Since about 2007 when I watched Blade: The Series on the now defunct UK channel Bravo, I have had a long and fascinated interest in the Marvel Comics character Blade, however it is the kind of interest that doesn’t involve reading the comics as I would have no idea where to start. My interest though has always been on-going. I like the idea of him; I like the badass actions and look of him as well as his more lone wolf nature. He is all round a fantastic character. The kind of guy who would go into a situation without any planning and armed to the teeth with weapons and would make his presence known either silently or more likely by punching the first guy he sees. Despite this interest though, the one thing that has eluded me are the films. I have not had much opportunity to watch them as they are not shown on television all that often and for several years the only one I had been able to see was Blade Trinity, until very recently.
Released in 1998 and directed by Stephen Norrington, the film follows the on-going battle between Humans and Vampires from the perspective of the title character. The film begins in a flashback dating 1967 where a pregnant woman who is bleeding from the neck dies as her son is delivered by C-Section. Flash-forward to a modern underground day party scene where a seemingly ordinary young man is taken to, but gets treated very differently before being drenched in blood and attacked by the party goers who turn out to be Vampires. When trying to escape he encounters a man dressed head to toe in leather and covered in a lot of shiny things, all the vampires begin to separate upon realising who it is and call him Blade (Wesley Snipes). They attack him, but are quickly dispatched by this strange new man who possess a strong array of weapons as well as athleticism and strength fighting another vampire named Quinn (Donal Logue) before setting him on fire. Blade leaves the area as the police arrive and the charred remains of Quinn arrive at a city morgue. At the morgue Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) is shown a blood sample from the body, goes down to inspect it and is then attacked by the seemingly dead person who bites her throat. Blade arrives to finish him off but is attacked by the hospital Guards. He takes Karen away from the building and takes her to his hideout where his mentor and weapon smith Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) states that Blade should have killed her and injects her with Garlic.
In a board room, a group of vampires are discussing the problems that Blade is giving them before calling upon a vampire named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) who is stirring up trouble within the ranks. Karen wakes up and discovers Whistler injecting Blade with a Serum. She tries to escape but is confronted by Whistler and Blade. They let her go but she is told to get out of the city as soon as possible. On her way back to her apartment, she is attacked by a Cop but is rescued by Blade. She stays with Blade wanting to know what is going on and crash a Vampire Club. Blade and Karen discover some articles and documents which show that Frost is looking for something. They are then both attacked by a healing Quinn and his men. With some help from Whistler, they manage to escape. Karen is informed by Whistler that Blade is a Vampire, but not like the rest. He is a Daywalker, a vampire hybrid who can walk around in sunlight. He shares all their strengths, and none of their weaknesses except the thirst. He therefore uses a serum to survive, but his body has begun to reject it and needs a new one. Out on a beach somewhere, Frost, Quinn and Frost’s supposed lover Mercury (Arly Jover) kill vampire elder Gitano Dragonetti (Udo Kier) by exposing him to sunlight.
Back at the hideout Blade shows Whistler a segment of ancient Vampire Texts which Frost was looking for which says something by an ancient Bloodgod called La Magra. Karen discovers she is slowly turning into a vampire and creates a cure for herself. She also discovers that the anticoagulant EDTA causes Vampire Blood to explode. Blade encounters Frost during the day that has covered his skin in Sun Cream to avoid the exposure to sunlight. He offers Blade a truce but Blade refuses it. Frost’s men then invade the hideout injuring Whistler and taking Karen prisoner. Blade finds Whistler and gives him his gun so Whistler can kill himself. Blade attacks Frost’s men before discovering Vanessa (Sanaa Lathan), his mother. She says that Frost was the one who bit her. Blade is then captured.
Blade and Karen are taken to an underground temple called the Temple of Eternal Night. There, Frost plans to turn himself into the Bloodgod. They trap Blade who is now weak after thirteen hours without his serum into a sarcophagus which drains him of his blood. Karen is put down a hole where her ex-colleague (Tim Guinee) has become an animalistic Vampire, and Mercury sets out the other Vampire Leaders in a circle formation underneath the room the sarcophagus is in. Karen escapes from the pit and rescues Blade who is dying, she feeds him her blood which give Blade the animalistic strength to fight the Vampires. Frost, through the sacrifice becomes La Magra. Bade kills Vanessa before wiping out Frost’s Men. Karen manages to get a shotgun and kills Mercury with a vampire spray Whistler gave her earlier. Blade encounters Frost who has seemingly become invincible thanks to his new powers, but Blade uses the EDTA to cause Frost to explode. Blade and Karen leave the temple and Blade asks her to create him a new Serum. The film then finishes with Blade dealing with a vampire in Moscow.
Blade is unlike other Superhero or Comic Book films as in the character is more of a vigilante possibly on par with anti-hero, sort of like Snake Plissken. But because it’s not your ordinary run of the mill comic book movie and more of a realistic action movie (all be it with vampires), it makes the film more appealing to other audiences instead of just the comic book goers and as a result is able to reach a more widespread audience but does not contradict or contravene the main character. Blade is still Blade but the setting is made out to be more in times with the modern world and as such connects more with the audience instead of a setting that would need more explaining for the audience to understand.
The films main cast is sort of made of on and off characters; hit and misses, some which could have had more time on-screen and others who are just that little bit annoying. Quinn plays the part of a henchman who thinks of himself as being quite cool but is actually the modern fool (tongue twister) and find his constant appearances rather annoying and find it rather pleasing that he is the first to be killed by Blade in the Final Fight. I don’t think Udo Kier gets enough time on-screen as his character needs more initial explaining along with his actual place in both the world and film. Racquel (Traci Lords) is supposedly given a main role but only really appears in the first act and is hardly seen again, if at all, Pearl (Eric Edwards) the librarian is very grotesque but the identity of the creature is not shown and you are at a loss trying to understand what it is, Officer Krieger (Kevin Patrick Walls); the cop familiar that attacks Karen, is a rotter at best, but his place in the film is not really needed other than for Karen to begin working with Blade, It is sort of bit coincidental and predictable that Karen runs into her ex-colleague, and Vanessa; Blade’s Mother now vampire has no real proper on-screen time for the shock to Blade become really apparent nor the mystery of where she has been all these years and her character is all round pointless except for maybe Frost having a tool to capture Blade with.
Despite this though the film has some really good cast. Stephen Dorff is a real rotten character. He is obviously the main film’s villain but instead of being the over the top Dracula or Darth Vader type, he is the casual party goer who enjoys women and drinking. His persona as a right rotter and an egotistical maniac is played well (even if his accent makes him sound like Denis Leary in Demolition Man) and thinks very much about himself and his plans and has that want to be the top dog despite his position in the vampire world. He is however a very clever person also and obviously knows what he is doing and it’s only through those who work for him and the threat of Blade that they fail to work out. I do feel that N’Bushe Wright is somewhat out-of-place in this film. She plays the part of the unsuspecting public and as such the audience connection and introduction to the film, but I partly feel that she was chosen more to be in a glamour role or a possible love interest to Blade instead of the unbelieving witness and doctor role that her character is seemingly supposed to be. However despite that though, she is a very good character. The way she looks, acts and dresses is enough for Blade not to feel out-of-place with him covered in leather, and she wearing a trench coat like leather jacket. She is also very no-nonsense much like Blade and the way her character changes from unsuspecting witness to the films secondary hero makes her fit right into place especially with Blade showing a level of respect and trust in her at the very end of the film. Kris Kristofferson is the perfect associate/partner for Blade as in he is a lot like him and they both talk to each other in the same manner and form. He is also a lot like a father figure for Blade and shows a lot of care for him, treating him and giving him his serum as a result, but he is also very much a teacher and while he is as badass as Blade, his outer exterior and persona is that of a more calming position with everyone and is less likely to start a fight as a result and is more the talking kind.
I am really drawn to the character of Mercury. I don’t think she gets the on-screen time that she deserves. She is in some respects the female version of Blade towards the end wielding his sword, but she is also a lot like Frost in character but gives a high level of blood lust in her role and as such is more of a warrior and animal in her nature, but her main exterior and persona works in tandem well with Frost which allows the two to have a real connection that is also realistic. While it is almost half-way into the film before she makes a proper appearance and becomes part of the main cast, her part is very enjoyable throughout and while Blade has Karen as his sort of assistant, Mercury is the opposite to this, but starts of bad and remains that way.
The real star though is of course Wesley Snipes in the title role. Wesley Snipes in many respects is Blade; he is not playing it rather than actually being him. He shows no real emotion and is single-minded on the main task. Even when Whistler dies he just walks away and keeps his mind on the main task in hand. He does show some redeeming feature of this though when talking about his mother and the life he could have had, but he represents this through anger possibly showing that he has moved on from this, but it still plays on his mind. Blade’s athleticism and martial Arts skill and strength work very much in tandem with Snipes own personal Martial Arts training in Shotokan Karate and Hapkido. His use of his weapons is very much in the up close and personal style with him preferring to use his own body and weapons such as his sword which need him to be more close to the target. He still however still uses his firearms in a big way but also uses more traditional methods of armed combat with such tools as his Glaive and Sword more frequently instead of firearms. His connection to the vampire world is of course explored for the benefit of the audience but the film does not waffle on these points and instead explains these points in relatively short terms.
The film’s soundtrack mostly comprises of hip hop, and electro music but has parts in it where the soundtrack is more mysterious to allow some tension for the scene exploring Blade as well as moments of fighting and explanation so that the right feel of tension and thrills can be given.
Blade though is at essence an Action Film, and with action comes violence, and Blade is a very Violent Film. The film though I wouldn’t consider as blood thirsty. There is a lot of blood in the film with scenes of body popping and explosions which in turn creates blood splatter, but generally it is not a film that thrives on it and uses Blood more for the showing of how violent the film is. I like to think of it more in relation to The Raid. It is very action packed and graphical in its violence (but not as much as how detailed The Raid was) but the violence is necessary for the action to work as the action comes from the characters, not the world around them. The film though is rather grotesque with moments of really disgusting things happening and disgusting creatures with the most disgusting scene happening at the end with the death of Frost. And on top of that you have more unnerving scenes such as the moment when Quinn arrives burned in the morgue.
Blade is all together an extremely enjoyable action movie which while being a comic book/super hero movie, does more than that and instead of being goofy or silly in its design (like Batman Forever) does a really terrific job of setting itself in the real world allowing the audience to connect and understand it more without large pieces of explanation required. The film’s cast is a mixed bunch, but those who play their parts well are thoroughly enjoyable and while there is a lot of blood and unnerving/disgusting scenes, this does not stop the film from being enjoyable and in respects gives it the supernatural look the film is trying to represent. Altogether, thoroughly brilliant and it will make you thirst for more, much like it has for me.