Decades ago, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro ('The Shape Of Water', 'Pacific Rim', 'Nightmare Alley') stepped into the director's chair for the second adventure of Marvel Comics' legendary vampire hunter, Blade (Wesley Snipes). He and writer David S. Goyer ramped up the action of the first film while giving the sequel a much more overtly horror movie aesthetic, fusing a martial arts-laden vampire film on to the backbone and DNA of a traditional zombie movie.
'Blade II' finds Snipes' half-human, half-vampire warrior fighting a new enemy: a pandemic has created Reapers, a new breed of vampire so dangerous and feared that even the snooty vampire establishment wants them destroyed. Not being too keen on vampires, generally, Snipes is understandably reluctant to aid his hated foes, but agrees to help destroy this new subspecies before they can take over the planet. Kris Kristofferson returns to play gruff-old-coot mentor to Snipes' human-vampire cowboy, and they're joined by a scene-stealing Norman Reedus as Snipes' stoner sidekick, Scud.
Basically, 'Blade II' is like 'Mr. Vampire' meets 'Vampire Hunter D' via 'Aliens' on steroids and easily the coolest superhero movie ever.
Here are 20 reasons why.
|It's the best shot 'Blade' movie, thanks to cinematographer Gabriel Beristain, who would later work on, um, Marvel's 'Black Widow'.|
|Although the CGI is shockingly rubbery in places, it just makes it on par with modern Marvel CGI (see: 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' and 'Black Panther'). A testament to its quality, since people seem to love bad CGI nowadays.|
|Michael Jackson was originally going to have a cameo in the House of Pain sequence as a "Vampire Pimp". "I've had some interesting conversations with Michael, the grandmaster Michael," Snipes recalled. "Michael actually asked me if he could be in 'Blade II'. The great Michael wanted to be in one of the 'Blade' movies, to be a tough guy. I was like, 'Mike, which one you gonna do? You wanna play one of the vampires?' He was like, 'No! I wanna be like Blade's friend - I wanna fight with you!' I said, 'Oh Mike, you got jokes.' He was like, 'No, I'm serious!' It's very hard to imagine how people would have managed seeing Michael Jackson in the Blade movie. I don't know. [Laughs.]"|
|Blade has his own team, with Scud and Whistler. But he gets an even bigger team of bad arses when he hooks up with the Bloodpack, a gang of vampire warriors specifically trained to hunt Blade, led by Reinhardt (Ron Perlman). Apparently, del Toro drew specific inspiration from Yoshiaki Kawajiri's 'Vampire Hunter D' when designing these guys. They have names like Nyssa, Chupa, Snowman, Priest, Verlaine, and Lighthammer, and mainly exist just to pose and look awesome.|
|Danny John Jules, who plays Cat in 'Red Dwarf', plays a Bloodpack member named Asad. I always imagine him going "Owwwwww!" and doing a little twirl when he removes his helmet after duelling Blade.|
|The film also features Donnie Yen ('Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'), who plays a katana-wielding Bloodpack member named Snowman. He choreographed most of the film's key fight scenes (alongside Jeff Ward, Clay Donahue Fontenot, and Snipes himself), and gets to do an absolutely boss double jump kick on a Reaper.|
|In fact, 'Blade II' has the best action choreography of any Marvel movie. There's wire-fu and CGI all over the place here, but it's used as a tool to augment the fight sequences rather than to create them. There's a touch of James Cameron's 'Aliens', too, in scenes of trash-talking, heavily-armed grunts creeping through dimly-lit tunnels, swarms of hostiles afoot. Blade's final duel with Nomak, coming after the obligatory scene of Blade destroying a few dozen henchmen single-handedly, is exactly how superhuman martial arts should be done. There's plenty of our hero and villain physically throwing down to make their battle feel epic-authentic, but small amounts of CGI slipped in to show them leaping fifty feet in the air to leave huge craters in the floor or the wall. You really feel a surge of believability in the battle because of how and where the CGI and wire-work are applied, unlike that final fight in 'Black Panther'.|
|The Reaper designs are amazing. They are a clear homage to the classic Nosferatu - feral, pasty ghouls with jaws that nightmarishly detach and expand, often descending on their prey as a massive horde. del Toro would later recycle them for his TV series 'The Strain'.|
|Speaking of recycling, Luke Goss, from UK boyband Bros, is genuinely great as Nomak (David S. Goyer's original idea was to use Morbius as the primary villain). So amazing was Goss that del Toro would bring him back in a nearly identical role - an outcast prince and unstoppable bad arse villain - in 'Hellboy 2' (along with Karl Roden and Ron Perlman).|
'Blade II' balances horror, action and comedy in a way that doesn't exist anymore with modern superhero films.
|When Scud says "Tokage on the smokage, B?" and Blade replies "Later...", we learn that not only is Blade the Daywalker, but he also likes to partake in recreational marijuana smoking, which is cool. Wesley Snipes would later cause ruffle feathers on the shoot of 'Blade: Trinity' by, amongst other things, staying in his trailer smoking weed all day. I'm fine with that.|
|The moment that Blade and the Bloodpack swagger in slow-motion across the warehouse car park while Mos Def and Massive Attack's "I Against I" plays in the background. The song is so cool that it gets played again over the end credits after Blade impales a vampire through the forehead at a live sex show.|
|It has a brilliant soundtrack from Immortal Records, who specialised in teaming up artists from different genres for films like 'Spawn' and 'Judgement Night'. In the case of 'Blade 2', it matched hip hop artists, such as Bubba Sparxxx, Busta Rhymes, Cypress Hill, Eve, Fabolous, Ice Cube, Jadakiss, Mos Def, Mystikal, Rah Digga, Redman, Silkk the Shocker, The Roots, Trina and Volume 10, with electronic musicians, including BT, Danny Saber, Dub Pistols, Gorillaz, Groove Armada, Fatboy Slim, Moby, Paul Oakenfold, Roni Size and The Crystal Method among others. It's quite progressive when you consider that all rap and pop is techno/trap-heavy nowadays.|
|The epic fight scene which features Blade fighting an endless stream of guards to 'Name of the Game (Calling All Freaks)' by Crystal Method, after getting supercharged by falling into a vat of blood. It hits one crescendo when Blade suplexes the last guard through the glass floor, another when he slices Reinhardt in half, and again when Whistler yells "Hey, kid!" and tosses Blade a pair of Oakley sunglasses from a kilometre away. Everyone wears Oakleys in this film. I think Snipes was a fan of the brand.|
|The combative relationship between Perlman and Snipes gives the film a much-needed injection of dry humour as they seek to establish their alpha male credentials. Reinhardt has a neo-Nazi look about him and asks Blade if he can blush. Blade returns the question towards the end of the film before disarming and then slicing him in half in one smooth motion. This was based on a real incident experienced by Wesley Snipes, which probably didn't end in a bisection.|
|I loaned my copy of the DVD to a work colleague. After waiting months for him to return it, he sheepishly admitted that it had been stolen from him by his larger, scarier friend. Always a sign of a quality movie.|
|'Blade II' balances horror, action and comedy in a way that doesn't exist anymore with modern superhero films, which are basically all comedy/adventure, with characters who talk like rejects from a Joss Whedon TV series. It's stylish, fast-paced, and comfortable with its own ridiculousness.|
|The director's commentary is superb, with del Toro bellowing in laughter at how crazy the action and monsters become, saying stuff like "Look at this guy! Look at this guy! A-HAHAHAHA!!!"|
|'Blade II' grossed three times its budget. Sure, this allowed a third, disappointingly terrible 'Blade' movie to get made, but it also meant that Guillermo del Toro had the clout to make 'Hellboy' (and it's even better sequel) and 'Pan's Labyrinth' (his finest film).|
|Simply writing about this film makes me want to watch it again.|
|The one and only Wesley Snipes.|