The best movie of 2002 so far has been Guillermo Del Toro's Blade II
, an entertaining hunk of camp/schlock science fiction B-movie action. Blade II
stars Wesley Snipes, The Thinking Man's Bruce Campbell, as Blade, a half-human, half-vampire ("Daywalker") vampire hunter, who deals out destruction to his undead foes, and anyone else stupid enough to get in his way, with an intriguing combination of automatic weapons, samurai swords, kung-fu, and pro-wrestling moves (yes, you read that correctly). The storyline, such as there is, has Blade joining forces with representatives of something called "The Ruling Order of Vampires" (they're unionized! I'm glad to see someone still is.) to destroy a really nasty mutant strain of vampire called (for no discernable reason whatsoever) "reapers".
The whole film is gloriously bad, the sort of thing that Ed Wood would have made if he'd been handed fifty million dollars. At one point, Blade teams up with a group of leather-clad vampires called, meta-jokingly enough, "The Bloodpack", the members of which have nicknames like "Lighthammer", "Verlaine" (a woman!), "Snowman", and "Priest". Of course, none of these names correspond in any way to any physical or behavioral characteristics of the individuals bearing them, but by this point, if you're haven't fled the multiplex, you won't give a good goddamn what's going on. Best thing to do is just sit back and enjoy the vampire-killin' fun and high-camp dialogue (near the end of the film, one character, dying and infected by a reaper, says "I want to die while I'm still a vampire". The whole scene is played totally deadpan, for pathos. Of course, you couldnt've beaten the grin off my face with a shovel). One interesting side effect of this "look ma, no narrative!" school of filmmaking is that the "twist" near the end of the film comes as a genuine surprise. The sudden reemergence of the plot an hour and a half into the movie comes as a real jolt to the viewer, who has by this point long since abandoned any hope for a coherent storyline, and has settled for a pleasant evening of spectacular fight scenes.
What is most intriguing about Blade II, however, is what this postmodern vampire flick says about our age's attitude toward science and the supernatural. The classic Hammer horror films made during the '50s and '60s - the height of the cold war - can be seen as a reflection of that age's anxiety toward science, particularly the threat of atomic holocaust. Moviegoers sought escape in tales of the supernatural, set in a simpler, more innocent time, the Victorian Age. When technology did manifest itself in the Hammer Films, it was in the personage of Dr. Frankenstein, a villain whose twisted meddling with nature inevitably brought about much suffering, and finally, his own doom. Blade II is diverges in some ways from these classic films but also shares some of their important characteristics.
Unlike the Hammer films of yore, the vampires of Blade II are creatures of science fiction, not the supernatural: the movie explains vampirism as the result of a hereditary viral infection. This however, does not reflect a more positive attitude toward science on the part of the filmmakers: quite the contrary. As it turns out, the evil super-vampires, the "reapers", who compulsively need to feed on blood, in the process creating more and more copies of themselves - a pretty obvious AIDS metaphor - have been genetically engineered by an evil vampire lord. Indeed, the villains in the movie come equipped with black helicopters and mysterious helmeted shock troops, in other words all the paraphrenalia of the paranoid's dream of shadow governments and multinational megacorp intrigue. The attitude of Blade II toward science is unrelentingly bleak. The film seems to say that those who would experiment with the building blocks of life encroach ruthlessly on the future of humanity, and only the power of automatic weapons, katanas, flying kicks and body-slams can preserve the free individual. Ted Kazcynski, we hardly knew ye.
This technophobic attitude seems in turn to arise out of real public ambivalence toward science. In poll after poll, ordinary citizens confess bewillderment as to what it is scientists actually study. Who among us actually understands the latest developments in cosmology, subatomic physics, molecular biology? As scientific research advances onward, it becomes more and more divorced from actual human experience. Today, with research departments in universities around the world competing for ever-shrinking supplies of funds, films like Blade II reflect the public's attitude that scientists are tampering with That Which Would Be Better Left Alone. The day may be near when pure, unapplied research will be a thing of the past.