A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 489 – Blade II

Blade II – July 2nd, 2011

In his review Andy will be talking about how we first saw this movie. Suffice it to say we saw the ending twice, which wasn’t really as much of a spoiler as you might think. I mean, you know a particular character dies, but it’s sort of like reading the very last page of a mystery novel. You might get something, but the context is missing and therefore it means almost nothing. And besides, the end of the movie wasn’t what I was looking forward to when we first saw it. After the opening of the first movie I was hoping for something spectacular in the second. Alas. It’s just never going to be as good.

This movie opens with a good introduction for our villain, but it’s just not the same sort of visceral intro to the whole movie. Sure, we pick up on the whole vampires-run-blood-banks concept and then meet a grotesque new breed of bloodsucker who can open his jaw from the center and use tongue tentacles to subdue his victims, but it just doesn’t grab me. There’s less of a sense of “this is going to be bloody fun” here and more of a sense of “this is going to be bloody.” And it will be! There’s plenty of blood in this movie, thank goodness, but it’s not shooting out of sprinklers or anything. And some of it’s green, which confuses the heck out of me (there’s a bit in the trivia about the new vampire breed having green blood but theirs is clear and the vampire lord at the end has green) but I’ll run with it. After all, the movie is also giving me more of Blade being a tidy bad-ass and another kick ass female lead.

The movie begins with Blade retrieving Whistler from a vampire safehouse. He’s half-turned and being stored in a vat of blood, which seems really unpleasant but hey, I’m not a vampire. It’s been two years, according to Blade and he has a new assistant: Scud, who’s a young man who likes loud music, cartoons and tinkering with mechanical things. Soon after he and Whistler butt heads a team of vampires breaches Blade’s security and shows up to deliver a message asking for Blade’s help. Seems the new baddie we saw at the beginning is feeding on vampires and turning them into feral versions of himself and they’re extending a truce offer to Blade so he’ll help them take out this new threat. And to help with this task they offer him the strike team that’s been training to take him down. Obviously this is an uneasy sort of group.

I do like the dynamics here. Blade is obviously our hero and he doesn’t like vampires. But then he gets a whole team of vampires to work with and they’re not the bad guys we’re worried about but they’re clearly not the good guys either. Still, a few of them seem to have some honor to them, which makes the vampires as a whole group deeper and more interesting to me. It was true of the first movie too – not all of them were interested in hunting down Blade or expending their resources on things like blood rituals – but this movie gives us a whole cast of vampires to meet. Not all of them are that interesting and they fill somewhat expected roles. There’s the Asian vampire who’s a kickass martial artist and there’s a petite punk pixie vampire with bright red hair who hangs off of her big strong tattooed boyfriend and there’s another tank and one of them is Irish and eh, it’s not that I’m so much invested in their individual characters as that I like that we’re shown a variety here (and when the tattooed boyfriend gets turned into the new type of baddie the punk pixie sacrifices herself to take him out – well played there).

Out of the whole crew there are two real standouts: Reinhardt and Nyssa. Reinhardt is played by Ron Perlman and okay, I love Ron Perlman so that’s a huge plus. But he also plays a good foil for Blade. Because no, this team is not going to be best buds with the man they’ve been planning on hunting down, even if they do have to work with him. Reinhardt sneers and snarls and is generally so not on board with this whole working-with-Blade idea but Blade sticks a bomb on the back of his head early on, so he kind of has no choice in the matter. Nyssa, on the other hand, is the daughter of the vampire lord who’s looking for Blade’s help. She’s got a nobility to her and I really quite like Leonor Varela’s performance of her. She’s smart, she’s fast, she’s skilled with weapons and she’s got a sense of honor and a code of ethics that put her people first and foremost in her priorities. And if working with Blade means she’s going to be able to stop a threat to her people then so be it. And she’s able to respect him and gain his respect in turn.

Again, this movie doesn’t really set up a romance. There’s a little something between Nyssa and Blade, but I’ve always seen it more as camaraderie than romance. Because again, Blade isn’t looking for a relationship and again, the female lead in the movie has better things to do than sit around and pine for a man who’s thoroughly unavailable. Where last night we had Action Hematology, tonight we just have plain old action. And it’s good action. Sure, some of the larger fight scenes suffer from the typical issue of there being a mob and they attack the hero one by one instead of, you know, ganging up on him. But at the same time the real baddies, the Reapers, mob everyone. So I’ll give the movie a bit of a pass on that. Maybe regular vampires have a thing about fights. Anyhow, the team heads down to track the Reapers, end up getting overwhelmed and then surprise! It was all a plot by the vampire lord in the first place!

Now, here is my only real issue with the movie. There are two traitors in among the people Blade works with throughout the movie. One of them? Fine, no problem. He doesn’t get much in terms of screen time away from Blade or Whistler so he’s clearly always acting. The other? Well, much as I like him, I don’t know if he was written convincingly as a traitor. He gets a good deal of screen time away from Blade and with other people and his interactions with them just don’t work for me. I can’t put my finger on it. There’s no one specific line that stands out to me. It’s just that when you find out that he’s been leading Blade on the whole time? It seems like there are things that should have been written differently. Like you should be able to look back at everything he did and said and see how it was leading to where the vampire lord wanted it to lead. And it doesn’t. Oh well. That’s really my only complaint here. It doesn’t start on as high a note as the first movie but it’s still fun and it’s still got some good characters and a strong female lead and lots of blood and a few more twists than the first one and a well developed villain concept. Not to mention a call-forward to Hellboy. So that’s a cool bonus too.

July 2, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Blade II

July 2, 2011

Blade II

I have an amusing story that goes with this movie. Amanda and I had enjoyed the first one on DVD so much that we decided to see the second one in the theaters. When we went into the theater though the movie was already playing. We checked our tickets to be sure we were in the right cinema and checked our watches. We weren’t late – as usual we were a few minutes early. Then the movie ended. I’ve never been sure why exactly, but for some reason the movie was running late, so we ended up seeing the end of the movie and closing credits before watching the start. It was very strange.

We stuck around after that though and got to see the movie from the start, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. On subsequent viewings it isn’t quite as cool as it was that first time in the theater, but at the time I thought it was one of the coolest pure stupid action films I had seen in a long time. It wasn’t so much the plot or acting, which are not particularly exceptional, but the visual flate the movie has that impressed me. At the time I didn’t know it, but what I was really falling in love with was the directorial style of Guillermo del Torro. I didn’t really know who he was when I went to see this movie, and wouldn’t start really paying attention to his work until I went to see Hellboy in the theaters a couple years later, but he has a vision which brought this particular pedestrian action movie and raised it up to be something which at the time I found surprising and enjoyable.

The story being told here is not a particularly convoluted one, and has somewhat of a written by committee feel to it at times. It starts out with Blade searching for Whistler, who has been taken captive by vampires after the events of the last film which left him half-turned. When he shot himself he already was vampire enough that it didn’t kill him, and the vampires have been keeping him alive ever since. After a flashy motorcycle fight scene Blade is able to discover Whistler’s whereabouts and promptly bursts into the warehouse in question and slaughters all the guards, but doesn’t have the heart to simply kill his old partner. So he hauls Whistler back to his lair and shoots a heavy duty cure into him and then hey-presto Whistler is entirely human again the next morning and the movie can get started. It’s clumsy and full of plot holes. As much as I enjoy having the team of Blade and Whistler back together again it’s a dreadfully awkward way to get it done.

With all that out of the way the actual plot of the movie can start to unfold. A pair of black clad vampires break into Blade’s workshop and after a little acrobatics announce that they’re come to offer Blade a truce. It seems that there’s a new monster in town, and it has the vampires running scared. These creatures, called Reapers, hunt vampires the way that vampires hunt humans and turn them into new Reapers. They have an insatiable appetite and their numbers are increasing exponentially and if left unchecked will very quickly wipe out all vampires (and probably all humans as well.) So Blade, along with Whistler and Blade’s new boy-wonder sidekick Skud troop off to the local vampire headquarters to meet the elite team of hunters they will be working with. The hitch? These hunters have been training for six years to hunt Blade – they don’t take too well to being forced to work with him to take on the Reapers.

From there on out it’s pretty much pure stupid action. The Reapers are not vulnerable to silver or garlic and regenerate even faster than vampires do, which makes them tough to kill. Pretty much the only thing that works is sunlight. Meanwhile Blade and the vampire squad all have cool new weapons including pistols with blades attached and UV flash grenades. They duke it out in a vampire nightclub, then in the abandoned building above it, and in the sewers below it. They eventually even end up fighting in the heavily fortified vampire home base (after the vampires’ sudden but inevitable betrayal.)

As I watched the movie again I realized that just about everything I liked about it and found cool the first time I saw it came from del Torro and his cohort Mike Mignola (the creator of Hellboy who worked on the art department for this movie.) Obviously I have no idea which members of the vast design department were responsible for which details of the movie, but the movie is filled with little details that feel ripped from the minds of del Troo and Mignola. The bladed pistols for example. The vampires in the club being flayed for fun. The glove with the syringes at the start of the movie. Even the exceptionally cool look of the Reapers with their bifurcated lower jaw.

I like the look of this movie better than I like the movie itself I guess. It’s full of awesome special effects shots that I have to assume use digital doubles which allow the camera to swoop impossibly around blade as he leaps and flips about. It’s got an aesthetic to it which I would characterize as uniquely del Torro look. In many ways it feels to me now as though it’s a dry run for Hellboy. It even has Ron Pearlman as one of the vampire cadre. It’s not as awesomely cool as Hellboy is though. When I first saw this it had a look that was cool and new and intrigued me, now that I know how much more del Torro is capable of though It seems like more of a stepping stone and not so much like the awesome action film I thought it was that first time. It makes me want to watch Pan’s Labyrinth.

July 2, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment