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'Blade II'

'Blade II' sharpens up the same cliches

Friday, March 22, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Sometimes, comic books should just be comic books and movies should just be movies.

'Blade II'

RATING: R for strong pervasive violence, language, some drug use and sexual content.

PLAYERS: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman.

DIRECTOR: Guillermo Del Toro.

WEB SITE: www.blade2.com



This stunningly transparent insight came to me right about the time I gave up on "Blade II," the sequel to the 1998 hit based on the Marvel comic about a vampire hunter who is himself part vampire.

It's one thing to gorge out on a largely expressionless superhero who wields his swords like an Old West gunfighter twirling his six-guns, lots of the latest newfangled version of kung fu fighting, vampires exploding like the grand finale of a Fourth of July fireworks show.

But the final straw was having to listen to the characters utter such boilerplate blather as "Don't go and die on me now" and "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

What, the plot wasn't cliched enough?

Heck, director Guillermo Del Toro ("The Devil's Backbone") has already made this movie, or close enough. Remember "Mimic," in which an engineered strain of cockroach designed to counteract a deadly disease mutates into giant killer bugs?

This time, a hardier strain of vampire threatens both humans and bloodsuckers alike -- so much so that the head of Vampire Nation, Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann, looking like a cross between Nosferatu and the evil emperor in "Star Wars"), calls upon archenemy Blade (Wesley Snipes) to help destroy the newcomers.

This time, Blade has two sidekicks -- Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who supposedly died at the end of the first "Blade," and Scud (Norman Reedus), your everyday techno-whiz pot-smoking kick-out-the-jams slacker.

Blade has to team up with a specially trained squad of fighters led by Damaskinos' daughter, Nyssa (Leonor Varela), that was originally designed to go into combat against Blade. One of them, Reinhardt (Ron Perlman), sometimes has trouble forgetting that, which would be a source of tension if it wasn't so obvious they eventually will have to square off.

Maybe they hired Perlman, best known for playing the hirsute member of the pairing in TV's old "Beauty and the Beast," because -- like that series -- so much of this movie takes place in underground tunnels and sewers. Even when it comes up for air, it's always wet and post-industrial grungy and dark (these are vampires, after all -- you know how bad sunlight is for their skin).

Del Toro has a reputation (I'm not at all sure it's deserved) as a director who brings stylish new insights to horror films. Well, I know he likes to shoot scenes in dark, dank underground settings. But scenic designers who specialize in abandoned-factory decor are a dime a dozen, and martial-arts expert Donnie Yen (who also plays one of the team members) has done better work than this.

The humorlessness and the overkill (in every sense of the word) must be attributed to Del Toro and screenwriter David S. Goyer. As for the cliches, they extend to the inevitable plot twists, in which characters trade affiliations as if they were professional wrestlers switching from good guy to bad guy.

Del Toro does skillfully, uh, mimic the vivid visual style of comic books and Japanese anime, which is OK because the story and characters live in a fantasy world. But the best comics and anime adventures have better stories and more emotional content than "Blade II," which for all its slashing and stabbing doesn't even try to cut deep.

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