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Introduction
The transition of pulp-fiction to celluloid is usually fraught with danger, mainly because of the need to portray a whole new world onscreen within 2 hours which would otherwise take weeks (if not months) when left to one's imagination through a (graphic) novel.  New Line Studios has pulled out all the stops to make sure it can bring the imagination of Blade onto the bigscreen and probably make it even better than what was originally conceived in the comic-books that it came from.  Stylistically speaking, there is no argument about the people chosen for both cast & crew as they really know how to make an entertaining guy-flick - there is characterisation, a credible alternate world, incredible artistic environment, and cool special effects ... but plot?  There's always a line between mediocre and memorable but Blade II can't even get past this first hurdle - it is obviously no Casablanca.  All the flash and dazzle that one creates in a movie can never save it from a script with less blood in it than a stone!

As far as this sequel to Blade goes, it could have been (and probably was) written on a table napkin.  The original movie was much more intriguing since there was a gripping understory of a continual war being waged between The Daywalker (Blade, aka Eric Brooks) and his arch-nemesis the Vampires.  This second installment now has Blade being coerced into joining forces with his enemy to battle a new force of evil that threatens to wipe them both out, which in turn ruins the suspense that the original movie instilled (and now that Blade can finally enter into the true domain of these vampires, there's nothing for him to do in here anymore).  The concept of the sequel's storyline could well have had great potential for subtle double-crossing and looking-behind-their-backs situations, but in the end the filmmaker's could only do so much with the material infront of them.  This is disappointing because the entire creative team for the film's production was second-to-none in producing the fantastic visual eye-candy here, it's just a pity that an equal amount of effort was afforded to make the storyline just as special - and this is what makes Blade II an okay, but ultimately forgettable, film.  The other shortcoming with this visually superior sequel was that there is absolutely no character development for any of the main players, not even Blade himself, so we end up caring for them all less than a pork chop at a Jewish dinner party.

Blade promotes his all-new custom-made twin-shaver.
Wesley Snipes has made Blade his own, having been involved in virtually every aspect of his character onscreen and offscreen.  The director Guillermo del Toro (best known for Cronos and Mimic) brings what he terms a "hyper-real" presence to the film and there is no arguing about his artistic flair and eye for detail ... he certainly brings out every element of the original movie up at least two notches each.  Kris Kristofferson makes a return after his character supposedly offed himself in Blade I whereby the filmmaker's purposely didn't show Whistler shooting himself before (at least he didn't become his own evil twin brother, god forbid).  And would you believe that one of the former members of the 80s pop-duo Bros, Luke Goss, appears as the truly frightening Head Reaper (which may give him some much deserved exposure as an actor) - someone once jokingly said that this former singer cancelled a concert tour because he had "broken his hair" (a mean reference to the amount of hair-gel that he seemingly used every day).

Some of the more ridiculous things that happen within this movie are, first and foremost, the two ninja-like vampires who infiltrate Blade's hideout ... they look exactly like the ninja-cats from the quirky comedy Cats & Dogs.  Also, a couple of the CGI-enhanced stunt sequences look like they came straight out of Mortal Kombat (the game, not the movie).  All of this film, save for the half of the finale, was filmed entirely at Prague in the Czech Republic - the reasons are two-fold since it was the cheapest place to do said filming as well as the irony of the first film having ended in Russia so it was a logical standpoint to continue the story in this area - funny how these things work out, isn't it?  Also, the Blade-mobile (a supposedly souped-up Charger car) was apparently even less reliable than the Delorean that was used in the Back To The Future Trilogy.

Movie
Two years after we left Blade (Wesley Snipes) roaming the streets of Moscow in the first movie, he has now taken up residence in the nearby city of Prague, since rumour has it that his lifelong friend and weapons-builder Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) was kidnapped and taken here by a number of Vampires whilst he attempted to kill himself after being bitten by one.  Blade rescues him from his stasis-cell that they put him in to continually "milk his blood" and he has also been inexplicably cured from his alleged vampirical disease as a result, only to find that Blade in the meantime had hired a knowledgable drifter, Josh 'Scud/Stud' Frohmeyer (Normus Reedus), to continue the legacy of Whistler's workshop.

"When .. will I .. will I be fa-mous?"
Meanwhile back at the Bloodsucker Ranch, all is not well - there is a new enemy out there dubbed the Reapers whom are headed by Jared Nomak (Luke Goss).  These marble-faced leech-like creatures not only hunt humans but vampires alike whereby their victims are also turned into Reapers by default, which basically means that this new breed of "necksuckers" will soon run out of a stable food resource (unless they then turn to cannibilism) if they are not annihilated quickly.  The Overlord Eli Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) has assigned a party of hunter-killer vampires to seek out Blade, but not for the reason that they were initially trained for which was to destroy Blade.  This group is under orders to politely ask for Blade's assistance in fighting this new common enemy before it wipes them all out.  Noone knows (or says that they know) where these Reapers first evolved from, but as the fight gets stronger and more desperate the truth soon emerges (to which the audience is painfully aware of it right from the start).  This reluctant crew of vampires includes the Overlord's own daughter Nyssa (Leonor Varela) as well as an ensemble cast of familiar faces such as Dieter Reinhardt (Ron Perlman in Alien 4), Snowman (Donnie Yen in Iron Monkey) and Asad (Danny John-Jules in Red Dwarf).

As is always the case for the newcomers in Hollywood, Donnie Yen is given less to do here than when he appeared in Highlander: Endgame and I hope he gets as much of the Hong Kong recognition he's attained over there as what he should here in the West, maybe this will happen when he comes out in Jackie Chan's Shanghai Knights very soon ... most of the cast just seems to be here as filler for the frame and aren't given much to do except become Reaper Rissoles.  Also, the irony for me is that I am still yet to see Danny John-Jules without his fangs, and weirder still is that when he was playing The Cat in Red Dwarf I thought he was actually portraying a vampire at the time then too (this is when I hardly knew anything about the show at first).  The director's choice to make each separate action sequence completely different to each other was a great idea at the time, his intention was to have a different set of choreographers and VFX guys giving their own unique take on what they'd like to create onscreen.  This was much riskier in terms of consistency of performance as well as not knowing what every other group was intending to do with the material that each of them had in their hands, but the overall hope was that at least the audiences wouldn't become bored when the next fight scene sort of looked like the last one they saw before.

Video
This image can only be described as warm and dazzling.  Firstly, the all-important portrayal of blood is wonderfully exhibited here in its many shades of crimson, scarlet, ruby and burgundy throughout the movie ... although its interaction with everyone and everything is completely unlike reallife whereby it should actually stick to you like crap to a blanket.  The next most imperative point for the quality of this video is the black/shadow detail which is truly deep as well as discernable whilst not letting the striking colour-scheme give way to it at any time - indeed, since this is a 100% night-time movie, so we should expect nothing less than perfection for this transfer.  And what's even more remarkable here is that there are a hundred-and-one different shades and textures of black for the character's uniforms which only highlights the skill of not only the filmmaker's production techniques but the DVD compressionists abilities to keep everything together as well.  The colours are incredibly rich and varied, which sort of makes this whole film about as appetising as a jar of licquorice all-sorts.

This is about all that Donnie Yen gets to do.
If I was to pick this image to bits, it would be that this is one step short of pinpoint sharpness but thankfully there is no discernable edge-enhancement (or haloing) around any of the objects or chracters onscreen.  Even when the overly-enhanced base-coloured scenes (such as the blue-toned Vampire Infiltration of Blade's Hideout sequence) come into play, the imaging of all this stays rock-solid.  There is nary a film or digital artifact to be found but it can be if you really squint hard enough, and there is also a slight telecine wobble that is immediately apparent in the opening credits which I suspect is prevelant throughout the main feature itself.  But any minor quibbles that come with this picture are so minor as to be unnoticable in the grand scheme of things.

Audio
There are no less than three English-speaking soundtracks for this movie (as well the other three supplemental-related tracks).  Both of the DD 5.1-ES and DTS 6.1-EX mixes will not disappoint, although you might find the DTS version a few decibels lower than the DD one initially, however the DTS mix gives you better pin-point locationing as well as a smoother response all-round.  The extra DD 2.0 mix is suitable for viewing on a good quality two-channel television but doesn't have nearly the impact it should have on your multi-channel amplication system and is ultimately superfluous compared to the 5.1 mixes already available to you.

The sub-woofer happily contributes to all elements of the DD/DTS soundmixes with the gunfire, personal combat, music, and explosions all resonating a satisfying punch and rumble to proceedings.  Dialogue is mostly understandable since a lot of it would have been ADR'd, but there are a few times when the subtitle button is given the click because of Wesley Snipes' verbalisations becoming almost "Sylvester Stallone" in nature (aw-wada-wada-wah!).  All five main speakers are given the treatment that your system truly deserves, with every exploitive opportunity taken to provide subtle, environmental and aggressive activity to envelop you in the action.

So even if you dislike this movie's plot as much as I have, you can't go past it for demonstration material next time your friend asks you "What's the point of DVD anyway?".  However, do them a favour by strongly suggesting that they avoid any cheap n' nasty "All-In-One" DVD/Amp system and tell them to really have a good listen to one before they fork out their hard-earned cash, else they discover they've bought a dud - buy safely or you'll be sorry!

"Actually, as far as psychotically deranged ruthless killer vampires go, you're a bit of a babe!"
Extras
Even in the year 2002, this DVD still shows that 4:3 is alive and well since nearly all of the supplemental material is shown in this old-time square-box format (sans Deleted Scenes) ... maybe the cameras that capture in 16:9 are still too bulky for the majority of documentary filmmakers!  But if there is one thing that I can confidently say about this DVD in particular - it's a wanna-be-moviemaker's delight in every respect.  So if you have ever wondered what a Best Boy does or what it really takes to film the footage required to cobble together a wonderfully seamless action sequence, then this is the DVD for you.  This goes into everything from the CGI effects to the various model and puppetry gadgets they make to production design to lighting techniques to ... oh well, read on.

Disc 1 - Movie, Audio Commentaries, Isolated Score

Commentary #1 has director Guillermo del Toro and producer Peter Frankfurt giving a frank and honest account of their artistic choices and technical creativity for the film, as well as what they liked (and didn't like) with what ended up onscreen for their final product.  They do not hide from their own shortcomings or those of others, but they still give immense praise when and where it's due ... and this line of discussion continues well into the main documentary found on Disc 2.

Commentary #2 has writer David Goyer and actor Wesley Snipes and it's just as interesting as the first one where they poke fun at what they did whilst filming and also giving an insight into what they wanted to achieve from their performances and special-FX onscreen (pity they couldn't find a script worthy of this effort).

The Isolated Score is in full DD 5.1 surround sound and it's great to look at (er, listen to) what the orchestral sequences contributed towards the images, even though the musical numbers by themselves are quite uninspiring but they still suit this type of movie.  The music is also interspered with comments from composer Marco Beltrami discussing both his and the director's intentions for aural mood and environment.  However, this track does not include any of the non-orchestral (techno/metal) music in the movie, but this would defeat the true nature of this track.

Disc 2 - Production Workshop, Deleted & Alternate Scenes, Promotional Material

The Production Workshop houses five sub-sections of material that pertains to virtually everything you've ever wanted to know about the pre-production, behind-the-scenes and post-production of a movie.

- First off is The Blood Pact which is an 83 min extravaganza of what it took to put the images and sound into Blade II, with an additional "White Rabbit" interactive option to branch further into this material totalling 16 mins (however the Blade Hieroglyphics are so small in this feature that it can easily be missed, this really should have been a part of the main documentary itself but you can access this stuff separately later on anyway).  One of the more interesting viewpoints to come from this area is the descriptive text for the Percussion Instruments used to create the creepy sounds in the movie (virtually every kind of musical implement that you can hit a stick with is mentioned here, although it would've been nice to have had a picture for each of these instruments onscreen instead of having to using your imagination as to what they might look like).

- Next is the Sequence Breakdown from six of the key sequences within the movie which is a very interesting insight into the techniques used to create them all.  Each of these setpieces are presented with options to view the original and/or shooting script, storyboards & FX breakdowns, on-the-set video footage and the scene itself.

- The Visual Effects shows the Synthetic Stuntmen [6 mins] which is about using CGI-created actors in place of the real thing, The Digital Maw [3 mins] that also utilises CGI to give those Reapers their wicked open-chinned smile, and the Progress Reports [53 mins] video that was created by the head Makeup Designer for Guillermo del Toro to preview all the puppetry and model effects to be filmed on-set.

- The Notebooks show an extensive sample of the personal notes made by the Director, the Script Supervisor (who is essentially the film's continuity advisor to make sure that all those tiny little filmed sequences do not have any glaring differences of activity between shots), and a few Unfilmed Script Pages.  Oddly enough, all these pages only take up a small window within the entire 4:3 display making it very hard to read them on anything less than a medium-sized TV (this shouldn't have happened really).

- The Art Gallery covers a gamet of conceptual images which include Sequence Concepts, Props & Weapons, Costume Design, Set Design, Character Design and Storyboards.

The Deleted & Alternate Scenes is 24 mins long but I honestly think that not much thought was put into this collection because some of the stuff here is almost exactly the same as that found in the film itself and these could have been culled down to just the deleted material.  There is an optional commentary between the Director and Producer for this feature too.

The Promotional Material is probably the least fascinating part of the material, consisting of the Blade II Video Game Survival Guide (a promo with no discernable hints on how to beat it), Theatrical Press Kit (a comprehensive list of everyone involved in the project yet limited in scope of what they've done before), the Theatrical Teaser & Trailer, and a Music Video (with a small amount of movie-footage, but the whole thing is just centred on reviving people with a pair of silver Mickey-Mouse headphones playing their rap-music, whoopee!).  The one thing missing from this R4 DVD compared to its R1 counterpart is the extensive DVD-ROM content which included the entire website, a script-to-screen showcase and some funky enhancements for your PC desktop (or laptop ;).

"Buy a potion from Gandalf the Grandmaster Wizard, that's what I usually do!"
Summary
I'll say one thing for the Blade franchise, it is very spectacular to watch and listen to ... and that's about it.  I'd rather not state this fact for fear that there may be reprisals from the (affectionally titled) "suckheads" out there, but no amount of striking artistry can possibly make up for a plot that makes its intentions obvious from the word go.

But if you're a mega-fan of this particular comic-book transition to the bigscreen, then you won't be disappointed with this DVD of the sequel which virtually matches every extra that is available on the R1 DVD (unlike the original movie where our R4 version was short-changed in the way of supplemental material).  Buy this if you wish, but I can't see much of a lasting appeal for this sequel - I'd rather stick with the original Blade if you don't mind.


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