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Move over Buffy, the baddest vampire killer in town is back! The original Blade is probably my favourite comic book crossover movie and, by going for a solid "R" rating, the film didn't limit itself in the same way as X-Men, which had to remain 'kid friendly'. With its exciting blend of horror and hard-hitting action, New Line managed to take a fairly anonymous Marvel character and turn out one of the best popcorn movies of recent years. Now, from New Line Cinema comes the Platinum Edition of Blade II, in which the Daywalker faces perhaps his toughest challenge yet – the Reapers!

Blade II
Feature
Set two years after the events in the first movie, Blade II opens with our intrepid human-vampire hybrid hunting his old mentor, Whistler. It seems that Whistler didn’t die in the last movie after all, but 'turned' and was kept alive in stasis, to be periodically taken out and tortured for amusement. Once rescued, and after a miraculously short period of convalescence in which he is cured of vampirism, Whistler rejoins Blade and his new partner, 'Scud', another mechanical and weapons genius.

Meanwhile, in the vampire underworld, things do not go well. A new breed of vampires, dubbed the Reapers, has appeared, led by the mysterious Jarred Nomak (a reborn Like Goss). The Reapers are as different to vampires as vampires are to humans, and indiscriminately feed on both forms of life. Fearing for their position at the top of the food chain, Damaskinos, the head of the Vampire Nation, sends his elite vampire fighting force, the Bloodpack, to meet with Blade and convince him to join the fight against the Reapers.

Recognising the threat that the Reapers pose to humanity, Blade reluctantly enters into an uneasy alliance with the Bloodpack, and soon the group are heading into the heart of the vampire underground to hunt the foul creatures. Unfortunately the Bloodpack underestimates the strength of the Reapers, who are immune to most of the conventional methods of dispatching vampires, and their team is decimated. Now, Blade and the remaining Bloodpack members must work together to discover the origins of the Reapers, but what they uncover is more startling than they could ever have imagined…

Blade II
Blade II takes the action from the original and cranks it up another gear. Whereas in Blade our hero may have faced five adversaries at a time, here it’s more like fifteen, and even more when the Reapers are on screen. The action is superbly choreographed, with some fantastic swordplay between Blade and the Bloodpack in the opening scenes, not to mention some truly bone-crunching martial arts action. Much of the credit must go to Snipes and his team, who have created some marvellous set pieces for the viewer to enjoy. Snipes’ presence as Blade also helps to sell the action in a way that a lesser actor could not hope to achieve. Credit is also due to Luke Goss, who has reinvented himself after his days in boy band Bros. Oh, and before I forget, I just have to mention Ron Perlman, who is always a cool guy to have in this kind of movie, while Danny John Jules (better known as the Cat in Red Dwarf) provides someone for the spotters amongst you to pick out. Blade II also has a greater comic book “feel” than its predecessor, with it’s simplified plot and hammy dialogue, but this doesn’t really damage the film overall. In fact it was a deliberate move on the part of director del Toro, and this is something he discusses at length elsewhere on the disc(s).

Video
Presented in its theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced, the standard of the video in Blade II is very high. The film is set predominantly at night or in dark, underground locations, yet shadow detail is excellent throughout. I did notice halos around certain characters on occasion, but it was nothing too pronounced.

Again, like the original movie, the integration of CGI does leave a little to be desired, but there are only one or two occasions where it becomes difficult to suspend disbelief. Guillermo del Toro himself even mentions the particularly dodgy CGI on the commentary track, and he’s not a happy man. However, the rest of the effects, such as the disintegrating vampires and the Reapers themselves, all look sensational. All in all this is a fantastic effort.

Blade II
Audio
Featuring both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES tracks, Blade II is a sonic delight. Both tracks make excellent use of directional sound effects; just listen to Blade's opening battle with the vampires for proof of that. Yet again Blade utilises his deadly 'glaive' type weapon, which creates a satisfying 'whooshing' sound as it flies from the front to the rear of the soundstage. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a moment in the film where the surrounds aren’t being used; whether it be for subtle ambient effects or all-out action scenes, either track will fully immerse you in Blade’s world. Sound effects are also spot-on, with the many kicks, punches and guns all packing suitable clout, and the bass becoming particularly ferocious during the House of Pain club scenes.

Marco Beltrami's score is understated and creepy, while the soundtrack features a plethora of dance music and hip-hop collaborations, with some of the best music (courtesy of Brian Transau) playing during the aforementioned House of Pain scene. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, the whole thing is very reminiscent of the opening scenes from the original movie, right down to the banging techno (‘Blood Is Pumping’ by Voodoo & Serrano) and strobe lights. Blade himself even acknowledges this fact with a nice throwaway line! The music played a big part of the original Blade, and in my opinion the sequel matches the original blow for blow.
 
Extras
Blade II features a veritable feast of extras spanning the two discs set. Disc one contains two entertaining commentary tracks, one featuring director del Toro and producer Peter Frankfurt, the other with Snipes and writer David Goyer, and an isolated score in full Dolby Digital 5.1. It's a pity that an isolated soundtrack wasn't included, as some of the music used in the film is truly excellent and it would have been nice to listen to it without the distraction of dialogue.

Moving on to the second disc we have a thoroughly entertaining documentary entitled ‘The Blood Pact’. This runs for over eighty minutes and features extensive behind the scenes footage and interviews with the creative talent and stars. The documentary also includes 'white rabbit' features, as first seen on the DVD release of The Matrix. At certain points during the documentary a vampire glyph appears on screen and, if you press the enter key on your remote, you are transported to a new segment that explores certain themes in greater detail. In yet another nice touch these 'white rabbit' scenes are also available to view separately from the documentary, which is handy if you don't want to sit through the whole thing to access a particular branched scene.

Blade II
Moving on we come to six sequence breakdowns, which feature scenes such as the Ninja Fight and the Reapers in the House of Pain. Each sequence allows you to read the both the original script and the shooting script, and you can also view storyboards and FX breakdowns for each scene as well as the completed scene from the film. There is also the option to watch some behind the scenes footage in ‘On the Set’ segments, which is something I always welcome.

Next up we have three visual effects featurettes, the first of which is entitled ‘Synthetic Stuntmen’. This takes us through some of the steps necessary to bring some Blade’s superhuman exploits to the big screen, while ‘The Digital Maw’ gives greater insight into how the horrific Reaper maw effect was achieved. The final featurette, entitled ‘Progress Reports’ runs for almost an hour and gives a fantastic look at the process of creating the many creatures found in Blade II. The featurette is presented by Steve Johnson, who was the special makeup designer on the film, and is divided into chapters so you don't have to sit through the whole thing in one go, which is handy.

In the next section we have a series of notebooks featuring del Toro, the script supervisor and unfilmed script pages. The first two books feature hand drawn artwork and photographs, while the third is a series of pages containing text. Del Toro’s book is accompanied by an introduction from the director. Some extensive art galleries follow, which feature character, costume and set designs, storyboards and more.

Guillermo del Toro introduces twenty-five minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, with optional commentary from both he and Peter Frankfurt. The scenes range from some very minor cuts to entire sequences that were lifted from the movie. The commentary is most amusing, especially during the scene featuring Damaskinos wearing a wig - Michael Bolton anyone? Oh, and if you watch the final deleted scene you'll understand just why del Toro introduces the segment as "Sperm Removal". As with the other features, you can chose to watch the scenes either in one go, or in the order of your choice.

Blade II
'Promotional Material' is just that, and features, among other things, a Blade II video game interactive survival guide. This is basically a short movie of the X-Box game and certainly won't set your world alight. To be honest, the game doesn't even look that great, with graphics more akin to the Playstation than the X-Box. Also included are the theatrical press kits, teaser and theatrical trailers and a music video by Cypress Hill and Roni Size entitled "Child of the Wild West".

DVD-ROM content includes a scrip to screen comparison, and the entire Blade II website is also present on the disc. This includes some very hip desktop wallpaper and screensavers, as well as information on the film.

Overall
Blade II is an entertaining movie on a feature packed and technically excellent disc. I don't think it quite lives up to the original, few sequels do, but this is definitely a competent effort. Blade II is clearly an attempt to bring the comic book sensibilities of the character's origins to the big screen, as is evident by its dialogue and "don't think, just watch" approach to certain scenes. For the most part Blade II succeeds admirably, but it's lacking that certain something that made the original so great. That said, Blade fans will be more than happy with this release, and I urge the rest of you to check it out if you’re after a superb “no-brainer” action flick. Oh, and remember kids - don’t fear the Reapers…


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