I just came back from Blade II
; I never saw the first one, so I don't know how it actually compares to the first film, but for it me it was particularly mediocre, and it was especially disappointing after watching Guillermo Del Torro's last film, The Devil's Backbone
, two weeks ago. Whatever skills Del Torro has, they don't translate well into the action genre, but I will leave those comments for later. SPOILERS, where to start, I was indifferent to all the characters or their relationships; besides Ron Perlman's vampire and Nysaa, the other vampires in the Blood Pack were poorly differentiated, they barely even had one trait to distinguish them (appearance was about it). The Reapers themselves looked liked The Strangers from Dark City
, or in the parlance of the movie, they looked liked "crack addicts." I did like the way they scuttled about like spiders or insects, but even though their visage was gross and impressive, I think they hardly matched the Geiger aliens of the Alien
franchise. As for the acting, I was not impressed, except for a little by Kris Kristofferson, who brought a little rugged humor to the film. The story itself was uninspired, so the Reapers get from Prague to somewhere's else, then with little searching, Blade and the Blood Pack just stumble on to their nest; I know that it was just an excuse for gore and violence, but atleast dress it up a little, I guessed the big Vampire conspiracy that fuels the rest of the film pretty early into the movie, and the two filial conflicts that the film sets up where hardly the stuff of great drama. I for one did not believe in a growing affection between Nysaa and Blade, so while the final shots of Blade cradling Nysaa as the sun rises, incinerating her, were nicely composed and beautiful to look at, left me indifferent.
As for the violence and gore, which I guess were the main attractions of the film, they were ho-hum. Half of the time, they were so underlit and confusingly edited, that I lost track of what was going on and/or got bored. There was no grace in the martial arts or in the gun play, that the best of the genre displays. In my experience, the best examples of martial arts in the movies emphasize the integrity of the action, in what David Bordwell refers to as sequence shots, i.e., each individual action (or short sequence) is shown in one shot, from start to finish, before moving to the next action. There are few, if any cheat shots or use of CGI to join shots or set-up impossible movements (IMO, the CGI looked fake, especially the sword fight between Blade and Nysaa in front of the lights). This would take a lot of real choreography and time, but it looks like they took the digital/edited short-cut. It's typical of American action movies trying to import HK action aesthetics; they bring in the kung fu and kineticism, but forget the formal elements that make HK action films really special. Instead they try to impress us with digital trickery; again, IMO, only The Matrix
really fused the formal elements of HK fight cinema (with the help of Yueh Woo-ping) with the digital effects of Hollywood filmmaking. I think it succeeded because they kept to the integrity of the action; most of the digital effects of The Matrix
fight scenes were used to expand the scope and expanse of the fight scenes, such as the 360 bullet time. Other times, they used digital effects to erase the wires, an effect I find much, much superior to the use of purely digital doubles flying through the air.
Recommendation: a great film that treats vampirism as a disease, Abel Ferrara's The Addiction