March 2002: Movie Review: Blade II: This Movie Bites

One gets the impression, upon viewing Blade II, that the filmmakers watched Alien Resurrection one too many times. They even cast Ron Perlman.

The sequel to Blade, which was similar but better-written, is B-movie schlock with a budget. It includes all of the necessary ingredients: spooky monsters, peculiar alliances (complete with double agent), tons o' gore, a mad scientist in a basement, and embryos. Lots of embryos. Update with chrome-plated sci-fi setting and a couple dozen product placements (including one which suggests that Kripy Kreme donuts are the favored munchie of stoners), bake in oven until cheese melts, and serve.

All of this would be fine, except that no one clued the cast, who seem to think they're making a serious movie. Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson (whose impeccable comic timing lends some humor that the movie badly needs) are back, of course. They're joined by Perlman, rising martial arts superstar Donnie Yen, and incandescent Leonor Varela, who turns in a far better performance than the movie demands. They, and the rest of the cast, deserve better than this.

It's not that Blade II isn't ambitious. There's plenty of potentially good stuff, including an attempt to update the vampire myth via genetic engineering, a couple of neat-o high-tech gadgets (including a grenade that emits multi-directional beams of ultraviolet light), and a bit of Arthurian melodrama. Unfortunately, these elements are thrown together with little forethought or insight, and the dialogue used to communicate them is leaden enough to anchor a cruise ship. There's also a lack of attention to fine detail that suggests a severe style-over-substance fetish. Example: early in the film we meet a man who, while not a vampire, appears to be helping them in some capacity. "Are you one of them?" Blade asks. "Almost," the man replies. "I'm a lawyer." Funny, but the character's later appearances have nothing to do with law and everything to do with an attempt to insert some Brad Dourif-style spookiness into a movie that has too much style already, thank you.

Of course, minor inconsistencies in favor of a good line are no crime, especially in a movie like this one that needs them so very badly. But they're nefarious little things-enough of them together in a single movie have the same cumulative effect as a plot hole wide enough to drive a truck through. And when the movie has one or two of those as well, it's deadly. For instance, vampires go on daylight raid late in the movie. Early in the movie, they have these nifty high-tech suits that prevented them from being harmed by sunlight. Why on earth don't they use these nifty high-tech suits to go on their daylight raid, instead of not even bothering to wear helmets? When musings like these are more interesting than what's happening on the screen, you're in trouble.

All of this aside, it's likely that Blade II will be very popular. The advance screening I attended was packed to the gills, and the film elicited howls of delight from major portions of the audience. (It also got a few laughs that I'm pretty sure were unintentional, but the soundtrack largely drowned those out.) It's exactly like popcorn: little nutritional content, not a whole lot to sink your teeth into, and lousy as a regular part of anyone's complete breakfast, but taken occasionally it's entertaining enough. It'd be nice, though, to see Snipes put his not inconsiderable skills as an actor to better use. After all, he has in the past.