Should I Watch..? 'Blade'
What's the big deal?
Blade is an action vampire superhero film released in 1998 and is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. The film stars Wesley Snipes as a half-vampire hybrid tasked with hunting down and destroying vampires who threaten the future of mankind. The film also stars Stephen Dorff, Donal Logue, Kris Kristofferson and N'Bushe Wright and it was directed by Stephen Norrington. As it predates the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) by a decade, the film is much darker and adult than the Marvel movies of today and has developed a cult following in the years since its release. The film received a mixed reaction from critics but audiences loved the film, which would go on to earn more than $131 million worldwide. It also led to two sequels and a short-lived TV series in 2006.
What's it about?
In 1967, a pregnant woman is attacked by a vampire which results in her unfortunate death although her child survives. Thirty years later, the child has become the half-human, half-vampire Blade who wages a secret war against vampires. After raiding an underground rave party hosted by vampire Deacon Frost, Blade rescues haematologist Dr Karen Jenson from the nearby hospital after police take one of the survivors of the raid there. Together with his friend and ally Abraham Whistler, Blade urges Dr Jenson to flee the city after it appears as though she has been bitten.
However, this is the least of Blade's problems. The arrogant Frost, at a meeting of vampire elders, insists that mankind is to be conquered and to this end, he intends to resurrect the vampire blood-god La Magra in his efforts to wipe mankind out. When it becomes apparent that Dr Jenson may hold the key to this, Blade has no choice but to fight Frost's ever-growing army of bloodsuckers before it's too late.
Eric Brooks / Blade
Dr Karen Jenson
David S. Goyer*
Release Date (UK)
13th November, 1998
Action, Horror, Superhero
What's to like?
It's unlikely that a film like Blade could get made in the same way these days as blood runs over most surfaces in many of the scenes. The film has an almost cartoony level of violence thanks to its seasoned action star, Wesley Snipes, who really delivers in terms of physicality. Norrington, for all his faults as a director, knows how to shoot action and the movie has plenty to savour. The film's aesthetic has proved enduring for the character and has some fairly creepy characters and sets that wouldn't look out of place in another horror-flavoured superhero film Spawn.
Snipes isn't too emotive as Blade but Kristofferson more than makes up for it as Whistler, a grizzled and cynical veteran of Blade's secret war who I felt was a more interesting character. Dorff brings his usual swagger to the role of Frost but he's a little too hammy for my tastes, especially alongside Logue's larger-than-life party animal. Given that the producers weren't too sure of the film's success, I can understand why they might have held back and produced a competent and straight-forward action movie. It's doesn't do too much wrong and considering that this is by the director of the monumental cock-up that was The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that's something of an achievement in itself.
- Donal Logue reinjured his jaw in the hospital scene with N'Bushe Wright. He had originally broken it in a motorcycle accident years earlier.
- Blade's real name, Eric Brooks, is never spoken in the film. He is referred to as Eric towards the end of the film while his mother's driving licence reveals his surname.
- During development, there were four actors considered for the role of Blade - LL Cool J, Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne and Snipes. Goyer always preferred Snipes for the role, who was unfamiliar with the character prior to casting. "I just approached him as this really cool character where I'd get to do martial arts and wear a leather suit," Snipes later said.
What's not to like?
I realise that comic adaptations aren't going to be the deepest of affairs but I wanted something more from Blade other than a veritable selection of bloody action scenes. I wanted some characterisation from our hero besides looking cool and having a vast array of funky weaponry. I wanted to know why Whistler stuck around and where they got their funky weaponry from - you can't pick up silver bullets from Walmart! I also wanted a decent supporting cast as Wright felt thoroughly disinterested in proceedings and Logue wasn't much more than a sniggering sidekick.
For me, the film is a one-trick pony that does action very well but not much else under the surface. Norrington is a director that can't get decent ideas on screen, stringing together an incoherent list of action sequences without really trying to tell a story to link them together. And this is Blade in a nutshell. For all its fancy visuals and memorable fight scenes, I cannot recall much about it. The worse thing for the character is given how popular his initial movie run was, is there really a place for him in Disney's sanitised vision of the MCU? I somehow doubt it which is a pity.
Should I watch it?
Blade doesn't really do too much wrong but it is a far cry from its big-budget descendants flooding cinemas across the world today. As the MCU continues to grow and expand, films like this lack the authenticity the later films possess and make Blade feel like a dark, twisted version of an already dark character. It might have all the violence and gore fans of the character expect but I can't honestly say I enjoyed it.
Great For: gore hounds, fans of the comics, anyone hoping for a revival
Not So Great For: fans of the MCU, the easily scared, Wesley Snipes' tax calculations
What else should I watch?
The common consensus is that of the three Blade movies, the second one is the best. Blade II received praise for its action sequences, atmosphere and acting but Blade: Trinity was roundly dismissed for being a dull triumph of style over content. But not every pre-MCU effort was such a disaster - probably the best examples are Spider-Man 2 and X-Men. Spider-Man 2 is still a great superhero movie featuring the Wall Crawler facing off against instant classic baddie Dr Octopus while X-Men demonstrated an appreciation for the source material while still being a kick-ass action picture.
2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the MCU with the brilliant Iron Man and the series hasn't really let up ever since. With multiple movies being released every year and with Avengers: Infinity War the latest "greatest hits" kinda movie with almost every MCU character appearing on screen, it seems as though this entertainment juggernaut (no pun intended) has no plans to slow down any time soon.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox