I had a hard time convincing anyone to join me for Blade II. Even friends I had convinced to watch Blade were reluctant to see the sequel. Somehow, they knew....
Blade was such a good movie that many critics — myself included — were grudgingly forced to admit it. In spite of our distaste for blood and violence, Blade entertained. The fight choreography, Wesley Snipes’ iconic performance, and a consistently fantastic comic-book look pushed it over the top. In addition, it was a birth-of-the-superhero tale, a formula that’s hard to screw up (look at Superman, Darkman, or Tim Burton’s Batman).
Blade II has some of the successful elements of the first, but it fails to hold together as well. It ups the violence in a vain attempt to compensate for that special ingredient that made the first movie so good.
Don’t Fear the Reapers
Snipes returns as Blade, a half-human, half-vampire who controls his thirst for blood with a daily injection. His mission is to protect humanity from vampires.
He has hired a young mechanical whiz, Scud (Norman Reedus), to help build new weapons to fight the vampire menace. Scud replaces Blade’s crotchety old mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who died in the first movie and is, later in this movie, written back to life.
Blade catches two vampires in protective suits infiltrating his lair. A fight scene ensues, and during a breather, the vampires are able to deliver their message: they’re not here to attack, but to invite Blade into their inner sanctum.
It seems a new menace has surfaced. There is a new type of vampire, an ultra-vampire, called a reaper. The reapers are stronger and hardier than regular vampires, and they are able to feast on either humans or regular vampires. The vampires are concerned and they want Blade to help them fight the reapers.
Ready to Rumble
It’s a good story on paper. It takes the original story to an entirely new level, rather than just repeating it. It seems ideal for a sequel. But in practice, it doesn’t work.
Blade II fails as an action movie because it has too much plot. One almost needs a scorecard to keep track of the loyalties and ambitions of all the characters. It might have worked as a vampire political thriller, but as an action movie, it’s just too convoluted.
And Blade II is definitely sold as an action movie. The first few scenes are just an excuse to show off some new big guns. In the middle scenes, Blade and his team mow down hordes of reapers using even newer weapons. And just for good measure, a few hand-to-hand combat scenes are peppered throughout.
One-on-one fight scenes are part of what made the first movie very good. But they’re not as good in the sequel. Fights in Blade II rely much more on computers and editing. Worst of all is the showdown at the end where, once or twice, Snipes lands on concrete with all the convincing humanity of a video game character.
When he’s not computer generated, Wesley Snipes is still good as Blade. He’s got the cool, menacing grimace down pat. And while he may be getting older, he still has the body, charisma and presence to be a superhero.
Ron Perlman has been acting in movies for a long time, but he is just now becoming an icon. My audience grew excited with recognition when Perlman made his dynamic entrance as a vampire assigned to help Blade. His tough-guy demeanor gives Snipes a run for his money.
But even with Snipes and Perlman, Blade II is a disappointment. This type of kinetic violence is never easy on the nerves, but at least in the first movie it was part of a good story with interesting twists, carefully crafted to make it palatable. In Blade II the violence isn’t balanced by any of those traits, and it fails to measure up.