Blade (1998)

blade_1998_poster
Blade (1998)
  • Time: 120 min
  • Genre: Action | Horror
  • Director: Stephen Norrington
  • Cast: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson

Storyline:

In a world where vampires walk the earth, Blade has a goal. His goal is to rid the world of all vampire evil. When Blade witnesses a vampire bite Dr. Karen Jenson, he fights away the beast and takes Jenson back to his hideout. Here, alongside Abraham Whistler, Blade attempts to help heal Jenson. The vampire Quinn who was attacked by Blade, reports back to his master Deacon Frost, who is planning a huge surprise for the human population.

2 reviews

  • Before this film, it was clear that any Marvel comic adaptation to the big screen was not favored by many. Howard the Duck (1986) impressed very few and The Punisher (1989) did not even get a chance to be released in U.S. theaters. It was difficult to say how Marvel would perform after such mishaps. Thankfully, they came back with one heck of an action-horror film starring one of the most popular actors at the time – Wesley Snipes. And was it a great casting choice; thank you David S. Goyer.

    To be brief because it was already explained, Wesley Snipes plays a half human, half vampire named Blade who takes it upon himself to slay every vampire that he comes into contact with. Just because, he doesn’t like being part vampire himself. Accompanying Blade is his weapons maker called the “Whistler” played by Kris Kristofferson. Both Snipes and Kristofferson show great chemistry on screen will give a real sense that these two guys have been at it for years. Snipes plays his role with a controlled anger and moves with style, while Kristofferson lightens up the air with lines that any old man would say.

    Witnessing these two handle their work is a medical examiner Karen (N’Bushe Wright) who also shows off some feminine power when she’s given the chance. But just like any other female character in an antihero movie like this, Wright’s character will not be a love interest and I am totally fine with that. Same goes for what should be for Marvel’s The Punisher, Daredevil and Ghost Rider. Playing the villain, Deacon Frost is Stephen Dorff and he too gives the cold shoulder (pun intended) to many of his enemies, including his own. He doesn’t even seem to really care about his partner Quinn (Donal Logue), a fellow vampire. That’s selfish man.

    Along with a set of great characters, comes some fierce stylized action, cool special effects and dark music. The writing is where it gets a little cliche. Because Wesley Snipes holds several degrees in martial arts, it should be no surprise that the action will be stylized to a level that will entertain and not be over top. And because this movie is rated R and is about vampires, there will be blood. In fact, I think it’s appropriate to say that this movie was under the “Marvel Knights” logo before it was even introduced with Punisher: War Zone (2008) and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012). The atmosphere is dark and gritty. Which is exactly what fans enjoy and want with comic book characters. Also, the special effects were evenly distributed as well, nothing seemed fake.

    As for the music composed by Mark Isham, I found it to be effective because it contained a lot of downbeat tones that helped emulate how dark this movie was. But I also found it lacking because there was no reoccurring theme for the main character and it also wasn’t present as often as it should have been. Again, when it was present though, it was effective. As for the writing, what didn’t work for me was the whole prophecy concept. That and the “chosen one” line. Even if that phrase were left out, it would not have sounded so cliché. But overall, this is one early Marvel film, no one should miss.

    Wesley Snipes does a great job portraying Marvel’s first antihero. The action is tight and the score is dark and brooding. The writing even allows for good dialog but its back-story is too cliche.

    Points Earned –> 8:10

  • Is it a blessing or a curse to be an actor with movie star charisma? For Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, and Morgan Freeman, it’s a blessing. Yet for their peer, Wesley Snipes, it seems to be a curse. I mention the quartet above (Ving Rhymes has yet to break through on the big screen the way he has on the small screen with HBO’s Don King: Only in America) because they are the leading black actors of their era. Though they have all had their share of misses, they have managed to remain in good stead. As soon as the next generation entrenches itself, these actors will be as venerated as Sidney Poitier. Snipes, however, appears still on the periphery.

    Snipes’ first feature film was Wildcats, a Goldie Hawn comedy that also marked his first teaming with Woody Harrelson. [Their partnership peaked with the witty White Men Can’t Jump, penned and helmed by Bull Durham’s Ron Shelton, and tanked with the derivative and joyless Money Train.] With his performances in Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues (where he outshone Denzel Washington) and Jungle Fever as well as an unforgettable turns in New Jack City and The Waterdance, Snipes established his excellence and versatility. Then a little ditty called Passenger 57 came along. The film’s success clinched Snipes’ ability to work in any genre. He continued to do films of varying genres but his career seemed defined by his (mostly routine) action films: Demolition Man, Drop Zone, U.S. Marshals, etc. Snipes the actor was on hiatus, surfacing only to cameo in Waiting to Exhale and then in Mike Figgis’ uneven One Night Stand. His cameo in Waiting to Exhale was a painful reminder of his ability to be a character and not a caricature. We’ll have to wait until Maya Angelou’s directorial debut, Down in the Delta, to see that Snipes. For now, there’s Blade.

    Director Stephen Norrington, who has a number of music videos and one feature film called Death Machine to his name, lends his considerable imagination to this adaptation of the comic book superhero. Production designer Kirk M. Petrucelli deserves kudos as well. His set designs combine industrialist with minimalist, urbane with urban, chic with grunge.

    Blade begins stunningly: a darkly redheaded Traci Lords lures a young man inside a hedonistic dance club. The music pounds, the strobe lights whirl, the dancers gyrate in communal frenzy. The look and feel is techno goth. Then the bloodbath. The sprinklers drench the dancers in blood. The young man is surrounded by a sea of red faces with fangs bared. Slipping and sliding on the puddle of blood in his haste to escape, he finds himself at the feet of Blade (Snipes). Blade is the vampire slayer who has the best of both worlds: he’s human enough to be a daywalker (one who can be exposed to sunlight without being incinerated) and vampire enough to have their superhuman strength. He proceeds to dispose of all vampires who think they can take him on.

    Vampires die inventively in Blade — they scatter into atomic particles, explode when their blood congeals; the elders have their skeletons crawl out of their skins. Most are easily vanquished; others, like Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) and his right hand Quinn (Donal Logue) die hard. Quinn, in particular, is frequently subjected to Blade’s dismembering and, at one point, pyromaniacal skills; luckily, vampires can regenerate.

    The battle between Blade and Frost, who is out to bring about a vampire apocalypse, reaches thrilling heights during their climactic showdown, a frenetic dance of brandished swords and whiplash editing. Their rivalry, though, isn’t simply about good and evil: there are psychological and familial implications in the clashing of souls who are kindred in more ways than one. Both are half-breeds, vampires by bite not birth. One chooses to embrace the underworld, the other opts to destroy it. But both need the other to achieve their goals.

    Dorff appears stylishly attired, cadaverously colored, with inky hair and traces of stubble; the look suits him — it brings out a menace previously untapped. Thankfully, the aura of boyishness that has hampered him in most of his roles (his turn as Candy Darling in I Shot Andy Warhol being a rare exception) is nowhere to be found. This is crucial because a pivotal plot twist would have been glaringly ludicrous had there been even an iota of boyishness.

    Snipes does cut a commanding figure and takes the time to map a bit of his character’s inner turmoils. He exhibits his martial arts skills with choreographic fluidity, no doubt attributable in part to his origins as a dancer (he appeared in Michael Jackson’s Bad video). One hopes that Blade will become a successful franchise: it’s about time we have a superhero with ambiguous morals who doesn’t go dressing up in some ridiculous masked getup. However, it’s a franchise that could be derivative and joyless if not carefully handled. And for Snipes, Blade, in success or in failure, could be the nail in his coffin.

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