Set two years after the original, Blade II rekindles us with the half-human/half-vampire (Wesley Snipes) in his ongoing quest to eradicate the undead from the world. Blade is in search of his partner Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who isn’t dead as assumed from the events of the first film. Once the two are safely reunited, Whistler is dismayed to discover Blade’s new assistant, Scud (Norman Reedus, who had me thinking he was Edward Furlong for a hot second), is a two-bit punk despite his experience with combat. Before long, two visitors, Nyssa (Leonor Varela) and Asad (Danny John Jules), who seek to form an alliance with the experienced killer. Nyssa and Asad were sent by Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), an ancient vampire king determined to create a superior race of vampires to carry on his legacy. This new breed of vampires are known as “Reapers,” who have no loyalty — not even to their vampire brethren. They also lack the garlic/silver sensitivity of their counterparts, although they are allergic to light. Patient zero in this mess is Nomak (Luke Goss), Damaskinos’ resentful first-born son.
Blade begrudgingly teams up with the Bloodpack, led by Reinhardt (Ron Perlman), despite their contempt for him. To keep Reinhardt and crew in line, Blade attaches an explosive device to the back of his neck as they navigate nightclubs and convoluted sewers in effort to exterminate this new, fiercer breed of vampires.
Director Stephen Norrington had the lofty task of curating Blade, Marvel’s first feature-film, without much of a blueprint in terms of contemporary superhero or action filmmaking. The result was a film that mirrored the look of a graphic novel, pleasantly so, and too featured one of Marvel’s most fiendish villains to date in Stephen Dorff’s Deacon Frost. Blade II goes for a more refined approach in style, and tapping Guillermo del Toro for director was a wise decision. Like many Marvel sequels to blossoming franchises, sequences of breakneck combat become the focus of the film and del Toro captures much of it with clarity and slickness.
Blade II lacks the substance of its predecessor, which worked to create a fully realized world inhabited by both humans and vampires. The vampire lifestyle isn’t as much in focus this time around. In its place are extended sequences of hunting and fighting, and the rules for what can and can’t kill the Reapers feel more like a plot convenience in effort to push the runtime near two hours. Blade II operates like a highlight reel of the first film; bloody and violent, but without the dramatic heft and compelling supporting cast. Lacking both those elements, this sequel doesn’t have the same allure.
What is retained, however, is the moody atmosphere and the stellar cast. While a touch corny to bring Whistler back from the dead, it’s a treat that Kristofferson’s rugged exterior isn’t missing from the film, and Snipes yet again embodies the titular vampire slayer in such a manner that subsequent roles make it difficult to distinguish him as anything else other than the stoic killer. There’s plenty in Blade II to appreciate but there’s a little less that dazzles.
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Norman Reedus, Leonor Varela, Danny John Jules, Thomas Kretschmann, and Luke Goss. Directed by: Guillermo del Toro.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality in North Central Illinois. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!