the first. The best CGI comes from the Reapers themselves, who unexpectedly open their mouths to reveal a massive pincer-like jaw. I’d totally forgot that they were in this film, so when they first opened their mouths fully, my jaw dropped. Their design is simply legendary and luckily the CGI still holds up. Thankfully, this film is more reliant on practical effects this time around, most noticeably in the Reaper autopsy scene, which left me wincing a few times. Guillermo del Toro’s direction here isn’t anything special aside from a few nicely lined up shots, but his design is prevalent throughout, with some quintessentially ‘del Toro’ creatures popping up throughout. The score is quite forgettable, and the sound mixing isn’t great either, with some of the sound effects being drowned out by the music in certain action scenes. David S. Goyer’s script isn’t brilliant either, with a load of clichés, although it does get the job done.

Despite not quite living up to my expectations after such a great trilogy-opener, Blade II is a good time thanks to its fantastic action and decent plot. Some of the performances are disappointing but not enough to ruin the film’s generic, but occasionally shocking, story, which borrows well from some of cinema’s greatest films. It’s nothing too special and isn’t as good as 1998’s Blade, but it’s a gory, action-packed, fun roller-coaster ride nonetheless.