In 1998, movie audiences were introduced to Blade, a half human, half vampire action hero on a personal crusade to rid the world of undead bloodsuckers. With its wall to wall action, fast paced martial arts, and rave party sensibilities, Blade was a sizeable hit that built a strong following amongst fans of action horror. Four years later, the hybrid slayer hits the big screen again in an adventure packed with better villains, better special effects, and better fight sequences.
Wesley Snipes reprises his role as the title hero in Blade 2, in which he must battle a deadly new breed of vampire. Known as the Reaper, this particularly nasty freak has an ugly mug not even a mother could love. An insatiable killing machine that propagates at an alarming rate, it is immune to the silver, garlic, and decapitation that can destroy their bloodthirsty cousins--its only weakness is sunlight. Because it feeds on anything that bleeds, the Vampire Nation calls a truce with Blade, proposing that they team up to destroy their common enemy. Going against his inherent hatred of the undead, Blade forms a shaky alliance with the Bloodpack, an elite group of vampires trained for combat.
While Blade 2 is often inventive in its depiction of vampiric culture, it also makes the mistake of humanizing vampires too much--even more than the original movie does. Depicting these nightcrawlers with their own bureaucratic government is bad enough, but having them play cards, chew bubblegum, train elite commandoes, and retain lawyers are just bad ideas. They're supposed to be inhuman denizens of the dark, not regular people with fangs. The battles between the vampires and the Reapers should have been deadly monsters fighting even deadlier monsters. But instead, the latter are depicted as the only fiends, while the former are no different than the soldiers in Aliens or Predator.
Alpha Reaper Nomak (Luke Goss) makes a far more formidable and noteworthy villain than the prissy Deacon Frost from the first Blade, but most of the Bloodpack members are disappointing. Only two of them--Nyssa (Leonor Varela) and Asad (Danny John-Jules)--have a certain level of sophistication that shows why they are elite amongst the ranks of the vampires. The rest are just common street thugs. The good guys demonstrate a similar lack of complexity: Blade's emotions seem artificial when he is anything but stoic or enraged, while his mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) never amounts to anything more than a grumpy old man.
The special effects in this sequel surpass those of the original: the fiery disintegration of slain undead is flashier, and movie magic brings the hideous characteristics of the Reapers to grotesque life. But the movie's crowing jewel is its martial arts action. Wesley Snipes rocks with badass intensity--whether he's fighting a single, larger than life menace or taking on a entire horde of devils all at once, the "kung fu" comes down at a furious speed. It's mostly good ol' fight choreography done well, but there are occasions when over-the-top sequences are too obviously computer enhanced, detracting from the credibility of the action.
Despite some half-hearted efforts, the story fails to add depth to the carnage. Blade's forbidden romance with capable vamp-babe Nyssa is merely a token afterthought, and its inevitably tragic conclusion hardly calls for an emotional response on the part of the audience. Attempts to weave webs of conspiracy are equally uninspired. But as nice as they would have been, elements like story and characters aren't the priority here. Killer action is, and that's exactly what Blade 2 delivers with its signature mix of vampire slaying and vicious grace.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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