Blade was a hit and so inevitably, Hollywood wanted a sequel. It took four years, but Blade 2 arrived in 2002, directed by Guillermo del Toro.
Was it worth the wait? Did it live up to the original?
We begin with a man – Jared Nomak – at a blood clinic, which pays for blood and isn’t fussy about its origins. A woman leads him along the corridor, telling him that there are some anomalies in his tests. He’s taken into a cellar where the vampires are planning to experiment on him.
Nomak laughs and kills them in seconds, easily overpowering the vampires. When he opens his mouth we see a swirling mass of tendrils instead of a tongue.
Cut to the opening credits. A voiceover by Blade explains his background and announces that Whistler didn’t die in the first film – he became a vampire. Blade is now hunting him. Cut to Blade taking down some vampires and forcing one to take him to Whistler, who is being held in a tank full of blood.
Blade brings his former mentor back to his new base, and his new ally, Scud. They give Whistler a technobabble injection, curing him. Two vampires break in (one is Cat from Red Dwarf!), fighting Blade to a draw, only to tell him they’re only there to offer a truce – there’s something new on the loose, and it’s scarier than Daywalker.
The team is taken to meet Damaskinos, a very senior vampire. He tells them the virus that causes vampirism has mutated into a new strain, the Reaper. Nomak is the carrier, feeding on vampires and infecting them. The vampire nation had been training a group, the Bloodpack, to hunt Blade, but now they want him to lead the team against the Reapers.
We’re introduced to the Bloodpack, but the only ones that you will need to remember are Nyssa, the girl who fought Blade at his base, and Reinhardt, played by Ron Perlman.
They begin their hunt at a nightclub, hoping the Reapers will target a place where vampires congregate – sure enough, the team are followed one by one and fights break out. The usual silver and garlic bullets have no effect. Scud, left outside in the van is also attacked, but manages to kill one with UV light. With this knowledge, Blade and the others are able to defeat the Reapers.
Scud and Whistler spend the day inventing a UV grenade, and head into the sewers to find the Reapers. Most of the Bloodpack are killed, but Blade sets off the UV bomb, destroying all the Reapers except Nomak. Straight after this, vampire nation troops arrive and capture Blade.
Our hero wakes up in the vampire complex, with Whistler and Scud. Nomak passed a message to Whistler – the virus did not spontaneously mutate into the Reaper, it was engineered by Damaskinos in an attempt to create a new breed of vampires without the usual vulnerabilities. Scud reveals that he’s been working for the vampires all the time, but is immediately killed by Blade. Blade is then taken away for experimentation to isolate the factor that allows him to survive in sunlight, the one remaining weakness of the Reapers.
Nomak begins a one-man assault on the facility, walking through the guards who continue to fire bullets at him, despite the vampires knowing that he’s practically immune to them. Whistler escapes Reinhardt and rescues Blade – Blade then similarly disposes of a few dozen guards (who attack him hand to hand even though bullets would be much more effective here) and then kills Reinhardt.
Nyssa is disgusted by what Damaskinos (her father) has done and as he tries to escape, she locks them in a hangar to await Nomak’s vengeance. Nomak kills Damaskinos and attacks Nyssa, infecting her with the Reaper virus. Blade arrives for the final fight with Nomak and then takes Nyssa out to see the dawn, killing her before the mutation is completed so that she dies as a vampire.
So how does it compare to the first film?
For me, this film was a disappointment.
The plot description above seems much more involved than that of the original, but it’s not well developed. There are too many fight scenes – some of them very well done, some let down by obvious CGI enhancement – followed by chunks of exposition. There’s no investigation here. Blade turns up, has a fight and is given the information to get to the next set piece. It feels like a walkthrough of a video game.
Stylistically, the direction is OK. I’m not a huge del Toro fan, but his visuals are usually impressive and the sets and lighting here are fine. But most of the cool designs are inherited from the first film – Blade’s general look, his sword and gun. There’s nothing really memorable introduced here except for the design of the Reapers – I’ll come to them in a moment.
Then there’s the relationship between Blade and Nyssa. Remember how in the first film, there was no romance between Blade and Karen (who never even gets a mention here), they just learned to work together and developed some respect for each other? Here, Nyssa is a vampire, trained to hunt Blade. They fight at the start, then are forced to work together and suddenly they’re willing to sacrifice themselves for each other – Blade lets Nyssa feed from him, Nyssa curses her father for not measuring up to the ‘honourable’ Blade, and finally dies in his arms as he caresses her face.
But here are what I think are the biggest problems.
- He should not be in the film at all, it betrays one of the more significant moments from the first film. But the opening narration sets up the fact that Blade is hunting for him, ending with the words, ‘I will find him, and nothing will stand in my way’. Makes it sound as though the film will deal with the search, maybe even have Whistler will be the bad guy, doesn’t it? Could have been interesting, right? Instead, this plot is finished with ridiculous speed. Blade interrogates one vampire and has two fight scenes and finds Whistler in six minutes of screen time. Another six minutes and he’s cured of vampirism.
- They can cure vampirism! Is this a major disruption to the status quo? No, they just wanted Whistler in the film and this was a way to do it. The cure doesn’t get mentioned again.
- Now that Whistler is here again, we don’t need Scud… so he turns out to be a traitor. Presumably this was intended as a twist, but it was so very obvious. His character served no purpose and could have been left out entirely, as could most of the Bloodpack, almost all of whom get a single distinctive feature (one has tattoos, one has bright red hair, one is Donnie Wen being utterly wasted here, one has a big spiked hammer) in place of character. Even Danny John-Jules is distinctive solely because it’s the Cat being a vampire.
- The villains just don’t compare to Deacon Frost. Damaskinos is behind the whole thing, but only appears in a few scenes and isn’t even defeated by Blade. Reinhardt is engaged in a bit of a pissing contest with Blade – almost the only point of characterisation in the whole film – but is killed off almost trivially, and even Ron Perlman can’t bring any sparkle to the dialogue. Nomak is sort of presented as a tragic figure, but he’s used as a monster instead of a villain. Deacon Frost was a bad guy, out for power, but he was enjoying himself and we enjoyed watching him. Luke Goss does not have the presence that Stephen Dorff did, but there’s nothing in the script for an actor to run with anyway.
- Finally – the Reapers themselves. Certainly the most memorable aspect of the film is their design. The mouth opening downwards through the chin was innovative and the effects, both practical and CGI work well to present it for the most part. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they don’t add to the menace, just a touch of body-horror. In the early scenes, they are built up as a new level of threat above vampires. The Bloodpack, the best of the best, are unable to take them one-on-one. But once we find out that the Reapers are vulnerable to UV light, they become cannon fodder themselves. We’re left with vampires who no longer appear a threat, the Reapers have been wiped out and Damaskinos, whose position is never made clear, but is clearly a very high ranking member of the vampire nation, is dead. The human race seems pretty safe – Blade can just load up with those UV grenades and the war will be over in a few weeks.
So that was Blade 2. For me, it didn’t understand what worked in the first one, threw out characterisation and just tried to raise the stakes by diminishing everything that happened in the first film and introducing a new breed of super-vampires to be killed by the dozen. How will Blade 3 compare? We’ll see soon…
Steve works full-time for the NHS and tries not to spend too much of his day plotting out his series of vampire novels. Away from the office, he divides his time between playing games where he is a vampire, playing games where he hunts vampires, and playing with Lego (he has numerous Lego vampires).