The first "Blade" came as a bit of a surprise - a dark and gory vampire tale to be sure but an interesting, modern and surprisingly fast-paced action vehicle with well planned out lore and interestingly shot sequences. "Blade II" proves a bit of a different beast altogether - and almost as good. Rather than a by the numbers sequel, Director Guillermo Del Toro has changed the tone by not only significantly increasing the amount of action & fighting, but adding a little bit of humour into the mix.
The result is an ultra fast action thriller full of Matrix-esque battles and wall crawling demons - its the Wachowskis meet Stephen "The Mummy" Sommers in directorial style. Added to this is Wesley Snipes who proves much more relaxed and liberally having fun in a role which was quite frankly played like a manic depressive the first time around. Leonor Varela plays a likable female sidekick whilst ex-Bros singer Luke Goss surprisingly can act and does a good job as the villain of the piece - those days of 80's techno music and a omni-present bleached blond look which Hitler would've loved are long gone.
Due to this action injection however, the script is practically non-existent and what story is there has a good concept but never follows through on it - the Reaper origin story uses an unoriginal genetics subplot, the almost Frankenstein style sub story between creator and monster at the end is good but its too little too late, and aside from Perlmann (who gets one or two lines) and the female lead - none of the bloodpack is memorable including Donnie Yen who is completely wasted in a role which requires not only no dialogue but maybe one 5-second fight scene.
Despite a much more liberal use of colored lighting and some interesting visual FX shots, it can't help quite hide the fact the film still looks like it was entirely shot in a concrete factory which gives it a much more enclosed and less epic feel of the first film. "Blade" made good use of its coastal city locale, here Prague may as well be midnight Toronto - hell everyone seems to speak English and wear leather. First time around Kristofferson was a very cool ass kicking sidekick, this time he's there simply to be beaten up it seems most of the time - gone is the character's wisdom and gruff machoism.
The background characters are also a big disappointment here - the first had a beautifully over the top Stephen Dorff, Tracey Lords, a snivelly Udo Kier, a cool blond English chick and a fat librarian vampire to name a few - here there's a balding mastermind, some chick with pink hair, a star from "Gossip" and a Maori. The less said about the bad techno music the better.
Its more accessible and engaging to mainstream audiences than the first, but certainly not as challenging or rewarding in the long term. That's why on first viewing with an audience people will love this but on further looks they'll quickly tire of it (which explains the box-office drop off) - the first "Blade" is a well made and distinctive cult movie, "Blade II" is a forgettable but exciting mainstream in your face popcorn movie. Its glorious fun but don't think about it too much.