Hello, and welcome to The Best Of Number Two here at The Liberal Dead. We haven’t done any kind of theme for a long time, so I thought I would reach out to some some talented people from other sites, and see if we can put something together. I decided it would be a theme about the best second films in a franchise/series. Expect discussion about Metamorhosis: The Alien Factor, The Devil’s Rejects, C.H.U.D. II, Blade II, Sleepaway Camp II, Amityville 2, Island of the Fishmen, The Dark Knight, Final Destination 2, House II and more.
When you ask most people which film it was that brought about the comic book film renaissance that has taken over movie theaters for the past almost 15 years, the response you get is 2000’s “X-Men” film by Bryan Singer. You ask me, though? I’ll give you two answers, both of which are better recognized for reasons other than being comic book films. First is The Crow, which is probably most famous for the death of star Brandon Lee, and the second is Blade, which saw Wesley Snipes almost perfectly bring to life Marvel’s half-breed vampire/human vamp hunter. Sure, the X-Men are more widely known as a comic property, and the movie did a decent enough job of bringing Marvel’s merry mutants to life (even though it doesn’t hold up all that well today), but for me, Blade was the first time a Marvel Comics property was successfully brought to life on the big screen. Love it or hate it, Blade ushered in the era of the comic book film back in 1998.
When a sequel was announced, I remember being fairly excited. Wesley was coming back, and then I read that Ron Pearlman was on board, as well as Guillermo del Toro, the guy who directed Cronos and Mimic set to direct, and my excitement was firing on all cylinders. This had all the right ingredients to be the first successful comic book sequel, potentially turning one of Marvel’s more obscure b-list characters into a franchise.
Blade II opens with a brand new breed of super vampire, far deadlier than normal blood suckers, who preys upon other vamps. This new creature, Nomak, has been making his way through the underground, eliminating vampire nests along the way. Meanwhile, Blade has been on the hunt for his former partner, Whistler, who he believes was turned vamp by Deacon Frost and his crew. Blade discovers that Whistler had in fact not been turned, but is being held captive, and he sets out to free him and remove the curse from him.
Now united, Whistler learns that Blade has taken up with another partner, a younger inventor by the name of Scud (played by…ladies prepare your knickers..Norman Reedus). Their reunion is cut short, however, when unknown assailants attack Blade in his hideout. After a lengthy battle, the intruders reveal themselves to be members of the vampire hierarchy, there seeking Blade’s assistance with dealing with Nomak and the small army of vampires he’s turned like him. Along with Whistler and Scud, Blade visits vampire HQ to meet with the leaders of the vampire nation. After learning that Nomak’s victims are being turned at an alarming rate, Blade reluctantly agrees to hunt him down and help the vampires.
He won’t be going alone though, the vampires are sending their own group of hunters along with him, Reinhardt (Ron Pearlman) and the rest of the Bloodpack. Using them as a guide to places where vamps congregate in secret, Blade and the Bloodpack set out to bait and capture Nomak. That’s right kids, just as in the first movie, it’s vampire rave time! If there’s one thing the vampires in Blade movies know how to do, it’s party. Turns out the strobe lights, thundering bass, and 300+ blood suckers were too much for Nomak and company to resist, as they attack the club.
When the battle finally ends, Blade and the others manage to capture one of the reaper virus infected vamps and autopsy is in an effort to find some sort of weakness. They discover that out of all the usual methods for dispatching a vampire, the only one that seems to work on the reapers is sunlight. With a new plan of attack, at daylight the next day, Blade and the Bloodpack gear up and take to the sewers trying to catch the reapers in their lair and put an end to them once and for all. Of course things aren’t going to be that easy, as their already shaky alliance begins to fall apart, things go from bad to worse when the reapers prove to be more than far more in number than anticipated. Things culminate with Blade learning a secret about Nomak and his ties to the vampire royalty, lies and double crosses, and a battle between Blade and Nomak that is, in my opinion, the best fight in the series.
For me, Blade II dodges almost every single misstep that sequels with different creative teams tend to take. It doesn’t ignore what came before it, on the contrary it actually takes every bit of it into consideration and builds upon it. That’s largely thanks to returning writer David Goyer, but doesn’t do much to explain the train wreck that was Blade Trinity. That’s another post for another day though. The new villain and characters introduced add a whole new dynamic to Blade, who spent most of his time solo in the first film, and even bring out more of a sarcastic badass side of him from time to time which I like. The story moves along at a good pace, rarely giving the viewer time to breathe, and while most of the movie locales may give a bit of a claustrophobic vibe, which is a Del Toro specialty ala Mimic, it also serves to make the reapers seem like more of a threat.
Most of the cast turn in capable performances, Wesley is good as Blade of course, Reedus is a tad annoying as Scud but that’s probably more about the character than his delivery, and Ron Pearlman as Reinhardt is fantastic, particularly his interactions with Snipes. Their back and forth is hilariously entertaining. The standout in the film is Luke Goss as Nomak, though. He plays the character as both sympathetic and monstrous, his line delivery is on point, and if you haven’t been able to surmise by this point, he’s my favorite villain in the franchise.
It’s easy to hate on the soundtrack today, but let’s remember that this movie came out toward the end of a dark time in music where “metalcore” or hip-hop enfused metal was all the rage. There are a few laughable instances where the music is obviously trying to convey what badassery is happening on screen but comes off laughable today. Did I think so when I watched it in the theater back in 2002? Probably not, I was probably thinking I needed to stop by Best Buy on my way home to buy the cd. When the metalcore isn’t making a mess of things, Marco Beltrami’s score is fairly solid, particularly during the final battle between Blade and Nomak.
To this day, Blade II is still one of my favorite comic book sequels. I think it stands in there against the big boys and completely holds it’s own. Whenever I watch it I think how nice it would be if the series hadn’t peaked here. There was a lot of potential left in these characters. Sadly, Wesley lost his mind, and all we have left is Trinity, in which we get to see Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel steal the show, and Parker Posey chew up screen time by badly delivering some of the most ridiculous dialog you’ll ever be subjected to.
I suppose it’s time to wrap this love letter to Blade II up, as I’ve gone on for a while here. It’s quite the honor to be doing a guest spot for The Liberal Dead, a site that as far as I’m concerned is one of the best of the best when it comes to horror and all related material. It’s a daily stop for me that nine times out of ten turns into multiple daily stops. I’m stoked to be included in this Part 2 theme, make sure you check out all the entries. There are some seriously talented people taking part.