Blade II: Platinum Series (2002)

The half-human half-vampire Blade returns in the rare sequel that not only equals, but surpasses its predecessor. The vampire hunter (still Wesley Snipes) finds himself teamed with his former enemies: a collection of vampire commandos called the Blood Pack, who have been specially trained to hunt and kill Blade. The reason for this uneasy alliance is the appearance of Reapers, a new breed of super-vampire that prey not only on humans, but their fellow bloodsuckers as well. And as this vampire Dirty Dozen discovers far too late - the Reapers have almost none of the weaknesses of vampires, rendering Blade's extensive arsenal all but useless.

Director Guillermo Del Toro (Mimic) proves himself to be a comic book visualist on par with Sam Raimi; both this and the summer's Spider-Man made extensive use of "digital actors" in the action sequences, allowing them to showcase dizzying stunts and impossible camera moves, finally allowing a comics sensibility to translate to the screen. The choice of Del Toro also heightens the horror quotient, which was strangely absent from the first movie. Not that the sequel skimps on the action, either.

Sure, there are a number of "It's In The Script" moments and some questionable physics. But if that bothered us, we'd do nothing but watch The History Channel all day long.

Lovely video and audio transfers the movie makes use of an odd color palette, blue for daylight, amber for nighttime and danged if it doesn't look right. Flesh tones and blacks (thousands of shades of black, as the costumer points out) all very stable and solid. I have to admit that people in the store look at me a bit oddly (more oddly than usual, anyway) when I laugh and point at the big red lettering on the box: ANIMATED MENUS! (exclamation point theirs) Is this truly a selling point? "Dash it all, Muffy, I was looking forward to owning Blade II, featuring my main man, Wesley Snipes, but it doesn't even have animated menus!"

New Line's Platinum Series has done an outstanding job on the extras. Let's start with the two commentary tracks. The first is by Director Guillermo Del Toro and Producer Peter Frankfurt, and the great revelation here is that Del Toro is an absolute hoot. His enthusiasm and energy is contagious, and he somehow manages to at the same time take the material very seriously and yet not seriously at all. The second track is by star Snipes and writer David Goyer. For all intents and purposes, these two men are the Blade franchise, and if not a whole lot of new information is revealed, it's at least fun to hear the two disrepect the events onscreen. There's also an isolated track of Marco Beltrami's score.

The second disc contains most of the extras, broken down into three categories: Production Workshop, Deleted and Alternate Scenes, and Promotional Material. Click on the little New Line logo almost lost in the corner, and you get the DVD credits.

Production Workshop includes the meaty "The Blood Pact", an 84 minute making-of feature that is very well-produced. Like the branching documentaries on discs like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, when a glyph appears in the corner, you can click ENTER on your remote to access another sub-documentary. I didn't time these, but it seems that watching "The Blood Pact" and following all the branches may take as long as the feature itself.

Also in this section: "Sequence Breakdowns", which takes six major segments through original script, shooting script, storyboard and FX breakdowns, the final product, and behind-the-scenes video shot by Phil Tippet's digital crew to get camera and light placement correct. "Visual Effects" has featurettes on "Synthetic Stuntmen" and "The Digital Maw" (the less said, the better, if you haven't seen the movie), and a lengthy section of "Progress Reports" video shot by Makeup FX head Steve Johnson to keep Del Toro up to date on the status of the many prosthetic effects. It's creepy how real this stuff looks, even on video.

Still not finished: "Notebooks" reproduces a few pages from Del Toro's design notes, the Script Supervisor's master notebook, and script pages for three unfilmed scenes. "Art Gallery" showcases production art from Sequence Concepts, Props & Weapons, Costumes, Sets, Character Designs and Storyboards.

"Deleted and Alternate Scenes" is almost a half-hour long, and consists mainly of the original edits of scenes which were trimmed down to keep the story moving, though there are several scenes which were tossed out entirely. These can be watched with Del Toro/Frankfurt commentary, and Guillermo is especially funny here.

"Promotional Material" is the required theatrical trailers (one :35 teaser and the official 1:55 version. Which amazingly gives away no surprises); Cast, Filmmaker and Production Notes from the Press Kit; A "Blade Video Game Survival Guide" (okay, it's a three minute commercial); and Cypress Hill & Roni Size's music video "Child of the Wild West".

An astonishing amount of quality support material on this release. I especially want to thank the crew working on this for putting indices on practically all the extra materials - that is what I call Customer Service!

Dr. Freex, 9/10/2002