The following is a version of a segment to a compilation article to which I contributed with other writers over at The Action Elite prior to its publication on February 13, 2015. CLICK HERE to read the article in its entirety.
In 1973, creators Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan gave life to a new breed of superhero in the form of a half-human, half vampire in a version that wouldn’t have likely serviced moviegoers 25 years later. By all means, it could probably work now much more than in 1998 when action cinema was taking on a new age, a new look and a new tone with a certain touch to music and costume design, and a cinematic flair that favored more toward contemporary storytelling as we entered the new millennium. But, as it stands, 1998 was the year we got our modernized approach in director Stephen Norrington’s Marvel Comics adaptation, Blade with actor Wesley Snipes, and you know what? You’re welcome.
Screenwriter David S. Goyer helped bring this particularly fascinating character to life in a film that already saw our protagonist well into his years as a methodically-skilled and seasoned vampire hunter, vengeful over the death of his mother with a specific hatred for anyone who preferred the taste of blood more than anything else and couldn’t stand sunlight, silver or garlic, as well as human defectors alike. Blade was the one that gave you goosebumps on your cold, dead skin. He was the cage rattler…the boogeyman… the one man army against all who threatened mankind, with an unrivalled skillset that made him a legend to be feared right down to the explosive, bloody end. And Snipes owned every minute on screen between both of the first two films…and maybe the third, but we’ll get to that later.
Deep down though, Blade wasn’t always a hardened killer. He was very careful with his judgement of character, human or otherwise, had a softside for a select few he knew he could trust, or even love, and there are really only a few incidences where we see this, specifically with two important characters:
Abraham Whistler (played by Kris Kristofferson), his trainer and mentor, now aged with a leg that never fully healed in his own years of fighting, had a no-bullshit touch to his grumpy, geriatric tough-guy exterior that contributed much to the comradery and loyalty he and Blade shared between each other. While Blade will certainly protect mankind where and when possible, Whistler is someone he would give his life for any time of the day. You could even say they were family aside from their “arrangement” as he so puts it to N’Bushe Wright in the first film, and you could feel the pain and anger behind Blade’s numb, stone-faced mug as he walks away while Whistler presumably takes his own life. Granted, Blade isn’t exactly the kind of guy who is in touch with his own emotions all the time, but Snipes does a terrific job in achieving so much by doing ever so little, and putting it where it works best, which makes the third act worth every second as Blade tears his way through the House Of Erebus and nullifying Deacon Frost’s squad of noobs before sticking it to La Magra at the very end.
The second occurs in director Guillermo Del Toro’s sequel, Blade 2, when Blade inexplicably finds himself falling for a vampire named Neesa (played by Leonor Varela), upon allying themselves among a ragtag of uneasy vampires volunteering as part of a tactical unit to annihilate a new breed of monster that feasts on vampires and humans alike. As the story plays out, the alliance goes tits up when a traitor emerges and a blood feud is revealed between a father and his own children. To be honest though, I never did fully understand why Blade had those feeling for Neesa as it is never really explained in the film, although I digress seeing as how there really didn’t need to be an explanation. You could argue that it was a stupid thing to add to the story and that Blade probably should have killed her anyway because they stand as opposites. But then again, you could chalk it up to Blade’s judge of character, a compass that leans any way he sees fit in deciding who he allows to get close to him, even enough to know the internalized human side that longs for an emotional connection. Strange bedfellows indeed, but what is left of Blade’s humanity is a man who still feels what he feels with a love that was vaguely boundless, and for all intents and purposes, very much self-explanatory.
Aside from this, the Blade saga has always been much more about watching Snipes perform the dazzling fight spectacle seen in all three films. Of course, the action really was amazing, but I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t acknowledge just how much I loved Blade 2 out of the entire franchise. Del Toro had his hands on everything from the action, set design and costumes, right down to the editing and music, and it’s one truly great example of why it is Del Toro is one of the most beloved directors of our time. To top it off though, it’s Snipes who deserves the brunt of any and all credit for such a winning role that can allow him to execute his caliber of martial arts screenfighting whilst exhibiting different dimensions to his acting. Good writing also plays a role in this, and I accredit all who have given Blade such a memorable place in action movie history.
On that note, you might be wondering why I didn’t include Blade: Trinity in this analysis, which I might be able to in some way or another, but I won’t, and for only one simple fact: I hated that movie. As much as there is to factor in whatever on-set circumstances there were, the bottom line is that Goyer is the director and at the end of the day, it is his movie.
“…But he made up for it in Man Of St-“
“…Well Goyer and Snipes didn’t like each-“
“…Well Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds worked really hard and-“
NO! Nothing should have gotten in the way of making that film a better finale for a trilogy, so I don’t care how many times Goyer blows my mind in the DC realm, he failed with Blade: Trinity, and any responsible director will respect that. So, take with that what you will.
What I’m taking away from this, is a memorable application of a classic superhero that remains as one of the best cinematic characters in action movie history. Hats off to Snipes and everyone who made it happen for the first two films, including Goyer, but by all means, forget whatever that travesty was in 2004, and since even Snipes himself wants back into the Blade fray, I’m more than welcome to it. Maybe a new director could accomplish what John Hyams did for Universal Soldier: Regeneration…
Come to think of it, maybe John Hyams can direct it! #KnockOnWood
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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