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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Blade II

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing and blogging of a DVD/Blu-Ray I own because I'm o so lonely.  We continue what we started last week, by watching the popular sequel to Blade, Blade II.  This appears in my notes at July 14, 2013.

Blade II Movie Poster

Well, may as well finish what I started.  After Blade, let's move on to Blade II!

With Blade being a hit, a sequel was inevitable.  And with superhero movies beginning their rise to dominance, you knew the sequel was going to be bigger.  Steven Norrington, who directed the first one, decided to pass, and I'll never forget following the news online.  Marvel's Avi Arad said that they'd be announcing a "big name director" in about 6 weeks, and in 6 weeks, the announcement was made!  That doesn't seem like much, but in Hollywood, announcements of announcements are quite common.  It was a rarity that one was followed through on.

The big announcement came that the director of the second one was...Guillermo del Toro!  Of course, in this day, del Toro is best known for his artsy, Oscar-winning fantasy film Pan's Labrynth.  As I write this, it was Pacific Rim's opening weekend at the box office, and sadly, the film looks like it's on its way to tanking.  But at this point in history, del Toro was still mainly a cult favourite, with his indie horror films Kronos and The Devil's Backbone, and the Miramax thriller Mimic.  But still. known mainly as a horror director, and he had his comic book cred as I'd been reading about his struggles to bring Hellboy to the screen, he seemed like the perfect choice. 

David S. Goyer came back to write the screenplay, and again, I remember reading about his creative process and all the neat things he wanted to do for a Blade sequel.  It was quite well-documented that, originally, he wanted to do a bit of a take-off of Planet of the Apes...a "Planet of the Vampires" if you will.  Set in the not-too-distant future, where vampires have now become the dominant species on the planet, it literally is Blade vs. the world.  But the studio deemed that as being too dark.  Another proposal saw Spider-Man foe Morbius the Living Vampire show up as the villain, but again that idea was nixed.  But then, Goyer hit upon a winning idea.  He created a new monster...the Reaper.  These beings feed upon vampire blood.  They are to vampires what vampires are to humans.  Suddenly, the vampires are in need of a vampire hunter, leading to an uneasy alliance with Blade. 

But first, we've got to figure out how to bring up some popular characters from the first film...like Whistler, Blade's surrogate father figure and mentor in the vampire hunting trade.  See, in the last movie, the vampires attacked him, and Whistler could feel himself starting to turn into a vampire.  Not able to bring himself to kill his surrogate father, Blade gave Whistler a gun, and then walked away.  We heard the gunshot off camera, and the gun fall from Whistler's  hand.  Our movie contrivance resurrection:  he was too far gone in the transformation, and a lead bullet didn't do the job.  Whistler became a vampire, but vampires seeking revenge captured him.  They'd torture him, let his wounds heal thanks to a vampire's regenerative powers, and then torture him again.  So, Blade finds Whistler, rescues him, and the previous film developed a cure to turn back people who'd been turned into a vampire.  Whistler's cured, and he's back.  There have been less contrived ways to bring back characters. 

But we do have new characters.  In order to hunt down the Reapers, Blade is put in command of the Bloodpack, an elite squad of vampire commandos who have been trained to destroy Blade.  They're lead by Nyssa, the daughter of the ruler of the vampires.  She and Blade eventually get a romantic subplot going.  And second in command is Reinhard, played by Ron Perlman, because this is a Guillermo del Toro movie. 

Seriously, Perlman is to del Toro what Johnny Depp is to Tim Burton.  He's got to be in all his films.

And the rest are cannon fodder.  But I do have to give them props.  The Bloodpack are kind of like action figures.  Each one has their own unique look and special weapons to make them distinct.  Collect them all, kids! 

Our villains are Damaskinos, the ruler of the vampire nation, and Nomak, the first, and leader of, the Reapers.  Shall I reveal the plot twist?  Nomak is eventually revealed to be the son of Damaskinos and the sister of Nyssa.  Vampires turned to genetic engineering to try and rid themselves of those vampiric weaknesses (silver, garlic, sunlight, et al).  But, science went wrong and the Reapers were born.  So rather than just the mindless monster he's made out to be, Nomak is actually seeking vengeance on his father for turning him into a monster. 

And the last of our new characters is Scud, a twitchy stoner who's always puffing a joint and watching Powerpuff Girls.  He's Blade's new weapons designer after Whistler, and I do find him somewhat annoying.

So I think you've gleamed the plot by now:  reapers are hunting vampires, vampires ask Blade for help, Blade and vampires hunt reapers, Blade is betrayed by vampires and captured, Nomak kills remaining vampires, Blade kills Nomak. 

Compared to the first one, this film is a lot more polished.  There's a lot more money being thrown around.  As I said, the first one had a "low-budget-made-in-the-80s" look to it.  This has a "medium budget almost-blockbuster" feel to it.  The sets are bigger, the action set pieces are bigger, everything's bigger.  Blade has a little more to do and is more relatable this time around.  There's better gadgets...it's just bigger.

I remember when it came out, the film drew comparisons to Alien, and that's a comparison that still holds up.  Pretty much the whole middle of the film is Blade and the Bloodpack hunting the reapers in the sewers, bringing all kinds of comparisons to the air ducts in Alien.  But it still works, and still provides lots of suspense and scares.  

My big complaint though, which stays the same as when I first walked out of the theatre in the spring of 2002, is the third and final act.  That's where you start going, "OK, now they're just ripping off the first film."  It is like Goyer just copy-and-pasted the end from his first screenplay.  So many striking similarities. 

Other than that, though, it's still a fun action romp after all these years, and I still kind of like it.  Maybe not as good as the first one, but very, very close. 

A lot of fond memories of this one.  I think this was officially the third last movie I saw before I left for Japan.  When I first arrived in Japan, it had just come out over there, and hype for it was everywhere.  And then, when I came home, it was the first DVD I bought. 

Let's see...what movie will I do next?  You'd think Blade Trinity, but I don't own that one.  Missed it in the theatre, I remember renting it afterwards, and being unimpressed.  I think we'll stick with del Toro.   Thanks to the success of Blade II, he finally amassed enough power in Hollywood to do his dream project:  an adaptation of Mike Mingola's comic Hellboy.  We're doing Hellboy next!

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