A needless sequel to Stephen Norrington's 1998 vampire flick original, "Blade II" is a stylishly filmed journey down a road to nothingness. Based on the Marvel comic, director Guillermo Del Toro (2001's "The Devil's Backbone") is an efficient craftsman of action setpieces, but that is all he and screenwriter David S. Goyer have to offer. The story, while passable, is nothing worth writing home about, and the way in which the vampires die--their bodies turning to fiery ash and crumbling--was seen in exactly the same way a month ago in the smarter "Queen of the Damned
As in its predecessor, Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a half-human/half-vampire who can safely expose himself to sunlight and has dedicated his life to hunting down and killing the vampire population. Set two years later in Prague, he discovers that his thought-to-be-dead longtime partner, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), is very much alive and being held captive. After rescuing him, Blade is confronted by Nyssa (Leonor Varela) and Asad (Dannny John Jules), who head a group known as the Bloodpack. It seems that their leader, Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), wants Blade to ally with them to fight a new and more deadly breed of vampire. Known as the Reapers, they are so dangerous and their appetite for blood so insatiable that almost their entire face opens up like a mouth to suck. With new assistant Scud (Norman Reedus) in tow, Blade agrees to help the Bloodpack, despite the nagging feeling that they may not be worth trusting.
For all of its spiffy make-up effects, daring stunts, and quicksilver editing, "Blade II" is an empty horror-actioner that never offers a plausible reason for its being. The film, like most sequels, is largely inferior to the fun original, and severely lacks the stunning presence of Stephen Dorff. Dorff was every bit the star of "Blade" as Wesley Snipes was, so for him to not be in "Blade II," and for the main nemesis here to pale in comparison, makes for a rather disappointing and superfluous continuation.
What is memorable in "Blade II" is, perhaps, the one crafty invention in Goyer's screenplay. The Reapers are a tour-de-force of creative ingeniousness and sparkling visual design, and the sight of their chins splitting apart to practically engulf their victims' necks is startling, to say the least. What is too bad, then, is the treatment of the major Reaper character, Nomak (Luke Goss), who plays more like an afterthought than a strong villainous force.
As the sunglass-wearing, badass Blade, Wesley Snipes looks almost bored reprising his role. All Snipes is asked to do is brood and look like a force who shouldn't be messed with, but is boring in the process. His lack of outward emotion was something that the original did a nice job of handling, but here he basically doesn't have emotions at all. As potential love interest and potential enemy Nyssa, Leonor Varela (2001's "Texas Rangers
") is adequately entrancing, but like every other actor is at the mercy of a very thin storyline with little breathing room for the characters. Kris Kristofferson, a returnee from the first movie, is excellent as the loyal Whistler. He fits so well into the undemanding but likable part that you would think he was born to play it. If anyone is the star of "Blade II," it is Kristofferson.
Generally composed of about three or four elongated action scenes, "Blade II" moves at a rapid-fire rate. Its quick pace tries valiantly, but does not succeed, at hiding the movie's inadequacies as a horror picture (like last week's "Resident Evil
," it's not even marginally scary) and a sequel. With so little substance to be found in its 114-minute running time, "Blade II" falls into the trap of being an utterly forgettable time-waster that may have a handful of diverting fight scenes, but nothing more. Don't expect to remember it in the morning.
©2002 by Dustin Putman