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Fangs, But No Fangs

 

Blade 2

Guillermo Del Toro, USA, 2002

Rating: 2.5

 

 

Posted: March 24, 2002

By Laurence Station

The testosterone-charged counterpart to Anne Rice's erotically effeminate vampire universe, the Blade series has a sharp Théâtre du Grand Guignol look to it and a hearty appetite for blood, sleek, shiny weaponry and bucketfuls of exposed viscera. The 1998 original, directed by Steve Norrington, operated as a dark fable on the perils of drug addiction. In the hands of Guillermo Del Toro, Blade 2 forsakes any semblance of a morality tale in favor of good old-fashioned, overly stylized butt-kicking. The violence quotient has been ratcheted up tenfold in the continuing saga of human-vampire hybrid and lethal vampire hunter Daywalker (aka Blade) (Wesley Snipes) who, as the opening credits boast, possesses "all the strengths of vampires but none of their weaknesses."

This time around it's the vampires who need Blade's help in stopping a mutant strain of their race called the reapers, who feed on bloodsuckers as well as humans. The reapers bear a uniform look akin to Max Schreck's immortally creepy Herr Orlok (Nosferatu), but with distended jaws and nasty mandibles that writhe and rend with grotesque efficiency.

Assisted by his trusty sidekick Whistler (a garrulously un-killable Kris Kristofferson) and upstart weapons tech Scud (competently managed by Norman Reedus), the Daywalker embraces the challenge of taking out the next generation of predatory fanged terrors -- he also takes advantage of the situation to get an inside look at how the elite, pure-blood vampires operate.

Del Toro wastes little time in getting to the action and an endless array of fights ensues, with a back-and-forth rolling mêlée between vampires and reapers. Blade and company eventually find themselves battling the ravenous creatures in the sewers, and soon enough the stock cross-double-cross plot twists kick in which, while not entirely unexpected, still lack the calculated ambition evident in the first film.

Screenwriter David S. Goyer, who penned both movies, managed to create a wonderfully worthy adversary for Blade in the original, in the form of Deacon Frost (a deliciously smarmy Stephen Dorff). But he fails to evoke challenges even remotely worthy of his protagonist in the sequel, with the villainous chores split in three (and none coming close to the cocky menace evinced by Dorff in the first film). The CGI might be more advanced, if overused (especially during the hyper-acrobatic fight sequences), and the plot a shade more intricate, but the necessary climatic showdown between Blade and a suitable archenemy just doesn't happen, which ultimately reduces the film to an exercise in redundant stunt work rather than a satisfying battle between good versus evil.

Del Toro brings a solid visual eye to the project, but his fight scenes are overlong and too close to a WWF battle royal than superhuman opponents squaring off. The romance between Blade and sexy vampire Nyssa (Leonor Varela) shows potential, but never bears fruit. Worse, Snipes at times appears to be parodying the cartoonishly stiff personality that worked so well in the first film. Blade 2 has its moments, but considering its pedigree comes off as a fangless, flashy disappointment.

 
Bloody Background
Blade 2 director Del Toro isn't one to shy away from gore-fests. His resume includes the bizarre vampire tale Cronos (1993), the subway cockroach creeper Mimic (1997) and the violent ghost story The Devil's Backbone (2001).

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