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Vampire Blood and Egyptian Assassins

01/05/2002. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy The Scorpion King in the USA - or Buy The Scorpion King in the UK

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Rod weighs in with some neck-biting action from the cult movie Blade II, and tops it off with a trip to see the Scorpion King too. Truly, he is the king of the bhucket-sized pop-corn.

Blade 2: New Line Cinema. Certificate 18; Director: Guillermo del Toro (Mimic, Cronos)

I remember the vampire movie of old. It was a battle of good versus evil fought out between Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and, as usual, Count Dracula ended up vanquished by stakes, running water or morning sunshine.

Blade 2

Well, something went wrong with the plot because in the intervening years since the Hammer productions and the movie ‘Blade’ starring Wesley Snipes, the vampires proliferated beyond belief.

There’s hundreds of ‘em not just lurking in the shadows but dancing the night away in discos, too. Poor humans - they’d have no chance were it not for the heroic vampire-killer Blade, the unusual man who lives in both worlds. He’s the day-walker!

The first Blade movie, based on the Marvel comic book hero, was innovative and intriguing. It was a strange, dark story with elements of fantasy and surrealism. However, Wesley obviously did no good because by the time we get to ‘Blade 2’, the vampires have exponentially increased in number.

There’s thousands of vampires literary coming out of the woodwork. Humans are an oddity - the movie should be named, spot the human! Shot in Prague, it doesn’t increase the Czech Republic’s tourist potential one bit!

About fifteen minutes into ‘Blade 2’, it was impossible not to sigh and say to myself, ‘what a lot of rubbish’. Blade’s super fast gun made things resemble an arcade game.

It was a question of how many vp/s (vampires per second) were horribly disintegrated into flaming skeletons and the entire show became utterly ridiculous. Just how many vampires were there? The solitary and creepy Nosferatu of bygone years seems almost to be a welcome lost friend compared to this lot.

Anyway, things have changed in ‘Blade 2’. A new type of vampire stalks the streets and sewers. Somewhat resembling Nosferatu, it is a horrible monstrosity of a creature with a jaw that splits apart to reveal something disgusting which sucks the blood out of others, including ‘normal’ vampires.

Now, the ordinary vampires are upset about being put off the top of the food chain and enlist Blade’s help to do away with them. Along with a few vampire hard nuts called the Bloodpack which is led by nasty Rienhard (Ron Perlman) and helped again by his old sidekick Whistler (Kris Kirstofferson) from the first movie, they go out in search of the next generation vampires.

The new kids on the block seem virtually indestructible. Broken necks miraculously bend back into shape and no number of ordinary bullets seem to do them any damage. Chasing them into the sewers, a battle ensues which is much like the opening battle except that the vp/s destruction rate is higher. Frankly, it becomes a bore.

Blade has a private conflict with Rienhard and also, surprisingly, a romantic interest with Nyssa, the daughter of the vampire big cheese Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) who is so bad and evil that he has a mini swimming pool full of blood. This, I think, is overdoing things a bit. I know plenty of people who like plenty of beer, possibly with an appetite exceeding that of a vampire for blood, but I’ve yet to see them swim in the stuff.

The vampire battles continue with not unexpected twists to the plot. Gore, blood and guts, severed heads, split torsos and exploding bodies are common sights.

Trying to work out if there was a clever social analogy behind this work where, perhaps, the vampires represented disease or drugs in society, it soon became clear that there was only one level to the script. That level was somewhere below the basement. I’d tell you what happens in the end and spoil the movie for you but I’m not that nice a person. If I had to go through a couple of hours of misery watching this rubbish, then so should you.

Compared to the first film, characterisation is bland and wooden. Receiving the impression that Wesley Snipes is bored with the proceedings himself, I somehow think that this movie, which is essentially an endless sequence of disintegrating vampires, will not enhance his acting career.

Leaving the cinema, the only consoling thought was that the chances of a ‘Blade 3’ hitting the cinemas exceeded my odds of making money from the horses - but, stratified horror, I see it’s in the pipeline! (or should that be sewer?)

Rod MacDonald

check out: www.blade2.com


The Scorpion King

Universal Studios. Director: Chuck Russell (The Mask, A Nightmare on Elm Street). Certificate 12

Set in the time before the pyramids, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (an American wrestling champion) plays the part of Mathayus, the last Akkadian (a land to the north of ancient Babylonia) who makes a living as a professional assassin in this harsh, cruel and unforgiving land. Meanwhile, the megalomaniac ruler Memnon (Steve Brand) has an altruistic dream of bringing order and peace to the world, an order where he is the top man and where everyone is expendable.

Scorpion KingMemnon's hoards have swept most of the uncivilised world to the side. His armies are confident and victorious but he has the help of a sorcerer who can foretell whether or not battles will be won. Now, nothing gives a soldier more courage than to tell him the battle's won before the contest - something like a Zimbabwean presidential election perhaps! Clearly, this sorcerer is a pivotal person. Get rid of the sorcerer and maybe you'll get rid of Memnon!

The last of the free tribes get together to ask our assassin to kill this sorcerer. Memnon was responsible for butchering the Akkadians so the offer is accepted without compunction and the action shifts to the city of Gomorrah, that sinful place where all sorts of nefarious activities occur (no mention is made of Sodom).

The sorcerer is about to get an arrow in the back. The sorcerer turns. My god, the sorcerer isn't a man - she's a woman. Mathayus falters and all hell breaks loose when the guards rush in. He'd already been betrayed by some miserable social climbing sod from the free tribes.

Cassandra the sorceress, played by Kelly Hu, can be conservatively described as an exceptionally beautiful and incredibly sexy woman. Her costume is something else, too! This isn't because I'm a letch suffering from the male menopause - she has a certain magnetic charm which even Mathayus can't resist.

Memnon fancies her too but has been unable to get his grubby paws on her body because, she tells him, once this has happened, her powers will evaporate. Nonetheless, Memnon decrees that after the final battle with the world conquered and the last person enslaved, he'll need no more magic powers and her body will be his. We can see by her expression that maybe she doesn't want this to happen.

Mathayus escapes with Cassandra and sets in motion a sequence of sword-slashing and skull-crushing events. We're reminded of Arnie in ‘Conan The Barbarian’. There is spectacular action which is, on the whole, well-choreographed and never boring.

There is humour, some of which probably wasn't intentional. There's macho power and sublime seductive charm, the yang and yin of ancient days when men were men and women were men's willing playthings. And that's what this film is all about. It's escapist fantasy.

OK, so this doesn't follow ancient history very accurately. Apart from the fact that The Rock doesn't look like an Akkadian (they were Semitic people), they're all fighting in the early Bronze Age with what looks like steel weapons. Bernard Hill plays an alchemist - eventually his pleas of 'gezza job' must have fallen on fertile ground because Memnon has done just that.

However, he doesn't like his employer, a common condition, and mutters about him when he isn't there. Mind you, few like Memnon anyway: they despise him and give respect only through fear. Let this be a lesson to all the murderous warlords out there that your people don't really love you - it's just an illusion created through terror!

By the way, the alchemist appears to have discovered gunpowder by accessing an ancient Chinese source, a source some three thousand years before the Chinese discovered it themselves.

Historical accuracy is very uncommon in movies and you wouldn't expect it here. This is fantasy with a tenuous connection to our past, designed to elicit a sense of validity and empathy. (In fact, the Scorpion King appears in 'The Mummy Returns' but as a bad demon.) If you are in the mood for ninety minutes of escapist fun and adventure, then this film is for you.

Rod MacDonald

check out: www.the-scorpion-king.com

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