Back when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was nothing but a very distant idea at the back of some studio executive’s mind, several Marvel comic book characters were getting their own big screen adaptations, well known characters like Spider-Man first came to the screen in 2002 with Fantastic Four in 2005. However before either of those a lesser known vampire hunter graced the screen with his presence namely Blade, the Daywalker.
Now vampire hunters have come in many shapes and sizes over the years, we have seen Hugh Jackman as Gabriel Van Helsing in Van Helsing, or the pint-sized slayer in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to name but a couple.
Naturally as Marvel has basically ripped off every other intellectual property that started with someone else’s ideas, they too have their very own vampire hunter, Blade. These films were back in a time when Marvel wasn’t as focussed on making child-friendly films and were prepared to allow blood to soak the screen.
I have not read the comics, however, as I used to watch Spiderman The Animated Series in which many famous faces from the Marvel universe appeared (including the X-Men) I had some knowledge of who Blade is and what his powers are. Wesley Snipes played the titular role in all three of the Blade films that started in 1998 and ended in 2004 with Blade Trinity.
The first film in what would become a trilogy was released in 1998 and featured Wesley Snipes as the half-human half-vampire named Blade. Joining him in this first film is Kris Kristofferson as Blade’s mentor Abraham Whistler, N'Bushe Wright as Dr. Karen Jenson with Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost. Blade possesses all of a vampire’s strengths but none of their weakness, with the exception of a vampire’s thirst for blood (which, admittedly, as weaknesses go, is a biggie)
Blade is one of those films in which you learn everything you need to know about the character in the opening sequence of the film, and Blade has one of the most badass entrances in film history.
Picture, if you will…an unfortunate man is duped into going to a nightclub in which everyone there is a vampire, and as the music builds blood starts to pour from the overhead sprinklers, the hapless human screams in horror as he realises the danger he is in. He tries to escape but is knocked to the floor, where he is kicked as he crawls across the blood soaked tiles only to be confronted by a pair of boots. The camera pans up as he looks towards the figure standing before him revealing Blade, and around him the vampires step back in obvious fear as whispers of “the Daywalker” echo around the room.
From that moment on, the pace of the film never lets up…
However I am getting a little ahead of myself, let me reign things in a little and give you a bit of an introduction to the world of Blade.
The film starts with a heavily pregnant woman giving birth after being attacked by an unknown creature, she is bleeding to death as the doctors try to rescue her, but to no avail. She dies but the child survives…flash forward a couple of decades later…and we learn that Blade was that baby and as his mother was bitten by a vampire he absorbed some of their traits whilst in her womb but did not fully transform into a vampire before he was born.
Blade and his mentor Whistler fight the good fight against legions of vampires that have infested human society. After the nightclub massacre one of the vampires Blade sets on fire is taken to a hospital for autopsy, when suddenly he springs to life and bites the two humans examining him, one of them being Karen Jenson, Blade arrives at the hospital and saves her but as she has been bitten he knows that she will soon start to turn into a vampire. She falls unconscious as he takes her with him to his hideout, and Whistler administers a “cure” that will prevent the change if they caught it in time. When she regains consciousness and witnesses Whistler injecting something into Blade’s neck which obviously causes the other man considerable pain.
Whistler explains to Jenson that Blade is a half-vampire hybrid and the two of them fight tirelessly to rid the world of vampires. He tells her that she has been bitten by a vampire and they might have stopped the infection from turning her but should she start to develop sensitivity to light, still be thirsty even after drinking, then she should get a gun and use it on herself because otherwise she will transform into a vampire.
As she learns more about Blade and the vampires, Jenson, a haematologist (or blood-expert), starts to believe that she may be able to find a way to cure Blade of his bloodlust, and potentially return anyone who has been bitten by a vampire back into a human.
Meanwhile, Blade is tracking down Deacon Frost, an immortal that is trying to resurrect a Vampire God, one that would have the power to take over the world…
Right, so yeah, the plot is not exactly complicated: Evil vampire is trying to turn himself into a god in order to rule the world and turn everyone into vampires.
As a villain Dorff plays Frost with a suitable cocky menace, he snubs the rules of the vampire elders, and whilst he is not as physically imposing as Snipes he uses his intelligence and knowledge of modern technology to decipher texts on how to resurrect the Blood-God. He is entertaining enough to watch as he knows that he isn’t a physical match for Blade at least not until he has the powers of a God.
The ideas of how this society works does interest me, as I have said many of the vampires live in relative peace with humans, they own blood banks and other businesses. They view Blade as more of an irritation than anything else, but they clash with Frost who draws too much attention to their kind through his nightclubs. Plus when vampires gather together in large numbers it makes it easier for Blade to kill them en masse. They make reference to treaties that they have with humans which implies that the higher-up humans are fully aware that vampires exist in their world.
Surrounding the vampires are humans known as “Familiars”, men and women who know vampires exist and serve them in the hopes of one day being turned. They each have tattoos somewhere on their bodies which identify which vampire they follow and also serves as a kind-of cattle brand. If a vampire feeds off a human that belongs to another vampire then they will have to answer to that human’s “owner”
The above two points do help to explain how vampires are able to remain hidden in the human world.
Now unlike other versions of vampire in which the blood-suckers are immortal, in Blade they age but much, much slower than a human. It never specifies what the ratio of human to vampire years is, but Blade is able to grow to adult-hood, whilst his mother (spoiler) has remained the same age she was when she gave birth to him after she turned. So vampires that appear physically old could potentially be hundreds or thousands of years old.
Plus these vampires can reproduce sexually, so unlike the Joss Whedon vampires, these are alive in some way. An individual might be born a vampire – a pure-blood – or they might have been bitten and turned. Here there is no blood swap, if someone is bitten then they will turn, which has resulted in a significant population of vampires. In addition the vampires have the capability of regenerating any and all injuries, they can have limbs sliced off and they will grow back within a couple of days.
One of the downsides of this film is that vampirism is a blood disease which can be cured, and personally I don’t like that. I prefer the idea that an immortal needs to mix their blood with a human to turn them and once some is a vampire there is no way to be returned to being human again. If a vampire is a pure-blood then they can’t ever be human but if they were turned they can be made human again.
There is a lot to like with this film and there are very few flaws but there are a couple that are worth mentioning, such as the daylight. Okay, it is pretty much a given that a vampire cannot withstand the sunlight, only Blade can do so, however the other vampires can be out in the sun if they wear sun block. So sun block will protect them, so why don’t they just wear that when they want to go out?? Plus what is so good about the daylight?? If it is more to do with removing a fundamental flaw a vampire has then okay, but surely it is easier to hide in the shadows than it is to hide in the daytime. Plus if vampires are so common place how have humans as a general populous not realises that they exist, there is a scene where a guy is feeding on a woman in the street, he rears up and shows his blood-soaked mouth and teeth so isn’t that worthy of someone noticing??
I don’t know, yes there is a bit of a throw away explanation, Whistler says that people see vampires all the time they just don’t know they do. Basically people don’t want to see so vampires go unnoticed around them…so that’s why…
Blade is a character that just screams badass and it is refreshing to see a vampire using technology to his advantage which Frost does when he is trying to decipher the ancient texts that will tell him how to resurrect La Magra (the Blood-God) which is something that audiences don’t often get to see.
All in all Blade is a great film, it does not shy away from the violence and there is a fair amount of blood but there is very little gore. The action sequences are pretty spectacular and after the opening scene it is obvious what we are getting for the rest of the film. This is a stand-alone film that doesn’t try to link with anything else Marvel related, so no cameos from Spider-Man or an X-Man or two. Naturally Blade is getting a Thumbs Up because it is a great action/horror that leads you with no doubt in your mind that if Blade came across a vampire that sparkles he’d drop them where they stand.
8/10 – In short Blade is one of the best examples of an action/horror, and is a must-see for anyone that considers themselves a vampire fan. It is fast paced, action packed, doesn’t shy away from the violence and came out at a time when the idea of a sparkling vampire was too stupid to even think about.
Set two years after the events of the first film the action has moved to Prague as Blade continues his never ending quest to rid the world of vampires. Kris Kristofferson returns along with Wesley Snipes as Whistler and Blade respectively. The film was released in 2002 but doesn’t see the return of Karen Jenson from the first film, her absence is not addressed or mentioned by any of the other characters.
After his death in the previous film, it turns out that Abraham Whistler turned after he shot himself, the vampires somehow kept him alive and for two years Blade has been hunting down his mentor and closest friend. He is later approached by two representatives of the Vampire Nation that need his help to hunt down a mutation that is threatening both the vampire and human worlds.
Once again, going too fast so let me bring it back a bit…
The film opens with an narration by Blade informing the audience of who he is, what he does, and who Whistler is. He tracks down his mentor and after killing a bunch of vampires he finally finds his friend in a vat of blood. He frees him but decides against killing him. He takes Whistler home and injects him with the vampire cure (presumably developed by Karen Jenson but the film never says where it came from). In the morning the blinds open and Whistler is human again, he is cured of the cancer that was killing him in the previous film, and resumes his role as Blade’s mentor.
Soon afterwards Blade, Whistler and Scud (someone Blade saved from a vampire attack who now works with the Daywalker) are approached by two members of the Vampire Nation named Asad (Danny John-Joules) and Nyssa (Leonor Varela) who have come with an offer of a truce on behalf of their leader Damaskinos. Blade and co agree to a meeting with the Vampire Nation’s Leader, where they are informed that there is a mutant strain of the vampire-virus they have named the “Reaper” strain that transforms its victims (human or vampire) into a reaper. The reapers are more savage, and stronger than humans, have immunity to silver and garlic and need to feed daily resulting in their population exploding very rapidly.
The Vampire Nation have a team known as the Bloodpack that have been training to hunt and kill Blade, but Damaskinos is hoping Blade will agree to lead the team as they work together to hunt down the reapers.
Blade accepts to hunt the leader of the reapers Nomak for the Vampire Nation as it will give them a chance to go deeper into the vampire world than they ever would have been able to before. However, they fully expect that the vampires are going to stab them in the back the first chance they get…so the stage is set of a showdown between Blade and the Bloodpack and Nomak and his Reapers.
Blade II is one of those very rare examples in which the sequel surpasses the original, in the first film Blade fought vampires, it was that simple. In this film he is working alongside a team that has spent two years training themselves for the task of hunting down and eliminating the Daywalker. The team does boast Reinhardt played by the legendary Ron Pearlman, who steals some of the best scenes and also ends up with an explosive device attached to the back of his head after making a racist comment to Blade.
Guillermo del Toro is in the director’s chair and as such the sets are hugely creative, and the design of the monsters is a joy to look at. The film also has a pace which grabs you by the throat in the opening sequence and does not let go until the credits roll.
The Bloodpack are made up of some pretty formidable warriors and it does make you wonder what would have happened if they had come after Blade, and if he would have been able to beat them. Like I said Pearlman steals every scene he is in with Nyssa becoming a potential love interest for Blade, she is a pure blood so has been a vampire her whole life and is not like Frost, who wanted to destroy the world, she has made peace with who and what she is. Unlike Blade who still denies his thirst and takes the serum to keep the thirst at bay.
In Blade Deacon Frost was a pretty clichéd bad-guy, he wanted to take over the world, that was pretty much it. Nomak, (played by Luke Goss) is searching for the person who created him, and cares very little about the reapers he has made. Spoiler warning…Damaskinos experimented or created (not sure about that point) on Nomak in his attempt to rid his kind of their weaknesses to things like silver and garlic. Nomak doesn’t know where Damaskinos is and rips through members of the Bloodpack as they try to find out what he wants and more importantly stop him.
When Blade and Nomak clash the fights are both bone-crunching and pretty spectacular, Donnie Yen (who stars as mute Bloodpack member Snowman) was the fight chorographer and demonstrates that he knows how to make a fight look good. In this film Blade does get injured during fights and it is obvious that Nomak is easily as strong as he is, or possibly stronger. In this film Nomak is not so much “evil” instead he is a victim. He has an encounter with Whistler but allows him to live so that he can explain to Blade the truth about what is happening and why.
In the first film things were pretty black and white…
Vampires = Bad
Blade = Good
Here the lines are more blurred, yes the majority of the Bloodpack are killers, but they have some honour to them. Blade protects Nyssa on several occasions because he starts to develop feelings for her because ultimately she isn’t a monster. The faction that Blade fought in the original film were considered extremists in the Vampire Nation, and they even describe Blade killing Frost as him “doing them a favour” because Frost wanted to bring about ruin to the human race which the Vampire Nation don’t want.
The Reapers feed on humans and vampires alike, and Blade is persuaded to go after them because if they wipe out all the vampires they will then turn on the humans, so they need to be stopped before their numbers get to great to defeat.
Blade II surpasses its predecessor, it is not focussing on changing the world, it is a more enclosed story about the Vampire Nation and a threat that they created. Characters like Reinhardt, Nyssa, and Asad all get a decent amount of screen time but some of the other members do seem to just be there to die.
Fans of Red Dwarf will be delighted to see Danny John-Joules (who played the Cat) as a member of the Bloodpack, and like I said Ron Pearlman is awesome in whatever he is in, plus he steals a lot of his scenes.
Finally the ending, Blade II has one of my favourite endings in any film I have ever seen, I won’t spoil it, but it made me laugh out loud and leaves a smile on my face every time I see this film. Blade II is given a well-deserved Thumbs Up, the cast are great, the film is entertaining, and the enemy is not just a mindless killer.
9/10 – A superior sequel to a great original film, the story challenges concepts that the first film established, and shows that things are not as black and white as they were in Blade. Plus we get the likes of Ron Pearlman’s Reinhardt locking horns with Wesley Snipes’ Blade all the time whilst del Toro is in the director’s chair, ask yourself, what could be better
After the breakneck pace of the previous films and the success of the last two movies, it was probably inevitable that by the third instalment the Blade films would be running out of steam somewhat. Blade Trinity was released in 2004 and sees Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson returning as Blade and Whistler, with the pair taking on the literal daddy of the vampire race, namely Dracula, played by Dominic Purcell. After being framed for murdering a human that was posing as a vampire, Blade must contend with Dracula…or Drake…as he is called here as well as the human authorities coming after him.
…[sigh]…it seems that very few films can still be good by the time they reach their third instalment, and Blade Trinity is no exception, it easily suffers from Tired Trinity Syndrome, and seems to exist to take the piss out of the previous films. Blade and Blade II were a great mix of action/horror and action films respectively. The tongue was kept firmly in the cheek for both of those films with them not taking themselves too seriously but this film has gone too far the other way and exists to mock the series.
This time around we are back in the United States and Blade is filmed chasing down and executing a human in public. Naturally vampires just turn to ash when they die, but humans leave bodies that authorities want to investigate. The familiar was wearing fake fangs so Blade was fooled when he shot him, thinking he would disintegrate, and is forced into hiding as the authorities start to hunt him.
Meanwhile the vampires have tracked down the father of their race, Dracula (who is called Drake for some reason) in the hopes that he might be finally able to deal with Blade. Drake has jaws that resemble those the Reapers possessed and like Blade he is also immune to the effects of daylight…why he can withstand the daylight is never explained and confuses me because why is the father of the vampire race immune to daylight but those he turns aren’t?? Is that not like a human having a child that cannot go out in daylight and every subsequent child not being able to go out in the sun?? It is never explained.
Anyway, after Drake is woken up and Whistler is killed (again) this time in a police raid, Blade is captured by humans that not surprisingly are also familiars (vampire-wannabes). He is rescued by Abigail Whistler, played by Jessica Biel, who is Whistler’s illegitimate daughter, and Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) that used to be a vampire but used the vampire-cure to become human again. The two are part of a group called the Nightstalkers and act as Blade’s back-up as he squares up against the father of the vampire race.
This is by far the weakest of the films and honestly I cannot really say what is to blame, I mean the story is not that bad, the vampires resurrecting Dracula as he is the only powerful enough to beat Blade, okay, fair enough. But when they filmed Blade killing the familiar a vampire was poised on a building down the street, could they not have had a sniper in place to blow the Daywalker’s head off??
See what this film does??
It makes you question why the vampires have so much trouble killing Blade, in the previous two films you never asked because you were enjoying the ride to much, but here you just end up with question after question that goes unanswered.
Is it poor direction?? Poor acting?? What?? Why does this film fall so flat??
Personally I think it is down to the overall tone of the film. The previous ones had a little bit of humour, but knew what to focus on, in this film the presence of Reynolds was initially the best thing about this film, but in retrospect it is probably the worst. Let me explain, Reynolds plays himself very well, the fast talking, sarcastic, funny, piss-taker…a role that suits him like a glove in Deadpool but spectacularly fails in a Blade movie. Reynolds was given too much freedom to do what he wants with the role of King, and as a result he takes the piss out of Blade, challenges how pointless the fight against the vampires is, and generally serves to undermine any potential danger in the film. Had a different actor had the role of King, and played it straighter than the film might have been better, unfortunately Reynolds isn’t the only misstep that Trinity takes.
In Blade and Blade II we had Frost and Nomak respectively, one, a monster that sought world domination, and another who was a victim of experimentation by his father who wanted revenge against the person who created him. Here we have Dracula. He spends most of the film wandering around not really doing much and around him we have Danica (Parker Posey) and Asher Talos (Callum Keith Rennie) that are neither fun or engaging. They wander around, Posey with fake fangs that are clearly too big for her mouth, attempting to kill Blade and the Nightstalkers. Blade I could understand but how can they fail to kill a bunch of humans?? In addition, wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque plays Jarko Grimwood a vampire with two silver fangs but again he is not engaging and is only there so King has someone to fight in the climax whilst Blade is battling Drake.
I think that Purcell does a reasonable enough job as Drake, but he is not given an opportunity to do much, he can shape-shift and seems a more reluctant bad guy. He seems disgusted with what his “children” have become but he has his own sense of honour, he recognises that Blade fights him one on one (even though Blade uses a poison tipped arrow that Drake could not possibly have defended against to kill him) and sees him as the future of the vampire race.
Yes the fights of the previous films are here but they lack the pace of the previous ones, the edits make it look like the fights are a series of quick moves that have been put together to look like a continuous fight. Snipes doesn’t seem to have the physique he had in the previous movies and if anything looks like he is just going through the motions. Perhaps this was a “pay-cheque” film for him and he did it not out of a desire to see Blade’s story continue but rather because he wanted the money.
There is nothing here that really identifies this movie and makes it stand out, in Blade we are introduced to the world, and Blade II challenged the established rules, by Trinity we are back to Blade Vs Vampires…yeah, been there, seen that. Drake describes vampires as “shadows of their former-selves” and his words can be applied to the film itself because that is what it is, a shadow of the previous two. In Blade II del Toro was in the director’s chair and allowed the creative style we saw in Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy to shine through whilst keeping the story focussed, here the director gave Reynolds too much freedom to joke around and allowed Snipes to just go through the motions which leaves Trinity as a bit of a jumbled mess.
One of the things that bugs me about this film is that fact that vampires live for generations so why not just stay in hiding till Blade has died of old age? Blade ages at the same rate as a normal human so give it seventy years which to a vampire that can live hundreds is nothing, and he’ll be too old to fight any more. Either that or walk up to him wearing a bomb vest and detonate it, job done, Blade dead. Stick a bomb under his car?? Surely there are a million ways that the vampires could kill him and yet they never seem to be able to do it.
The film does leave the possibility of a sequel open but unless it is possible to come up with something pretty spectacular then this is one franchise that needs to die. Apparently in 2012 the rights to the Blade films returned to Marvel Studios so perhaps there will be a reboot of Blade in the future. Apparently Nightstalker spin-offs were planned but as of the poor box office returns those spin-offs or potential sequels seem to have been abandoned which is probably for the best.
Blade and Blade II were great, but Trinity is just bad, it lacks focus, the characters aren’t engaging and Snipes is just going through the motions. Third films need to have more effort put into them not less as it is very difficult to keep a film series good as it heads into its third film.
I am afraid that my Thumb has moved from Up to Down, yes Reynolds made me laugh the first time I watched but I shouldn’t be laughing throughout the majority of a Blade film and once you stop laughing you realise what a jumbled mess the film actually is. If you want to see Blade at his best then watch Blade II and if you want to see him at his worst then watch Blade Trinity
3/10 – If you are fan of Reynolds then you will be chucking all the way through, but sadly once you aren’t laughing anymore you will realise what a shambles this film is. It needed tighter direction, and less focus on Reynolds messing around, with the Wesley Snipes we saw in Blade II not the just going-though-the-motions portrayal that we got here. It isn’t the worst vampire film ever…Twilight holds that place and will forever more…but it could have been so much better.