At the 90th Academy Awards a few weeks ago, horror and genre fans rejoiced as we watched The Shape of Water take home four Oscars, including a Best Director statue for Guillermo del Toro. Long time del Toro fans have been celebrating by revisiting his classics such as The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth, but there is one film on his filmography that usually has most people thinking, “wait, he directed that?“. That film is the action-horror sequel Blade 2, which was released 16 years ago on March 21st!
The sequel to the 1998 cult classic Blade, Blade 2 once again follows The Daywalker Blade as he continues his one-man war against vampires. This film, Blade’s wits are tested as he’s forced to work with the vampires to stop a more powerful threat, Reapers. It was odd for del Toro to take this project on for a few reasons: it wasn’t original material, it was a blockbuster action franchise, del Toro didn’t write the script, and the film leaned more action than horror (this was prior to Hellboy). But when you think about it, del Toro wasn’t that strange of a choice at all. When you get to the basics of the Blade franchise, it’s about a guy hunting monsters. And Guillermo del Toro knows monsters. So in this retrospective, I’m going to take a look at what makes Blade 2 awesome and del Toro’s influence over the film.
I mean, you can’t sing the praises of any Blade movie without starting with the man himself. Wesley Snipes was born to play Blade, we all know this. He brings this subdued swagger to the role and embodies everything about the character, from his personal conflicts to one-liners as sharp as his sword. Snipes has been become synonymous with Blade more than anyone in the comic book movie genre, aside from maybe Hugh Jackman as Logan (ironically, del Toro almost directed Jackman in The Wolverine).
Since taking on the role, Snipes has become a dedicated martial artist, which he got to showcase in Blade 2 with more intense fight sequences and intricate choreography. It was also fun seeing Blade’s back-and-forth with Reinhardt, played by frequent del Toro collaborator Ron Perlman. The Blade franchise would be nothing without Wesley Snipes in the titular role, giving a perfect encore performance in Blade 2. For all we know, Wesley Snipes actually is The Daywalker.
Vampire movies are a dime a dozen, and over the hundreds of vampire flicks out there: there isn’t much variation to the bloodsuckers. In general, most look mainly human, enhanced physical abilities and even sexy to some degree. But the Blade sequel couldn’t just have him hunting vampire night club owners again. To amp things up, we needed a creature that were so terrifying and dangerous, that it would justify Blade agreeing to teaming up with the vampires. Enter Guillermo del Toro, the Maestro of Monsters.
The mutant vampire race in Blade 2 known as “reapers”, remains one of the most fascinating creature designs in all of cinema. Who could forget the cold opening of Blade 2 where we see Nomak attack a blood bank and his crazy, mouth-sucker thing!? Or when we get up close and personal with a Reaper during the autopsy scene, seeing its full anatomy? The Reapers were absolutely terrifying, yet fascinating at the same time. Best part? Most of the Reapers unique appearance was achieved through make-up and practical effects! del Toro loved the design so much, the Reapers would go on to inspire the creatures in his book series-turned-TV show The Strain:
The design of the vampires from Blade II came from the same set of notes I’ve been keeping since I was a kid…. the same notes that went there were the same notes that I used on The Strain, so a lot of the biology is in common.
Everything about the design of the Reapers is impressive: their unhinging jaws, their boney appearance, the way that they moved… The Reapers might be the best addition to the Blade franchise, adding a new dimension to what could have been a stale sequel.
Better Balance Between Action and Horror
The Blade franchise has been mainly described as an action-horror series, with the first and third leaning more towards the action side of things. Part of the reason Guillermo del Toro was brought on to the project was for his horror sensibilities. In Blade 2, del Toro wanted to remind viewers that Blade was dealing with some scary stuff. The first film, none of the vampires were really a match for Blade but in the sequel, the Reapers give Blade quite a bit of trouble. And the way the Reapers attacked, there was an overwhelming sense of urgency, similar to how you would feel in a zombie movie.
Blade also serves as del Toro’s Van Helsing essentially, as he’s a big fan of the Universal Monsters world. He also brought to life gross and macabre vampire club scene to life, stepping it up from the blood sprinklers in the first. In Blade 2 we get a fantastic world-building scene, where we see vampires cutting themselves open, dancing, and making out with razor blades. It’s horrifying, while slightly provocative at the same time, much like the tone of the film.
“Blade 2 goes for bigger and better with its action sequences..”
del Toro also brought a unique flair to the action scenes. Since Blade was an origins story of sorts, we focused more on characters and world building than the action. Following in typical sequel fashion, Blade 2 goes for bigger and better with its action sequences. The sequel contains more action scenes that contain more intricate fight choreography and dynamic camera motions. You can see del Toro’s inspiration from Japanese animation in some scenes, with dramatic long takes and the blending of CGI. The fights between Blade and Nomak are still two of the most bad ass fight sequences in film, showcasing how powerful the two characters were and the rivalry between the two of them throughout the film. You can definitely see how the action from Blade 2 would go on to inspire del Toro’s Hellboy movies, including bringing in Nomak actor Luke Goss to play Prince Nuada in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.
Honestly, I could go on forever about why Blade 2 amazing, it’s one of my favorite sequels ever. I didn’t even get into its supporting cast, including pre-stardom Norman Reedus and Donnie Yen. Heck, I could write a whole separate article about how this film boasts some of the best movie insults of all-time. No, Blade 2 isn’t a perfect movie as most of the plot doesn’t make sense and they gave up on Blade’s love story halfway through. But there’s so much to love in Blade 2 and with the comic book genre expanding to new heights, the Blade franchise is unjustly lost in the shuffle. I would dare to say the decision of bringing in a genre director to do a comic book movie was inspired by Blade 2, a trend we’re currently seeing as we await James Wan’s Aquaman movie.
Blade 2 isn’t just a great action piece, it’s very much a genre film and Guillermo del Toro was a big part of that. So between the success of another black-led superhero film (Black Panther) and del Toro winning big at the Oscars, there isn’t a better way to wish Blade 2 a Happy Birthday than giving it a re-watch.