Posted: Monday, April 08, 2002

There really should be two separate categories for action flicks. You've got your standard action movie where the bitter burnout Cop/FBI Agent/Ex-Navy Seal takes out a whole band of terrorists/bank robbers/aliens single-handedly. And then there's your comic book action flick. It's pretty much the same thing except for the fact that everyone has special powers, and the good guy spends a whole lot of time posing dramatically, with his sword raised, or his guns at the ready. It's almost like Madonna's Vogue is playing somewhere just off the soundtrack for the audience.

For those of you who missed the first Blade, part II, does you a favor by summarizing the plot at the beginning of the movie. Basically, Blade is Wesley Snipes; a "day walker," a kind of half-vampire with the ability to walk around during the day, and without the "allergy" to silver or garlic. He does have all of their strengths, however, which makes him just about unstoppable. He hunts and kills vampires. He does it so well, in fact, that I was feeling sympathy for the bad guys, not Blade. His garlic and silver laced bullets work so well that he barely has to wing the poor bloodsucker and he bursts into flame and winks out in a matter of seconds. Ditto with his silver plated knives, swords, throwing daggers, etc. The first fifteen minutes of the movie, Blade might as well be fighting a bunch of balloons for as much resistance as they were able to put up. You start to wonder what the point of him being a highly skilled sword fighter, and martial arts expert is, when all he has to do is spray his machine gun into a crowd and it's like throwing a match on a puddle of gasoline. I could do that.

Luckily, the writers must have sympathized with how boring that was getting and before long they introduce a new villain. The Reavers. Or Reapers. I couldn't tell which, but both have pretty sinister connotations. Reapers (we'll go with that one) are a new breed of vampire that feed on both humans and other vampires. Everyone they kill becomes another Reaper, and soon there is a small army of these zombie-like creatures. The vampires are at a loss, and so they enlist Blade, their mortal enemy, to lead an elite team to hunt and kill the Reapers. This team is called the Blood Pact. Or Blood Pack. I'm not sure - I think the freshmen two rows back were cheering too loud for me to hear. Anyway, the Pack has been training for years with one specific purpose in mind: to hunt and kill Blade, so you can imagine there is a little animosity between the team and their new leader.

That's the basic story, though there are a few interesting twists and turns thrown in in what turned out to be a better than average script. This movie was actually better all around than I thought it would be. The Reapers are pretty good villains (read: They don't die when you look at them funny) and the addition of the Blood Pack made for some great fight scenes. I was bothered by the posing, but I guess it makes sense if you think of this movie as a cinematic embodiment of a comic book. Comics are full of poses. That's really the whole thing. Each frame of a comic is like a mini work of art, and when there are people in the frame, it's a mini-portrait. Therefore, each time Wesley Snipes stops the action to glare menacingly at the camera with his double curvy throwing knives in mid-toss, you have to remind yourself - he's doing a portrait. It'll help.

Actually the posing doesn't really break up the action too bad, and you can't deny that Blade looks good in his black trenchcoat, wielding his samurai sword. The look is what this movie is all about, and in that arena, it succeeds perfectly. The Blood Pack are all very stylish in their variations on the black leather theme, and each of their weapons fit their individual look. Blade's sunglasses are the epitome of cool, though you'd think getting hit in the face with a rebar and concrete club would break them, or at the very least put a scratch on them. Who knows, maybe they're supernatural as well. The sets in the film are all top notch, and the cinematography does much to enhance the creepy feeling of the whole film. Again, it's all about the look in this movie. The director, Guillermo Del Toro, has some experience with creating a great creepy mood through the look of a film. He is the man behind The Others, one of last year's best movies. I was actually a little surprised to hear that he was heading up Blade II, but then again, he's also the guy who gave us the giant killer cockroaches in The Mimic.

When it's all said and done, Blade II achieves the same sort of success that it's predecessor did. It is diverting, fairly enjoyable, and kind of dumb all at the same time. But boy does it look good. Grade: B-

Blade II is rated R for violence, gore, and language.

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