Its been a long time coming but one of the most heavily anticipated films of the year has finally arrived and thankfully has not disappointed. Blade is back and doing what he does best - killing vampires and killing them in style. Firstly however, anyone who has seen the trailer is probably wondering "Is that really Whistler walking around? Was he not killed in the first film? It better not be the old 'long lost twin brother routine' or something lamer." Thankfully it is not anything quite as bad as that, but the film does spend the first fifteen minutes explaining the return of Whistler in a fairly plausible manner. But hey, end of the day its good to have him back as he's grouchy as ever and still cracking out insults along the way. (NOTE: For anyone remotely interested, the original ending of the first Blade film is stuck on at the end of this review - I just slapped it on because it had an interesting twist that was replaced at the last minute in anticipation of the sequel.)
Wesley Snipes returns as Blade, the Daywalker, faster, meaner and badder than when we left him. For the uninitiated, Blade is a half-vampire with all the strengths of a vampire but none of the weaknesses, except the thirst for blood (he injects himself with a serum that counteracts the thirst and keeps him civil). He continues to avenge himself on the vampire nation for their manifold sins towards him and all mankind, killing as many of them as he can find. He is not as distracted by his heritage as in the first film, but has accepted what he is; a vampire hunter, now in his prime and the undead are very afraid.
It has been two years since Whistler (again played with grumpy relish by Kris Kristofferson) turned into the thing that Blade hates the most, a vampire. He has been hunting his old mentor and finally finds him in Prague, but it turns out that Whistler has been kept floating in a blood-support tank and is constantly tortured, only to be healed, to be tortured again by his vampire captors. Blade rescues his friend and injects him with a detoxifying injection (wasn't that created by Karen in the first film?). Having been reunited with his mentor and also having a replacement mechanic/weapons maker Scud (Norman Reedus) now within his trust (well someone had to do Whistler job while he was away) two vampires, Nyssa (Leonor Varela) and Asad (Danny John-Jules, more commonly known as Cat from the brilliant Red Dwarf TV series) break into Blade's lair to deliver a message from the ruling Vampire Nation; a truce. Blade is taken to meet Emperor Damaskinos (Tchéky Karyo) who explains why he is forced to call for his help.
It seems that vampires are no longer at the top of the food chain. A mutant strain of vampire has evolved, one which feeds on vampires and humans alike, one that is immune to garlic, silver and almost everything else bar sunlight. These creatures have been dubbed Reapers and the vampire nation wants Blade to lead a small tactical unit, the Bloodpack, to hunt out the reapers and destroy them. The Bloodpack haven't been training to hunt Reapers, they have been training to hunt and kill Blade, so having to take orders from the Daywalker is less than appetising for them. It is obviously clear to both sides that the truce can only be temporary.
So the stage is set, two untrusting groups, Blade and the Bloodpack, fighting against a powerful enemy, the Reapers and more importantly Nomak, the original Reaper and the carrier of the new mutation. At the same time both watching their backs and wondering at which point the flimsy truce will be broken. It doesn't help that Blade seems to be attracted towards Nyssa and that Whistler has been 'cured' too easily and seems to behaving strangely, having spent two years running with the enemy. The lines of all the partnerships start to become blurry.
Snipes is excellent as Blade again, he really seems to enjoy the role, kicking vampire arse and having a great physical presence onscreen. Only Ron Perlman as Reinhardt, the original leader of the Bloodpack is as menacing as Blade. Kristofferson is great as the grumpy mentor who seems to have no eyes (I've never seen a man squint so much since Clint Eastwood in A Fistful Of Dollars). The rest of the cast in all honesty is there to be horribly killed or mutated. However, the biggest surprise is Luke Goss as Nomak - yes he of BROS fame, finally making more than teenage girls scream and cry. He is very good as Nomak, the main Reaper, a role that is much more than just biting people and is menacing as well as being sympathetic - a cracking villain.
Director Guillermo del Toro has excelled at taking the Blade franchise further. More gore, more blood and more action than the first. The CGI stunts are poor in places (especially when Nyssa and Blade fight during their initial meeting) and look very 'cartoonish'. However they seem to improve as the film progresses and by the end are seamlessly integrated into the fast paced live fighting action. The Reapers are very impressive - a brilliant design concept, each with a scar down their chin, which reveals its true purpose later in the film.
Blade 2 is a great fun, pounding action with a pumping soundtrack. It improves on the original, which was good in its self, and shows that Blade is definitely back; bigger, badder and better than ever.
BACK TO THE REVIEWS
The original ending of Blade -
"Catch you at a bad time, Comrade?" a voice behind him asked.
The hooded man turned easily, chuckling at the irony of the situation. He heard the footsteps of the woman tearing out behind him, shushing through the snow. He recognized Blade easily. The Hunter stepped out of the shadows, drawing his sword with slow deliberation. Taking a Zippo from his pocket, the hooded man flicked it to life with equal deliberation. As he bent his head to breathe flame into the cigarette, the glow revealed his face. His whiskey-aged voice was exactly the way Blade remembered.
"Well, this is gonna be interesting, isn't it?" Whistler asked.