Comic book adaptations are
one of my love/hate relationships when it comes to movie genres. Last year
brought the rather good Spawn and the rather
bad Batman & Robin. I had said in my review of Spawn that
it was a good comic book movie because it gave more screen time to the hero
than the villain
and wasn't full of silliness. Well, Blade has taken that formula and fixed
a few things, but it loses a few other things. Still, it's the best comic book
adaptation to hit the screen since 1979's Superman.
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff,
and Kris Kristofferson
Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a vampire hunter. His mother was bitten by a vampire
while she was pregnant with him and, as a result, Blade possesses the strengths
of a vampire without any of the weaknesses. He isn't affected by silver and
can go out in daylight (which earns him the name The Day Walker in vampire
circles), etc. He still has a thirst for blood, which he keeps under control
with a special serum, injected by his partner and former mentor, Whistler (Kris
Kristofferson.) Blade's vengeance is fueled by the search for the vampire that
bit his mother.
Vampires, it seems, exist in great
numbers. So many of them, in fact, that they control the police force and
have made non-aggression pacts with the world's
governments. They possess large financial resources and look upon humans as "cattle" to
be fed upon.
We first encounter Blade immediately after the opening credits as he rescues
an unwitting human from an all-vampire rave party. The action comes fast and
furious as Blade dispatches vampires with martial arts, guns with silver ammunition,
boomerang-like blades and, of course, his trusty sword. Blade severely burns
one vampire, named Quinn, before the police arrive. Blade escapes and Quinn
is taken to a hospital to be pronounced dead.
While at the hospital, Quinn revives himself as Dr. Karen Jensen (N'Bushe
Wright) examines him. It seems she's a hematologist and she's interested in
Quinn's odd blood-type. Quinn attacks and kills Karen's co-worker before biting
her. As she's being bitten, Blade arrives and attempts to finish Quinn off,
unsuccessfully. Noting that Karen looks oddly like his mother, Blade takes
her back to his lair to try to stop her from turning into a vampire. Blade
and Whistler warn her that she will be followed by vampires because she knows
they exist and hasn't been turned completely to serve them. Blade uses her
as bait to find out the location of a vampire named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff),
who he's been tracking for years.
Frost has also been attracting attention
within the vampire world. He's tired of the vampire policy of living unobtrusively
in the world. He feels that the
old ways are obsolete and attempts to put himself into power using an old vampire
text that can unleash the power of a "blood god" named La Magra.
Can Blade stop him before it's too late?
The opening action sequence has
more action than all of the Batman movies combined. Blade makes for an exciting
hero with his martial arts techniques
and his mannerisms. Wesley Snipes is perfectly suited to play him in terms
of both physical attributes and emotional delivery. In other words, Snipes
can play "pissed off" very well. Other performances are pretty much
by-the-numbers. Kristofferson is adequately gruff and lovable as the old sidekick,
Whistler. Wright is strangely asexual as Blade's not-quite-love-interest, but
she manages to not be whiny. She can kick butt at Blade's side when appropriate.
Dorff seems a bit too wimpy to be a villain worthy of a match up to Blade's
physical prowess. He looks like an angry Calvin Klein model doing a Christian
Slater imitation most of the time.
The interesting storyline and the
action carry the bulk of the movie. Thankfully, Blade bucks the trend of
most recent comic book movies by having several good
action sequences. The film also serves up lots of blood, gore, violence and
jump-out-of-your seat cheap thrills too. While this obviously won't make a
good impression on some moviegoers, it does mean that the film makers didn't
have to worry about the "Is it too violent for the Happy Meal crowd"-factor
that most summer blockbuster movies seem to cowtow to these days.
Director Stephen Norrington gives
the film a stylish look that has qualities of noir as well as some music
video techniques. The "vampire vision" camera
shots, with their hyperkinetic movements, are quite interesting. A car chase
is filmed in this style and it gives something as cliched as a car chase a
new look. It's not a major scene, but it's quite interesting nonetheless.
Blade isn't perfect, but it's the best movie of its kind to come along in
a long time. As with Spawn before it, if you know what to expect, you're likely
to have a great time.
budget for Blade was $45 million. Nearly half of that was made back in it's
opening weekend. (The film took in approximately $17 million between August
21 and August 23, 1998.) (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)