Wesley Snipes' Gory, Cult Blockbuster Strikes Back

"Blade II" is currently in wide release.

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Fanboy: "Somebody who really puts all his other concerns aside in favor of comic books, usually superheroes."

Geoff Vasile, Comic Relief cashier

Sweet fucking Jesus, I'm such a fanboy. I don't have the Luke SkywalkerTM & Princess Leia OrganaTM "Swing to Freedom" (Collector Grade, $14.99) action figurines. I don't have a T-Shirt embossed with the Punisher decal. I don't keep my comic books in sleeves.

I don't have the trappings, but I have the heart. And that made "Blade II" that much the better.

"Blade II" is not a perfect movie. The plot, as in the first one, is incidental. There are attempts at character development that are all right, if nothing special. But you shouldn't expect those things in a movie like "Blade II." It's not part of its nature. It's like expecting Americans to be couth in Europe.

But it's got more style than you have, in spades, and it's probably all due to director Guillermo del Toro.

Del Toro has, more than anything else, constructed the film. Every visual aspect, from the set design to the lighting to the cinematography is so well put together that you can't help taking a shocked breath at many of his scenes-especially when it's a shot of a human back, cut to the spine and pulled apart.

This Grand Guignol aspect is the strongest part of the movie, far more than the attempted half-story the movie concerns itself with.

The titular character, played by Wesley Snipes, is the Daywalker (an epithet pronounced with scorn and dread by most of his foes), which means he's a vampire that can walk in the sun and is immune to most of the weaknesses that traditional vampires have.

Blade is also pretty vain; every swing of the sword and every shot of his many guns is punctuated by a flourish, ironical little garnishes that demand attention. When he's without sunglasses for more than a few minutes, he starts to look weird. It's like he knows that there's an audience watching him at all time. It's almost as if he's hyper-aware of how over-the-top his life is.

Which isn't helped by all the vampires that keep bothering him. In the first movie, Snipes had to battle with a Los Angeles group of vampires that seemed more obnoxious (in that typical LA way) than dangerous. This time he has to team up with the vampires to defeat vampire mutants-dubbed the Reapers-that feed on vampires themselves. For this genre, that's probably high concept. It's also pretty much all you need to know.

Movies like this are usually dismissed for lacking ideas, when that's never been the point. What the movie has is unfailing enthusiasm, a constant acceleration that unfortunately falls apart towards the end.

In most of the movie Del Toro and screenwriter David S. Goyer use vampirism as a metaphor for addiction, and the decay that comes along with it. It's no accident that the movie is based in Eastern Europe, ravaged by Communism and the sudden shift to capitalism.

These themes are carried ably through most of the movie, and it helps unite the action sequences; without it, "Blade II" would be a collection of scenes. The theme also ties in well with the survival-horror structure of the first two-thirds of the movie.

The problem occurs when "Blade II" decides to stop being a survival movie and starts being an action movie, complete with wrestling moves so fully stolen from WWF that you're surprised Vince McMahon's not suing.

The strength of the first "Blade" was its commitment to structure; the frustration with "Blade II" is that, in betraying its structure, it also betrays its themes.

Which, unfortunately, diminishes the shocking beauty of the movie itself. What could have been a brilliant movie is simply one that's pretty good.


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