Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (20.05 Mbps) Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) Czech: Dolby Digital 5.1 German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1 … (more)
Note: Japanese only available w...
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) Czech: Dolby Digital 5.1 German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1 Russian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese: Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 (less) Note: Japanese only available when player menu language is Japanese. DD 5.1 all 448 kbps, DD 2.0 all 192 kbps
English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German SDH, Czech, Hungarian, Russian
English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German SDH, Czech, Hungarian, Russian (less)
It's long been understood that sequels rarely surpass their predecessors. The same doesn't necessarily hold true, though, in the world of comicbook movies. For every Iron Man 2 there's an X-Men 2: X-Men United, Spider-Man 2, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, The Dark Knight, X-Men: First Class and, technically speaking, The Avengers, which was essentially a direct sequel to at least four different films. While we're at it, add Blade II to that list. Strike that. Bump Blade II toward the top of that list. Blade II isn't just a leaner, meaner Blade, it drives a silver stake into the first film's heart and plants a good, swift kick on the handle to finish the job. Director Guillermo del Toro is, as ever, a man with a vision. A man on a mission, really, bringing the full force of his talent to bear on Blade's action/horror cocktail, Wesley Snipes' steely resolved hybrid hunter, returning screenwriter David S. Goyer's bolder, bloodier screenplay, and a whole new breed of vampires, clawing, gnawing and chewing their way up the visually enthralling food chain.
"You've been training for two years to take me out, and now here I am. Woo! So exciting, isn't it?"
Two years after Blade (Wesley Snipes) put a stop to Deacon Frost's ascent to vampire godhood, an even greater threat rears its head: a more aggressive strain of vampirism that's rapidly producing deadlier, hungrier creatures of the night (dubbed Reapers) that are immune to everything but sunlight. It seems the Reapers' leader, Nomak (The Golden Army's Luke Goss) has a bone to pick with one of the oldest vampire lords in existence, Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann). Out-fanged, out-clawed and out of options, the standard-issue vamps turn to Blade and his team -- weapons master Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), back from the dead but not yet back to normal, and recent recruit Scud (The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus) -- for help. The daywalker agrees, reluctantly, and is given command of the Blood Pack, a highly skilled group of bloodthirsty assassins who, until a few days before, were being trained to take out none other than Blade himself. With new weapons, new tactics, and new allies, chief among them vampire princess Nyssa (Leonor Varela) and vindictive Bloodpack leader Reinhardt (Ron Perlman), Blade takes the fight to the Reapers' doorstep, uncovers a plot in the vampire ranks, and struggles to come to terms with his dual natures.
Blade II is so much more accomplished than the original that it almost makes me want to revisit my Blade review, rip back the shades of nostalgia, and let the light pour in. Gone are the anemic visual effects, gone are the bloodless supporting performances, gone are the draining subplots, gone are the toothless vamps and hideous aberations (I'm looking at you, Pearl). Del Toro sets Blade II apart in every way. The vampires -- both old and new -- are pure del Toro. Drawing upon Mike Mignola's artwork two years before Hellboy barreled into theaters, the Cronos director's creatures are as striking as they are diverse. Nomak and his translucent skin, pale eyes, snaking tongue and cavernous maw of a Lovecraftian mouth; the Nosferatu-esque Damaskinos and his moist, porcelain skin, bulging veins and arthritic hands; Nyssa and her companion Asad (Danny John-Jules), introduced as manga-inspired, UV-shielded ninja in high-tech armor; and the Blood Pack, a battle-hardened band of rough-n-tumble killers, distinct as individuals, each defined by their weapons, tattoos and hair styles, yet cohesive as a literal pack. But it doesn't end there. Whistler in stasis, Reaper embryos, blood fountains, draining stations, vampires turning into Reapers, gravity-defying leaps, pulse-pounding dust-ups, early strides in digital doubling, lairs, labs, sewers and arenas, all weaved together with the same bewitching aesthetic. Del Toro, no stranger to genre-skewing vampires, does what most others wouldn't: chart his own course. He not only dramatically expands upon the first film's established mythos, he delivers a fully functioning sequel and a blistering action/horror film in its own right.
It isn't a perfect sequel, mind you, or a perfect film for that matter. It isn't very hard to spot each twist and betrayal coming a mile off, a few minor plot holes reveal themselves on second and third viewings, the lower-tier Reapers aren't nearly as frightening as Nomak, and some of the film's CG effects are looking a bit long in the tooth (the nameless vampire henchman deaths, the digital doubles, and that blasted bladed boomerang). Even so, Goyer's script is a more refined and agile weapon of mass-scale action-oriented storytelling, Snipes' delivery and control is more consistent than before, Kristofferson doesn't disappoint, Reedus is a solid addition, Varela is a more capable and believable lover and fighter than N'Bushe Wright, and Kretschmann, Perlman and, above all, Goss walk away with every prize del Toro has to give thanks to terrific, fiendishly delicious scene-stealing performances. Del Toro cranks up the action too. If Blade is the series' Alien (I'm sorry to have even made the comparison now that I've penned it), Blade II is its Aliens; faster, grittier, bloodier, more visceral and intense. But whereas it's difficult to compare Alien and Aliens since both are undisputed classics, it isn't difficult to compare Blade and its sequel. Blade II is the more electrifying comicbook actioner, the more arresting tale, the scarier creature feature, and the bigger, badder, more beautiful film. No nostalgia required.
Allow me to cut right to the chase. Blade II's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer doesn't look as good as Blade's first-class high definition presentation. And, for the most part, that's okay. So take a breath, resist jumping the "DNR" gun, and let's examine the film on its shortcomings and merits. Most of the criticisms people will levy against the encode actually trace back to del Toro and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain's very specific intentions. There are, however, a few issues that do not: glaring edge halos plague many a scene, crush drains the life out of several shots, and unwieldy noise barges in without an invitation. None of it is terribly distracting, mind you, but each nuisance suggests a newly minted master might have improved image quality. The film is also relatively soft on the whole, although I doubt overzealous noise reduction or any other poorly implemented filtering technique is the chief culprit. Despite a pronounced, fearless palette, Blade II is a darker, grittier, grainier and, yes, softer sequel, as Beristain slathers most every scene in piercing blues, bold yellows and insatiable shadows. Understanding del Toro's endgame -- to make the movie look as much like a heavily inked, richly colored, Mignola-inspired comicbook as possible -- is crucial to separating intention and filmic softness from legitimate causes for concern. And as far as I can tell, he succeeded. Primaries are stunning, black levels are bottomless, detail is inconsistent but earns a pass, many a closeup makes a greater impression, delineation is in keeping with del Toro and Beristain's style, and grain is intact. Moreover, significant artifacting, banding, aliasing and other compression and encoding irregularities aren't at play, and print blemishes, though present, are few and far between.
I'm sure some will dismiss Blade II's presentation entirely. It doesn't look as good as 'Blade' did! Warner screwed up the transfer! DNR! DNR! And that's a shame. The encode isn't perfect, and even I suspect it could be better. Much better? I just don't think so. Sometimes soft is just soft. Dark is just dark. Obscured detail is just obscured detail. Most of all, intention is often just intention, no matter how you slice it. Del Toro wasn't interested in making a slick, polished, razor-sharp actioner. He wanted to make an in-the-shadows, down-in-the-sewer horror film; a grim, gritty horror film with shots ripped straight out of the panels of a grim, gritty comicbook. I, for one, am pleased with Warner's treatment and encode. Not ecstatic. Not thrilled. Just pleased. Regardless, only one thing really matters: nothing about the transfer prevented me from eagerly feeding on Blade II and drinking down every last drop.
Ready to wake the dead? Blade II hacks its way through Reaper after Reaper with a pair of sternum-cracking DTS-HD Master Audio surround tracks. Dialogue is gruff, rough and grumbly, just as it should be in a action-oriented horror flick that features an ongoing rivalry between Wesley Snipes and Ron Perlman. It isn't all huffs and tough-guy puffs, though. Every voice -- whether it belongs to a young vampire princess, a Blood Pack warrior or an ancient creature of the night -- is crisp, clear and perfectly grounded and prioritized in the world del Toro has created. And the rear speakers expand that world exponentially. Sewers are vast and ominous, vampire lairs are cold and sinister, Blade's base of operations is open and spacious, and night clubs and tunnels packed with Reapers sound as terrifying as they look. Directional effects are precise and involving, pans are smooth, and the entire film, minus a few scenes that are, for whatever reason, a bit too front-heavy, is as immersive as action/horror hybrids come. The LFE channel packs plenty of punch too, amping up every shootout and duels to the death, throwing its full support behind the sequel's hip hop/electronica soundtrack, and grabbing hold of explosions, gunfire, motorcycle crashes, ninja battles and whatever else Blade II has on tap. Never mind the fact that the film is ten years old. Age has no bearing here.
Audio Commentaries: Three commentaries are available -- a solo track with director Guillermo del Toro, a second with del Toro and producer Peter Frankfurt, and a third with writer David S. Goyer and actor/producer Wesley Snipes -- and all are worth listening to, particularly for fans who are anxious to ween every bit of information from the always candid, always entertaining del Toro. Come to think of it, I wish a del Toro commentary came standard on every Blu-ray release, regardless of whether he was involved in the production or not.
Director's Notebook (HD): An interactive production journal complete with original sketches, hand-scribbled notes and, most importantly, a series of featurettes hosted by del Toro. Though bite-sized, each digestible featurette offers a laser-focused look at the creatures, makeup, prosthetics, visual effects, and production design of the sequel.
Blade II: Blood Brothers (HD, 10 minutes): Ten years after the film's release, Goyer sits down to discuss del Toro's involvement in the project, the filmmaker's initial hesitance to sign on, the back-and-forth between the screenwriter and his new director, some of the cross-pollination between Blade II and other del Toro films, the development of the Reapers, and much more.
The Blood Pact (SD, 82 minutes): An excellent behind-the-scenes documentary divided into eight parts. Segments include "Genesis Redux: Beginnings," "Man & Myth: The Blade Character," "Leader of the Pact: On Directing," "The Devil's Architect: Production Design," "Fear the Reapers: Creature Effects," "Suck-Head Chic: Costuming," "Kicking & Screaming: Stunts & Choreography" and "Vampire Noctures: The Music Score" (which, at twenty-minutes, will delight score junkies).
Deleted & Alternate Scenes with Optional Commentary (SD, 26 minutes): Sixteen deleted and alternate scenes are on tap -- "Intro/Driving in Prague," "Flashback," "Warehouse Fight," "Caliban Elevator," "Damaskinos with Hair," "Extended Damaskinos Welcome," "Whistler & Sunlight," "House of Pain Hunt Extended," "Extended Damaskinos' Story," "More Trapped Reaper and Autopsy," "More of the Blood Pact," "Scud & Whistler," "Extended Sewer Hunt Prelude," "Whistler Discovers Caliban," "Kounen & Blade" and "Epilogue: Dirty Version" -- with optional commentary with the director.
Unfilmed Script Pages (SD): Pages from the original shooting scripts pull the curtain back on three scenes that were cut much earlier: "Whistler & Blade's First Meeting," "Mini-Mart Attack" and "Blade Takes Nyssa to the Hospital."
Sequence Breakdowns (SD): Six select scenes are presented five different ways: as written in the original script, as polished in the shooting script, as envisioned in storyboards and FX breakdowns, as shot on set, and as they appear in the final film. Scenes include "Blood Bank," "Ninja Fight," "Reapers in the House of Pain," "Underground," "Chapel Fight" and "Caliban."
Visual Effects (SD, 6 minutes): But wait, there's more! A separate effects section offers up three more quick-hit featurettes: "Synthetic Stuntmen," "The Digital Maw" and "Progress Reports."
Comic Book Origins (SD, 5 minutes): The relationship between Blade II and comics, as told by del Toro.
The Vampire Mystique (SD, 5 minutes): Vampirism as a symbol, analogy, and social and political commentary.
Blood Bath (SD, 4 minutes): "The problem with owning a blood pool is that they're a pain in the neck to clean."
Alternate Sunrise Music (SD, 2 minutes): A different take on the Pack's descent into the sewers.
Music Video (SD, 4 minutes): "Child of the Wild West" with Cyprus Hill and Roni Wise.
Trailers (SD, 3 minutes): Blade II's teaser and theatrical trailer.
Art Galleries (SD): An "Art Gallery," "Storyboards Gallery," "Script Supervisor Notebook" and a series of "Percussion Instrument Stills" round out the package.
Blade II shakes up the established Blade formula and comes away with a sequel that not only handily bests the original but stands strong as a terrific actioner, a frightening horror flick and an entertaining comicbook adaptation. And everything is better. The performances, the script, the fight choreography, the action, the scares, the creatures... all of it. So while I'm on a hyperbolic kick: all hail Guillermo del Toro, man of many talents, many unsettling visions and many unforgettable beasts. On that note, Warner's Blu-ray release is a beast in its own right thanks to a solid (albeit flawed) video transfer, a pair of hard-hitting DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and a slew of extras including three audio commentaries, two recently produced HD special features, and hours upon hours of supplemental content culled from previous releases. If you have any love of the Blade series, add this to your wish list, shopping cart or collection post haste.
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