Vampire movies: the genre of which the majority of movies released suck as hard as the average vampire does. Apparently it’s very hard to make a decent vampire flick. For every “Interview With The Vampire” there is a Twilight. To keep Vampires fresh, their characteristics vary with each movie. Sometimes they can turn into bats and can’t stand the sunlight, in other cases they’re merely immortal and sparkle when exposed to sunlight. Therefor one thing almost all vampire movies have in common is that one scene where their abilities are being explained. In Blade, the vampires have rather traditional features and limitations: Blood-thirst, fangs, immortal, allergic to sunlight, garlic and silver. The things they lack: they can’t turn into bats, do have a reflection and are perfectly capable of handling crosses. That last thing is pone of the attributes that are always so stupid: There is an undead creature coming after me, but if I just hold these two stakes like this it will destroy them.
Over the years Blade has become somewhat of a cult classic and a movie with a relatively large legacy and I’m not talking about just sequels.
Besides being a vampire movie, Blade is also a comic book movie, featuring a more obscure character from Marvel Comics. A name you will probably know due to The Avengers, Spider-man and X-Men movies that have been killing it at the Box Office the last 16 years. Blade is generally considered to have kick-started the current comic book movie popularity. This is interesting because in no way was this movie ever marketed as a superhero movie, unlike The X-Men two years later. The surprise success of Blade paved the way for more comic book movies as it finally proved audiences will go out to see them if they were done right. To understand this fully you have to look back at where comic book movies stood in 1998. There were only two franchises that were capable of raking in money at the Box Office: Batman and Superman. Now in 1997 both of those franchises were dead in the water. Superman’s last gasp was the abysmal fourth movie titled “The Quest For Piece” and Batman bombed the previous year with the dreadful Batman & Robin. Every other comic book movie flopped or just didn’t live up to the expectations: Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, Spawn, Steel, The Shadow, The Phantom… The list goes on and on. The somewhat sudden success of Blade changed all of that. This is kind of a feat when you consider that the “Action star against Vampires” hook might seem to be easy to turn into a success, but as Steven Seagal proves in “Against the Dark”, it isn’t.
Blade is a half-vampire, half-man as his mother gave birth to him right after she was bitten by a vampire. This gives him in terms of abilities the best of both worlds as he has all of the vampires’ powers, but none of their weaknesses. The vampires even have nicknamed him “The Daywalker” which is pretty self-explanatory. Since vampires left him an orphan, Blade has taken it upon himself to rid the world of vampires who live a hidden life and occasionally feast on humans. He is aided by an old man and mentor figure named Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). They work out of some abandoned factory where Whistler helps Blade to keep his blood-thirst under control. After trying to finish off a vampire in a hospital Blade comes across a young black female doctor named Karen (N’Bushe Wright) whom he takes to his hideout after she was bitten. They do their best in trying to save her, and by their best I mean they inject her with garlic. Luckily for herself Karen turns out to be a hematologist. This is also helpful for Blade as he’s looking for a permanent cure against his blood-thirst.
To give the movie an actual plot, the vampires are up to something as young Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) has had it with the old ways of hiding and wants to make vampires the ruling species on Earth. This is of course against the wishes of a century old vampire council, so Deacon has to revolt against them and does so with fury. The endgame by Deacon is to turn himself into some sort of vampire God and make it possible for him to rule the world. Only one half-vampire/half-man can stop him: Blade.
If directors can be one hit wonders just like musicians, then Stephen Norrington fits the moniker. Out of the handful of movies he made only Blade is actually good. Blade has a unique style and tone to it and was a gritty movie long before The Dark Knight was released. When you look at all of the other comic book movies preceding Blade, most of them are colorful and/or their villains are over the top. Blade has a one note performance by Wesley Snipes as the character is only allowed to be a bad ass. Blade never shows any emotions, not even when somebody close to him dies. He will avenge their death, but shed no tear. This makes Blade not really a character you feel for, but someone you do think of as being really cool. But there is more to this movie than just Snipes’ cool performance: Norrington injects the movie with a lot of stylized fight scenes which, together with the long black leather trench-coat Blade is wearing, might have influenced The Matrix. Oh, and the Columbine kids as well. Also unique to this movie is the inclusion of electronic music. If Norrington was an American the movie would have probably featured some Rock and Metal songs, but now the movie features an opening scene set in a slaughterhouse where an underground rave party is being held and the soundtrack consist of a Techno song. The song used became a classic due to its appearance and it set a very different, but awesome, tone than we’re normally used to.
Despite its legacy, Blade isn’t a masterpiece. Towards the end the movie starts to feel like it’s stretching its material and scenes are drawn out. It takes seemingly ages for Frost to set up the pieces for the final showdown while both Karen and Blade have to deal with small subplots that could have been exercised. The whole inclusion of Karen’s co-worker could have been scrapped and it wouldn’t have hurt the movie. Blade’s subplot revolves around a plot twist which could have been dealt with in a leaner way. It now takes up around 10 minutes of wasted screen time.
One of the nicer elements of this movie is its R-rating which it really owns up to. Using not only his hands and feet but also a wide variety of sharp objects as well as a shotgun, Blade disposes of the large amount of vampires in creative ways. Unique is their immediate combustion when he stabs them with sharp silver objects. The movie incorporates a lot of computer generated special effects which were probably state-of-art back then, but now look dated in certain cases. Not too dated, as Blade still has better effects than say Sharknado.
Blade is a good action packed movie with a great legacy. It paved the way for other Marvel properties to be brought to the big screen, proved that comic book movies weren’t necessarily box office poison and even was the inspiration for similar movies like Underworld, Van Helsing and maybe even The Matrix. Blade breathed new life into both the vampire and the comic book movie genres. It was an awesome sleeper hit at the time of its release and still a highly enjoyable movie today.