JANUARY 17, 2010
I'm a big fan of most comic book movies. I'm a big fan of Guillermo Del Toro. And I'm a big fan of things that look like vaginas. So why did I find Blade II to be such a boring film? I thought the first one was fun, if nothing special, but with the talent (and bigger budget) on hand for the sequel, I felt comfortable thinking it would be superior, or at least equal. Sadly this wasn’t the case, and all I got out of it was saying “Well, now I can watch the 3rd one.”
See, Blade II came out at a time when I was busy on a student film, as well as very broke. So I missed a lot of movies I otherwise would have seen on opening night. Then it came out on DVD when I was trying to save up for my upcoming internship (and this was before Netflix, or at least before I was a member), so I didn’t get it then either. I finally picked it up in 2004, because I knew the 3rd one was coming out and wanted to catch up. So I bought it, and put it on one night, got about 20 minutes in, and proceeded to sleep through the entire thing, occasionally waking for maybe a minute or two. I don’t think I ever even saw the characters played by Matt Schulze or Karel Roden. I think I caught Perlman snarling at one point, but I can’t be sure. At any rate, what I saw didn’t impress me much (I wasn’t as bad with my dozing off back then - if I slept that much it was because of the film's quality), and had little interest in re-watching it. And, suffice to say, I skipped Blade: Trinity in theaters (though that was more due to the poisonous word of mouth).
But having time for a two hour movie today, I figured I would give it another chance. I’d become an even bigger fan of Del Toro in the meantime (my only exposure to him at the time I originally tried to watch Blade II was Hellboy and Devil’s Backbone - which is still my favorite of his films) and with all of the more traditional vampire movies I’ve watched for HMAD, I figured I would appreciate the change of pace (i.e. action over romance). Sadly, this was not the case - I stayed awake this time, but I remained bored throughout most of its running time.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well made film. The budget isn’t as big as other Marvel efforts, but it’s all up on the screen. Effects, most of the acting, all fine. It’s just a fucking bore. There is a reason Blade never got his own on-going series (even one of the limited series got canceled halfway through!) - he is simply a one-note and thoroughly uninteresting character. He only goes after vampires, his personal tragedy doesn’t seem to affect him the way Uncle Ben’s death affects Peter Parker (if anything it just seems like the creator’s way of giving him cool powers and explaining away any potential plot holes), and the villains lack the “gray area” element that makes someone like Magneto (who wants his kind to be accepted) or even the friggin’ Lizard (a scientist who became a victim of the research he was using to try to grow back a missing arm) interesting enough to watch during the non-action scenes. Hell, I don’t even know exactly what it is that the bad guys in this movie were trying to accomplish, but there sure as hell wasn’t anything really noble about it.
And the movie is 115 minutes long but they tell you everything in the first reel. The bad vampires approach Blade to seek his help in taking down the even worse vampires (not the worst plot, honestly), and almost instantly, Blade says that he thinks it’s a setup. And guess what? It is! But it takes another 75 minutes or so to get to that point. It would have been far more interesting to set up the betrayal as an actual surprise, and maybe have a few moments where a vamp saves Blade’s life (or vice versa) or they bond or whatever. But no, the part in between these two scenes is pretty much two overlong action scenes (test audiences actually complained that the film had too much action!), and Blade disappears for large chunks of each as we focus on the “bad-but-not-AS-bad” vampires like Perlman and Tony Curran.
Of course, the exception is a woman vampire, which is a subplot that is as painfully generic as they come. Blade of course hates all of the male guys, but he has a soft spot for her, protecting her, making sure she’s OK, and even letting her drink his blood when she is injured. So Blade’s not gay, that’s about all that these scenes accomplish. Again, it would be far more interesting to see him either A. treat her, a perfectly sexy woman, with as much contempt and hatred as he gives the rest of them, or B. have him bond with one of the males on a personal level (maybe they were both turned against their will or whatever), which would at least add a layer of depth to the guy beyond “dude wants to fuck”.
The action scenes also go on for so long that they too become boring. Sure, I like watching a vampire explode/melt into ash as much as the next guy, but after I see it 5 times in the first sequence I’m kind of tired of it. And the scene where they track the bad ones around a night club is not only a bit reminiscent of the Blood Club in the original, but it goes on FOREVER, to the point where I started wondering if the film was going to play out entirely in this one location, after the initial set up, like The Rock or whatever. The next long one (in the sewers) is a bit better, as they introduce ridiculous things like UV light bombs and (briefly) have Blade and Ron Perlman’s character fighting side by side instead of engaging in their generic chest-puffing (which is as far as it goes - the two never really fight; their big showdown is about 4 seconds long), but it’s also repetitive and in dire need of editing. And Blade’s fighting is as dull as his character - he just spins around a lot, makes a lot of “whoosh” sounds whenever he does anything, and keeps his sunglasses on and his head pointed down at all times. I actually began longing for an Underworld style shootout, just to mix it up a bit.
I was also a bit disappointed how little of Del Toro himself showed through (though apparently all of the vagina-esque visuals were his idea). Even Mimic had more of his signature style and personality. I kept expecting the villains to reveal some sort of magic powers or something, but nope. Apart from a brother-sister dynamic that was also present (and far more effective) in Hellboy II, and a couple of the cast members (Perlman, Roden, Luke Goss), there’s nothing here that really feels distinctively Del Toro. And his reliance on CGI here was a bit disappointing; granted the technology wasn’t where it’s at today, but still - why did he use a CGI ninja instead of hiring an actual martial artist who could somersault and fight? The “character” is wearing a mask for Christ’s sake, it’s not like they couldn’t find a convincing look-alike to double for the actor.
Then again, maybe he was overruled on certain things. Unusual for any film, let alone a big budget production based on an existing property, both the film’s star and its writer were also producers on the film. Thus, it wouldn’t surprise me if the film was the result of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Some evidence of that appears on the commentary by Snipes and Goyer, where they occasionally point out things Del Toro wanted that they vetoed (or let him do it and express confusion as to why its there). And the only reason I chose this commentary over Del Toro’s was because the two men would go on to hate each other on the next film, to the point where Snipes sued Goyer over the direction it took (can’t blame him - the film underperformed, Snipes hasn’t had a theatrical release since, and Goyer went on to co-write the Batman movies with Chris Nolan), and you can already sense some minor animosity between the two (Snipes doesn’t seem to want to do the commentary at all, and gets a bit perturbed when Goyer indirectly suggests that Snipes isn’t the only reason that the films were successful). Add in the likely demands of Marvel, and New Line, and it’s a wonder the film even makes sense.
There’s a 2nd disc full of stuff, but I haven’t had time to check it out yet. Maybe I’ll get around to it and update, but since the film was well-made and it obviously did well at the box office, there isn’t likely to be anything on there that would interest a non-fan (i.e. no tell all documentary where everyone bitches at each other for the film’s faults). I’m in the minority on this one it seems, and that’s fine. But if you are a fan and are in the dark, there’s at least three hours’ worth of stuff on there to enjoy, plus the other commentary by Del Toro and one of the 5798 producers.
What say you?