Blade II (2002)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 3/22/02
Martial Arts Choreography: Donnie Yen
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Leonor Varela, Ron Perlman, Donnie Yen

Wesley Snipes returns as Blade, The Daywalker, in this silly and contrived sequel. In a desperate attempt to bring back Whistler's character (Kris Kristofferson), we learn that he actually became a vampire as the result of his death in the first movie, and that for the last two years Blade has been hunting him. He finally rescues the old man and cures him of his vampiric condition - but can he be trusted? During the time of Whistler's absence, Blade enlisted the aid of an annoying, but brilliant, punk kid named Scud to help maintain his arsenal of goodies - but can he be trusted? Now it seems that the Vampiric Order wants a truce with Blade, as a new breed of bloodsuckers has arisen which poses a threat to humans and vampires alike. After being nearly castrated by the beautiful vampire princess Nyssa (pretty Leonor Varela), Blade agrees to help and takes charge of an elite vampire task force known as the Blood Pack - but can they be trusted? Outnumbered and overpowered by the Reapers' growing numbers, will Blade and his new vampire buddies be able to survive?

While this film definitely suffers from sequelitis, I still found it immensely enjoyable. As cheesy as the story is, the writing and execution are much more mature and refined than in the original "Blade" (1998), which clung to juvenile comic book mentality and adolescent dialog. While "Blade II" still has its humorous moments, they are far more subtle and genuinely more funny than those in the original. The film is devoid of any drama, angst, or character development, and instead chooses to assault the audience with non-stop action. It's nice to see that the film acknowledges its own weaknesses and plays on its strengths. The action is loud, intense, frantic, and completely over-the-top, showcasing Wesley Snipe's physicality and a wide array of fascinating cinematography and effects work. The fight choreography is quite good thanks to the graceful hand of Donnie Yen, but jerky camerawork and intrusive editing make it frustratingly difficult to see what's going on. A common complaint of mine. Donnie also appears in a cameo to participate in a very nice sword fight, and is sorely missed shortly thereafter. The film also raises the bar for disgusting visual effects, as the Reapers' physiology is quite yucky. Impressive. "Blade II" boosts the babe factor over the original with the inclusion of lovely Leonor Varela, who is a refreshing distraction from the otherwise entirely male cast and is quite enjoyable to watch in action. While "Blade" is technically a better film, "Blade II" is far less annoying and arguably more enjoyable. But I do have a couple of nagging questions: Why does the head vampire have green blood? And why don't the vampires don their daylight-proof fighting suits during the final showdown when they know they're going to be fighting in daylight? Seems kinda silly to me...