Superhero movies are essentially a dime a dozen at this point. I can remember a time when crime shows were on every television station and now the superhero tv programs seem to be slowly taking over. There was a time when these movies were a rare treat, but when they did release, they were often quite a show. When Black Panther was released, not only did it break box office records, but audiences and critics alike were happy to see a black-led superhero flick fly into theaters. Sure, for modern audience born in the twenty-first century that could be correctly appropriated, but some may forget what came prior and one of the most iconic names in the superhero genre also featured a black-led star.
Wesley Snipes donned the look, the clothing and the badass martial arts skills to combat the vampires that were slowly entering the society of the humans in Blade. A violent, brutal and wonderful take on the vampire genre that also paved the way for the rise of the superhero genre. What followed were two sequels (one good and one bad) and started a genre of movies that some may take for granted. Other black-led movies of this new and upcoming genre had been released prior including Meteor Man, Blankman and Steel which were more goofy than serious along with Spawn and even The Men in Black. Blade, on the other hand, was a much more violent and dark movie that dared to go further than most movies of the superhero genre would go for. Sure, the Batman movies starring Michael Keaton were somewhat dark but doesn’t hold a candle to what Blade brought to the table.
Released in 1998, Blade is based off the comic book character that first appeared in Marvel Comics’ The Tomb of Dracula #10 in July 1973. Blade himself was only featured as a side character and saw his first solo outing in Marvel’s black and white horror comics magazine Vampires Tales #8 in December of 1974. He was created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan and in the original story, Blade was an born in England in 1929.
Over the years, the character of Blade has been associated as the archenemy of the vampires and will stop at nothing to eradicate them from Earth. It was only a matter of time before the big screen adaption of the iconic character would be brought to life. Originally, movie studios were looking for produce a Black Panther movie but it never materialized and when Snipes was approached to star as the iconic vampire slayer, he never heard of the character! In fact, Snipes was pursuing the idea of making a Black Panther movie at the time himself. So, with all that is said and done, how has the Blade trilogy aged? With three different directors, how does each film differ from one another? With Blade missing for all these years, what does the future hold for this character? Will we see him again?
Everyone remembers seeing their first superhero movie. Whether it was Superman, or Batman or even those episodes of Spider-Man: The Animated Series in the mid 1990s. Blade surely made its impact on the market and while the story itself wasn’t exactly structured in a way that would make the plot memorable, the characters, the action sequences and sense of style are among several reasons to remember it. The movie itself is very low-key on the origins of Blade (Wesley Snipes) himself giving us just enough backstory to keep us interested. Blade was born Eric Brooks in the late 1960s after his mother died giving birth to him. She died from an unknown infection which we later learn was from a vampire bite. The mother died but little Eric adopted the genes of the vampire making him half-vampire and half-something else, perhaps a human hybrid of sorts.
We see nothing of his childhood and meet up with him thirty years later we he’s better known as “Blade” or “Daywalker”. The world we live in is run amok with humans and vampires. Most people are hardly aware of these creatures walking around but some humans have a mark on themselves meaning they work for the vampires. The story itself involves around Blade cleaning up the streets by savagely killing all the vampires he can. He has an arsenal of weapons to choose from but his sword is perhaps his go to weapon.
After Blade raids a rave party, one of the vampires he sets on fire is transported to the city morgue. Normally when Blade kills a vampire their bodies burn up leaving no evidence that they even existed. The vampire that he set on fire was quickly saved by a squadron of police and now has awoken in the morgue. He kills one of the workers and bites a hematologist named Karen (N’Bushe Wright). Blade rescues her and takes her to his safe house where his longtime friend and ally Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) aids in her recovery. Not only is Whistler the mentor to Blade, but he also crafts the weapons that can kill the vampires.
One thing I forgot to mention is that Blade has no weaknesses that all other vampires possess although the thirst of human blood is the only thing that makes Blade unique. Sunlight doesn’t bother him and interestingly, the holy cross is never mention nor used in the entire trilogy. The main villain of the movie is a man named Deacon Frost (played in an exceptional performance by Stephen Dorff). He wants to expand the outreach of the vampires and is someone who doesn’t care to listen to the elder vampires. He violent, abrasive and often times quite cruel. His one mission would leave the human race nearly extinct but needs Blade’s blood in order to fulfill the ritual he so desires.
This leads to numerous confrontations and battles that result is bloody outcomes and some catchy one-liners. The musical score during the fight scenes makes watching them a lot more fun and Deacon Frost (while vastly different from the comic book version) is a fantastic villain who is equal parts sadistic and funny as heck. Stephen Dorff was initially not interested in the role but was eventually persuaded; a decision that makes him one of the best villains in the superhero genre.
Blade itself is a very simple movie and is much darker than your typical superhero flick. It has moments of extreme violence and gory moments but it still one heck of a thrill ride. While the special effects have certainly aged over the years, the first Blade was a major inspiration for the future of this genre. Sure, other movies haven’t dared to earn themselves the R-rating outside of the Deadpool, but nothing in the genre comes close to what Blade has. That brings me to the sequels which I won’t go into as much detail as with the first movie but let’s give them some attention.
Following the events of the first film, Blade is still on the hunt for all the vampires which has led him to Europe this time. While vampires are still causing a threat, something new has form. A new creature called “Reapers” is killing off vampires too. It would seem that Blade would appreciate these Reapers, but there’s one problem- they have no problem killing humans and vampires. They aren’t choosy and even worse, these guys are seemingly impossible to kill. The unique bullets, blades and even his Blade’s sword cannot put these guys down. At the behest of a vampire overlord, Blade forms an unlikely truce with the vampires to eradicate the problem. And wouldn’t you know it, but a pandemic caused the Reapers!
This leads to a party of vampires and one-half hybrid cleaning up the sewers, back alleys and streets from this new breed of vicious killers. We later learn what their weakness is which is ultraviolet light. The vampires have to be careful because while the light can kill these Reapers, the light can certainly hurt them too. One thing that makes Blade II different from the first film is style and I’ll get to that in a bit. The fight sequences are impressive and I really got caught up in the weapons that were created in this film. Still, I think Deacon Frost makes for a better villain but I did enjoy how difficult it was to kill these Reapers. That is until we learn that the light can kill them. While Blade II is technically a better film than the first the same cannot be said for the third entry.
Everybody knows that Dracula is the most badass of the vampires and seeing him in this entry will make any fan of the vampire genre question their loyalty. The story involves Blade being framed for the murder of a human which leads to the F.B.I. launching a manhunt against the Daywalker. This leads to a massive raid on Blade’s hideout which results in the death of Whistler, a devastating blow to Blade and the audience. When Blade finally surrenders, he is rescued by a team of vampire hunters. They are Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds in his debut Marvel film) and Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel), the daughter of Abraham. She has some cool weapons including one cool bow while Hannibal spends his time cracking jokes and attempting to be the comic relief in the film which proves to be too much and quite a distraction.
The plot moves forward as it’s revealed that Dracula has been resurrected and the vampires are seeking to finally rule the planet. Dracula himself looks too modern and Dominic Purcell is largely unconvincing to play the character. Then we get countless scenes of action and fighting that are cut way too quickly to understand and if you watch closely, Wesley Snipes doesn’t appear to be invested in the film. The movie suffers with attempting to be too funny and not convincing enough in its villains. Plus, the body count is much lower, the special effects are more prevalent and most importantly, the gore is missing. When someone goes to see a vampire movie, the audience expects a good amount of blood to be shed.
The movie itself is very boring and the story is just not that interesting. Killing off Abraham Whistler is the biggest mistake and pairing Blade with a couple of young vampire hunters isn’t the right move. The first two movies were a lot of fun and each featured a unique sense of style whereas the third entry feels largely uninspired.
Every entry in this trilogy featured a different director. Stephen Norrington helmed the first film which made it feel like a comic book movie. The action was swift and combined with a killer soundtrack made for an impressive first entry. The dark tone established the world as unsettling, cold and even bleak. Guillermo Del Toro helmed the second entry which features some of his signature styles, some of which was present in the creepy bug movie Mimic that he directed in 1997. Not only are the creature designs unique, but even witnessing all the gross moments kept me interested. The action is choreographed very well especially during the sewer fight sequence. Plus, the like how the world looks especially when compared to the first film. Both films are essentially the same but feel very different. To put it simply, Blade feels like a comic book movie made by a director who wanted to have a lot of fun with the story while Blade II feels like a film made by a mature director who has one hell of a fantastic vision and uncompromising view of the vampire world.
Blade Trinity was directed by David S. Goyer (the man who wrote all three films) and here he displays an utter lack of understanding as to why the first two films were so great. They had vision, a story and a sense of style. Blade Trinity has an overuse of CGI, a poorly developed story and villain and is cut in such a way that the action has no fluid or glee. It’s all show without the bite, action without gore and too funny for its own good. With some questionable choices as to writing, Blade Trinity is one film that should’ve been treated a lot better.
It’s been a longtime since we’ve seen our Daywalker. Nearly twenty years in fact. Sure, the tv show was around, but not for long, an even then fans deserve a better closing than what Blade Trinity offered. Marvel Studios has the rights to franchise now, which was acquired back in 2012 thus cancelling the proposed prequels and even crossover films with the Underworld franchise. Wesley Snipes was in talks to reprise his role, something that fans are dying to seeing. In 2019, during the San Diego Comic Con, Marvel Studios announced that Blade would be back as part of the Phase Five slate of films with a release still pending. It would be safe to assume a release date of late 2022. Mahershala Ali was announced as starring in the title role and donning the outfit of the Daywalker. According to Producer Kevin Feige, this new Blade is aiming for a PG-13 rating instead of the R-rating. This certainly does raise concerns of how this newest entry could fare with fans and newcomers but we will have to wait and see.
It is sad that Snipes won’t be back as the iconic character, but even then, we have the trilogy to remember him for, at least two of them were a lot of fun to watch. Blade was an amazing film not just for the superhero genre but for black-led movies as well. Snipes was commanding as Blade and without him, well it may feel just a bit different. It would’ve been interesting if that Black Panther movie was made in the late ‘90s but it just hard to imagine any other actor portraying the Daywalker. Blade proved to be a worth hero that everyone could root for and seeing him slay the competition was gruesome fun. It’s only a matter to see if Marvel Studios can match what New Line Cinema delivered first.