Tuesday, October 13, 2015
GDT week: Blade II and trying to forget what we see in the movies
My wife and I popped in Blade II last night after our son went to bed. We are both fans of the franchise as a whole but are smart enough to see the weaknesses in each entry. Blade II has many. And yet, if you watch, you can see how the mistakes Guillermo del Toro made as a director helped shape his later success, particularly with CGI heavy movies such as Hellboy.
Speaking of Big Red, at one point my wife asked why we weren't watching that instead, as I had not fully expressed what could be included in GDT week. My bad. Maybe tonight.
Back to the Daywalker...
The first problem is in plotting. Yes, we have the opening sequence in which our villain of the night is introduced. Someone is feeding on vampires. It's dirty and we don't know exactly what's happening. That's a good thing. Save the monster reveal for later. But then we get a voiceover from Blade. He catches us up on what's happened between now and the end of the first movie. It's been two years, Whistler -- whom we all thought was dead -- was taken by some vampires and is now held captive and kept alive as a vampire. Blade clearly states that his new mission is to find Whistler.
So what are we to make of that? My first guess was that Balde would spent the next 90 minutes trying to find Whistler and the weirdo from the opening would somehow keep getting in his way. What actually happens, however, is that Blade finds -- and cures! -- Whistler about two minutes later. The rest of the movie is about the whacko from the opening who feeds on vampires.
Maybe, once, finding Whistler was the focus of the movie. As the script developed, that became less and less of a key point. As minor as the search for Whistler became, why still make it the nut of the voiceover?
Most of the movie moves along rather well. It's an action movie with horror tropes and action, not scares, dictates the pacing. Keep in mind, too, that this is a Marvel movie. It's pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe, but if you know your cinema history, it was the success of Blade that gave way to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and the eventual worldwide domination of the MCU. The MCU's godfathers include del Toro, Raimi, and Stephen Norrington who is much more successful with his effects work in action and sic-fi films. But I digress... sort of.
Let's talk about effects. CGI is where Blade II leaves me gasping at how ridiculous computer-generated people can look. AT first, I tried to justify the video game-looking, plastique-bodied "actors" by telling myself that the characters aren't human, so why wouldn't they get a bit bendy in an extreme situation. And then I said, no. No, that's just stupid. It's crappy and we need to own it and move on.
The problem is one of inherent logic. The Blade franchise attempts to ground itself in a solid reality. Yes, there are vampires and that's not normal. But as Blade tells at least once every movie, forget what you've seen in the movies. He then usually tells us that religious artifacts don't affect vampires at all. You need silver or sunlight and they are allergic to garlic. Of course, none of these methods have ever been used to dispatch vampires in any Hollywood film ever. Right? Because I'm supposed to forget what I've seen in the movies and accept vampires as a race that can pro-create but also as a virus that can infect humans and turn them into vampires. (Which leads us to ask whether "turned" vampires can have vampire babies who would then be full bloods. I don't know and honestly, it's too complicated right now.)
Logic and physics get bent twice in the film. During the first fight scene between Blade and two members of the Blood Pact (stupid name) and again when Blade and Nomak go all WWE on each other during the finale. It not only looks awful, but goes against the rules the film tried to establish.
The good news is that del Toro learned. Watch the CGI-heavy fight sequences in Hellboy. They are crisp and even the most unusual (and squishy) characters look real. Maybe technology made a massive leap between 2002 and 2004 and that helped. The real lesson is that del Toro learned to create a set of rules (logical, physical, mythological) and stick to them. No one who isn't bendy gets to be bendy. The reality presented may not be the reality the average person lives in but there is a baseline and it makes the fantastic that much more fantastic and believable at the same time.
If del Toro were here, he might say the same thing. You don't have to follow someone else's rules. But if you make your own rules, you'd damn well better follow them.