I don’t want to tell you how to live your life. But I’d jump at the chance to watch Blade II if I was you. Have you ever seen it before? When was the last time you watched it? Either way, it’s worth putting on before Marvel releases its reboot starring Mahersala Ali.
The 2002 superhero movie came out years before Marvel Studios became an efficient blockbuster factory for Disney. Those were awkward years for the superhero genre, Marvel specifically.
In 2003, for instance, Marvel and Universal produced Ang Lee’s ambitious attempt to turn the Hulk into a Greek tragedy. Then there’s Ben Affleck’s Daredevil, a movie that wanted to be Batman and The Matrix instead of Daredevil and so failed on every level.
But Blade II is a perfect example of what a superhero movie can and should be, and the MCU’s current execs should rewatch this movie because it is still snappy, clever, and action-packed. It’s also one of the most gruesome of Marvel’s movies, and that’s probably because the guy they hired to run the show is an artist and a shlock-loving entertainer who understands what nerds want.
Blade II is directed by Guillermo Del Toro, the stylish filmmaker who directed another classic superhero monster movie — Hellboy — as well as more high-brow creature features like Pan’s Labyrinth and the Academy Award-winning fish tale The Shape Of Water. He’s an astonishing talent, a versatile, sophisticated storyteller with a child-like dark side. He’s a man in touch with the monsters under the bed. I wish he’d make another vampire movie because Blade II works so well because he knows it’s a horror movie.
The title character, Blade, is a half-human, half-vampire vigilante who possesses all the powers of a bloodsucker without any of their weakness. He’s nicknamed The Daywalker for a reason (a slightly less cool nickname is Captain Extra Garlic, Please.) Blade is also a martial arts expert and has all kinds of swords, knives, and razor boomerang gadgets. Created in 1973 by the legendary comic book writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan, Blade was a C-list crimefighter who wore his sunglasses at night while fighting all kinds of Draculas. Or is it Draculi?
Blade is cool. Vampires are cool. Blade killing vampires? C’mon. I don’t want to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do, but, like, Blade II rules. Now, I know you’re wondering: what if I haven’t seen the first Blade? Don’t worry about it. Is there a third sequel? Yes, but you don’t have to watch that one. There is only Blade II. That’s all you need. Backstory? He hunts vampires. Boom. Plot? Okay, fine. There are these super vampires whose faces split open like horrible Venus flytraps, and they feed on vampires, so they reach out to their enemy Blade for help, and there you go. Uneasy alliance. Fistfighting. Ropes of blood. That’s the plot, more or less.
Blade II features several solid B-movie performances from a babyfaced, pre-The Walking Dead Norman Reedus, Del Toro’s favorite Ron “Hellboy” Perlman, and outlaw country legend Kris Kristofferson as Blade’s crusty old sidekick. His character is called ‘Whistler,’ but he’s just Kris Kristofferson, komplaining and kursing up a storm.
Leonor Varela is memorable as a royal vampire ninja assassin, as is Luke Goss as Nomak, one of the Reavers, the main villains with split-open mouths and suction cup-tipped tentacle tongues. Those effects are still solid, even if some of the CGI is a little dated, especially the way the vamps explode into sparks when spiked through the heart with silver. But Blade II’s magic isn’t just the computer imagery or the amazing practical effects. Del Toro’s talent for world-building is part of the magic: the vampires in Blade II are sexy, dangerous, and love raves. An ancient Nosferatu, a cross between a high priest and a CEO, also rules them. But the rest of the magic is the man himself, Wesley Snipes.
I know it’s a cliché to write about how a particular actor was “born to play” a certain role, but Wesley Snipes was born to play a ruthless, fanged vampire hunter who never, ever smiles.* I think it’s also worth pointing out that Snipes is one of the finest actors of his generation, a scene-stealer in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever or the ridiculous 1993 sci-fi comedy Demolition Man opposite Sylvester Stallone. Most recently, he was the best thing about the mediocre sequel to Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America. He’s hilarious! Snipes is an excellent action star, too, and he’s at his best in Blade II, a powerfully built man with graceful bone-snapping combat moves.
I know Snipes had problems with the IRS and went to prison. I sometimes think of the billionaires and Fortune 500 companies that don’t pay their taxes and how they don’t suffer any consequences and get really mad. I don’t know if Snipes deserved almost three years behind bars. I guess my point is: 100% Blade doesn’t pay his taxes.
Snipes’ Blade is an emotionless killing machine with a samurai sword. That’s it. Simple. There are other subplots, I guess. Blade II is partly about the bromance between Blade and Kris Kristofferson. The old man is rescued from vampire prison in the movie’s opening because no friend of Blade’s suffers in vampire prison. Blade does what he can to save Kristofferson from vampirism, but ultimately, the anti-vampire serum either works or doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, he’s dead. Blade is loyal. He’s a good guy. But he’s also hard. Hard as f**k. You’d understand if you were a half-breed night stalker hunter.
This brings me to another reason I love Blade, and that’s because he’s a superhero for those of us who grew up biracial. In my case, I’m half-white, half-Latinx, and you can bet if my dad were an ancient evil that fed on the blood of the innocent, I’d go Blade on him, but he was a very nice Baptist who loved my mom.
Life is full of big questions. I don’t have the answers to them. But I do know the answer to the question “Should I watch Blade II?” is “yes.” Say “yes” to the good things in life. Friendship, croissants, the love of dogs. Blade II. Let Blade into your heart, unless you’re an undead predator who shuns sunlight, then let Blade rip your heart out.
But do what you want.