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BLADE II

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Luke Goss
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS 6.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: September 3, 2002

“You’ve been training for two years to take me out, and now here I am…ooooo…so exciting.”

Film ****

If you’re still in doubt that a sequel can never surpass its predecessor, I can certainly tell you that Blade II is a pure example of such a triumph.

If the original Blade embraced the art and look of a comic book, Blade II IS the real thing. I might be going out on a limb in stating this, but I have never experienced such a single movie (Spider-Man included) where the look of the film along with the general pacing and maneuvering matched that of the comics I used to read as a child. The sequel has acquired a much harder and edgier look to it, using different array of colors and set designs, and also applying a much more disgustingly vile arch-enemy, which makes the vampires in the first movie seem more like The Count from Sesame Street by comparison.

Blade II, like its predecessor, is alive and kicking with endless action, gore, flawless combat and visual effects. The opening sequence includes by far the most outstanding three dimensional shot I’ve seen since Keanu dodged the bullets in The Matrix. We see Blade pursue his enemies through an abandoned high level building. With nearly all of his enemies fleeing on motorcycle, one is left behind. We cut to Blade running towards the end of a ledge, free flying down to the ground, landing on his feet, and quickly unleashing his sidearm that disintegrates his enemy. It’s a remarkable shot that should go down in the history books of visual effects sequences.

The story finds our hero in a much compromising position. After rescuing his mentor and weapons designer Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), Blade gets an unexpected visit from members of the vampire nation, who are requesting an immediate truce so that they can come together to battle a enemy much more deadlier and feared. A race of flesh sucking creatures known as the Reapers have been slaughtering a large quantity of both humans and vampires around the world, leaving the nation no other choice but to request the services of their most valued enemy in helping them destroying them so that the order between humans and vampires can be restored.

The Reapers are by far some of the most brilliantly designed creature villains to ever surface in any movie. Their very presence will send chills down your spine once you pay witness to how they demise their victims, which I assure you, is far cry from the simple killing art of the vampire. The leader of this deadly race is Nomak (Luke Goss), who is the first-born of the race, and thus is determined to put his race on top of the food chain, destroying both races in his path. The suspense holds up superbly well through the movie in terms of Blade and his new team hunting down the Reapers, while wondering if Blade can truly trust some of his new cohorts, some of which don’t take too good of a liking to him.

Blade II is such a remarkable installment, that I almost feel it should be regarded as a movie in its own. All credit should go to director Guillermo Del Toro, without whom Blade II would not be the triumph it is. Del Toro is a filmmaker of superb craft and dark atmosphere, in addition to knowing what really creeps the hell out of his audience, and he has sure struck a nerve here with his intricate design of the Reapers, whose inner features I can’t even begin to describe. Del Toro’s other credits include the crossover vampire movie Cronos, the creepier than life insect horror flick Mimic, and the recent superb Spanish ghost story, The Devil’s Backbone. Since watching this film instantly made me want to check out Del Toro’s previous work, I strongly recommend those other films in addition.

Wesley Snipes returns to form in the role that once again put him back on the stardom map. His physical presence is stronger than ever here, as Snipes professionally pulls it off through endless fighting scenes, which are really endless to the point that we wonder if he will get any rest. The climatic confrontation between Blade and Nomak is one outrageous fighting sequence you won’t soon forget, as Del Toro shoots it in a most remarkable way, using a virtually dark background and limited lighting to give the scene a edgier effect. Nomak also pulls a few surprising moves on our hero, which will sure make those in the WWF proud.

Every once in a while, a sequel will prove itself and actually illustrate to audiences that it is possible to surpass the original movie, no matter if it was good or bad. From Terminator 2 to Superman II to Mission: Impossible 2, these instances are rare but consistent every few years or so, and Blade II can be added on to this prestigious list, as it is not only one of the best sequels I’ve experienced, but by far the best comic book adaptation I have ever witnessed. Definitely one of the year’s best achievements!

Video ****

New Line delivered one of their best looking discs to date with the release of the original Blade, and now they have just about rivaled that triumph with the tremendously superbly looking disc for the sequel. The anamorphic picture embraces this outstanding looking movie in every possible aspect. The image quality doesn’t falter the look of the movie for a second, resulting in jaw dropping natural colors, sharpness, and overall clarity to the picture, and absolutely no sign of any image flaws. New Line should congratulate themselves for a truly remarkable job.

Audio ****

The sound in Blade II is just as furious and alive as that of the first movie, and New Line has applied their audio genius to this blazingly sounding 5.1 mix. Like the recent release We Were Soldiers, New Line has been thoughtful enough to include the added bonus of EX to their transfer, which no doubt adds to the boom of an already ferociously sounding movie. The movie’s many effects and action sequences come into play extraordinarily well, especially the opening sequence I mentioned, and the overall stunning sound makes this release a perfect choice to test your sound system with. One of the top sounding discs of this year without a doubt.

Features ****

New Line’s Platinum Series did such a astounding terrific job on the first movie, and now the pros at the studio have applied an even bigger touch for the sequel, resulting in a Platinum Series 2-Disc set.

Disc 1 includes two commentary tracks, one with director Guillermo Del Toro and producer Peter Frankfurt and the second with star Wesley Snipes and writer David Goyer. Also featured is an isolated 5.1 music score track.

Disc 2 features a gallery of documentaries, which is called “A Pact in Blood”. There is also some deleted/alternate scenes with director commentary, a video game survival guide offering tips and clips from the newly released Blade II video game, a director’s notebook with an into by Guillermo Del Toro, an art gallery, a trailer and teaser, and a music video for Cypress Hill’s song “Child of the Wild West”. DVD-Rom material is also included.

Summary:

Blade II is without a doubt one of the big surprises of the year. Armed with the most knockout look to any comic book adaptation, this is one visionary masterpiece that will remain strong with me for years to come.