Blade (1998)
February 27, 2018 9:19 PM - Subscribe

A half-vampire, half-mortal man becomes a protector of the mortal race, while slaying evil vampires.

NYTimes: ''Blade,'' directed by Stephen Norrington from a screenplay by David S. Goyer, obviously wants to be the first of many episodes of a low-rent ''Batman''-style series. Although the opening scene suggests a dark urban satire, ''Blade'' quickly turns into a cartoonish futuristic action-adventure yarn in which Blade is the only thing keeping humanity from being exterminated by vampires in a hematological holocaust.

WaPo: What "Blade's" ultra-violence serves – and serves well – is the significant graphic impact of the tale, which is, after all, based on a Marvel comic book, not Shakespeare. Like its inspiration, the film is constructed to engage not the gray matter but the retina, which it grabs and bombards with a barrage of visual stimuli.

AV Club: Blade took better advantage of Snipes’ gifts—his genuine martial-arts ass-kicking capability, his authoritative way with a one-liner, his enormous presence—than any of those action movies. And he took the role as seriously as any of his straight-up dramatic roles. Blade required him to give some seriously goofy exposition about a hidden global vampire society: “The world you live in is just a sugar-coated topping. There’s another world beneath it: the real world.” Precious few actors would be able to deliver lines like that with a straight face. Snipes inhabited them. He was Blade, and that’s one reason the movie worked so well.

Roger Ebert: Wesley Snipes understands the material from the inside out and makes an effective Blade because he knows that the key ingredient in any interesting superhero is not omnipotence, but vulnerability. There is always a kind of sadness underlying the personalities of the great superheroes, who have been given great knowledge and gifts but few consolations in their battle against evil. The fun all seems to be on the villain's side. By embodying those feelings, Snipes as Blade gives the movie that edge of emotion without which it would simply be special effects. Of course you have to bring something to it yourself, preferably a sympathy for the whole comic superhero ethos. This is the kind of movie that gets better the more you know about the genre.


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6 Reasons Blade Is Marvel's Most Underrated Movie

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Wesley Snipes Is Really Excited About Black Panther

Blade 4: Marvel working on new Blade film, according to Underworld's Kate Beckinsale
posted by MoonOrb (18 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
That pull-quote from Ebert is really one of the smartest things that anyone has ever said about superhero movies. As for the movie itself, I remember it being a decent take on a relatively minor Marvel character (Blade was originally a supporting character in Tomb of Dracula, a seventies series); one of my favorite takes on it was from MADtv, which had Blade teaming up with Karl from Sling Blade.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:38 AM on February 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

"Some motherfucker's always trying to ice skate uphill" is still my go to quote to describe a Sisyphean task.
posted by Groundhog Week at 6:17 AM on February 28, 2018 [9 favorites]

Kris Kristofferson was some genius-level casting. He’s maybe not the best actor in the world, but his cranky-hippie weapons tech was the perfect sidekick for Snipes, and his gravitas made the hokey, comic book shit seem a lot more real. I mean, who wouldn’t want Whistler living in their garage making sure all the gear was top notch and the Blademobile was running smooth?
posted by valkane at 6:35 AM on February 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

My brother and I LOVED this movie. We watched it the first time as a Blockbuster rental, then saw the bowdlerized cable TV version about fifty more times. There was a lot of, "this freaking freak is gonna freak everything up for those freaks!" The edited lines were probably not much worse than the original ones, but they were endlessly hilarious to my teenage self.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:22 AM on February 28, 2018

The discussion about the original ending - which was an extra on the DVD and can be seen here - is pretty interesting, and I think still pretty instructive for people making superhero and other scifi movies now. The bottom line was that when they took their antagonist, who the audience had spent time getting attached to and invested in, and they threw him out for this non-human threat, people checked out.

It's really worth a watch to see the differences and how big they are even though in most ways it's not that different at all. It's been years since I saw the film but I can still see in my mind very clearly the reaction of Dorf when Snipes hits him with that first vial/syringe. The look of disdain, the casual way he knocks it off his chest with the side of his hand, the way he fails to recognize the threat. This other, larger, more expensive special effect would have been so much less interesting and less scary and less gratifying when Blade beats it.
posted by phearlez at 8:28 AM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

The discussion about the original ending - which was an extra on the DVD and can be seen here - is pretty interesting, and I think still pretty instructive for people making superhero and other scifi movies now. The bottom line was that when they took their antagonist, who the audience had spent time getting attached to and invested in, and they threw him out for this non-human threat, people checked out.

Yeah, the hurricane of blood was dumb even when the film came out. Also, it always bothered me that the villain's ultimate plan was that everyone would end up a vampire. I mean, what would they eat? Vamped came out a few years after Blade, and I always wondered if the author was inspired by this ill-considered plot. The book's premise was that if everyone became a vampire, then society wouldn't change much. Everyone in Vamped just drank synthetic blood and worked the night shift. (I guess it would be a lot harder to set yourself up as a sketchy night club king. That seems like a negative for vampires, though.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:57 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

The roadie/rock star relationship between Quinn and Deacon Frost, and Frost's rent-boy relationship with Dragonetti, are delicious.

The secret key ingredient is N'Bushe Wright giving Blade the side-eye the entire film. I like Blade 2, but it needs the side-eye.
posted by maxsparber at 9:23 AM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

The secret key ingredient is N'Bushe Wright giving Blade the side-eye the entire film.

She was great! And she had WAY more to do than most action movie damsels. I loved the fight with her nice guy revenant coworker.
posted by grandiloquiet at 12:00 PM on February 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Donal Logue steals this entire movie.
posted by Sphinx at 12:05 PM on February 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

The fact that Wesley Snipes got to be a super hero, and that he was cool and strong and dangerous and NOT a self-sacrificing sidekick or ensemble face, was a really big deal to the kids in my freshman class. Also, talking to my my friends about it introduced me to New Jack City and King of New York, which were more their speed at the time, and expanded my taste and perspective in film.

We were all movie geeks already by that point, but it was a bridging factor between their love of hood dramas and my goofy sci-fi stuff. Good conversations, fond memories. I wonder how those guys are doing.

It also helps that it's a really solid camp action movie. Neither apologizes for the goofiness of the central premise, nor does it spend much time broadcasting self-awareness. Just focuses on what makes it enjoyable and stays there.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 1:47 PM on February 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Man I loved this movie, I haven't seen it in forever, but I remember actually believing that Snipes was Blade, and that the character felt lived in. One thing that I really liked, which is rare now, is that even the first one wasn't an origin story. I know it's a tired old complaint now, but so many of these super hero films seem to be about how someone came to be X. Snipes didn't have to show that, he was Blade and I was interested in what they did with that, over having to see the whole evolution.
posted by Carillon at 2:16 PM on February 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I recently watched Blade after it was mentioned in this question I asked about black heroes. Blade is cool and strong and dangerous, but what really surprised me was the Dr. Karen Jenson character. She's a smart, capable, sexy black woman who goes from out-of-her-element problem solver to ass stomping sidekick without being relegated to the role of the hero's romantic prize. She is awesome in ways that very few women of color are allowed to be in movies, it's a lot more than some side-eye. It's totally crazy that Blade is 20 years old and we're just now getting back to that high water mark again with Black Panther.
posted by peeedro at 7:47 PM on February 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Guys, I was so mad when Snipes went to jail for owing the IRS money.

Because all I wanted was more Blade movies, even though it's probably for the best.

The first one is *kisses fingers* and I love different things about the sequels as well.

Part of it is the fundamental rightness of casting Wesley Snipes for this role. Honestly, he was born to play Blade. I can never see anyone but Chris Evans as Captain America or Chris Hemsworth as Thor, either.

Or Christopher Reeve as Superman fight me

And it's true that the rapport between Whistler and Blade really sells a lot of this story, too. The best comic book stories show that friendship, cooperation and trust are just as crucial for defeating the bad guys as any random set of superpowers.

Look at Marvel's Defenders, for example. No spoilers, but they are more palatable to me in group format than just Iron Fist or Luke Cage in their standalone seasons. Blade wouldn't be the same without Whistler.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:12 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

“I'm gonna be a naughty vampire god!” is simply one of the best lines in film.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:05 AM on March 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I wanted to say Dark City set the stage, and that Blade was the first movie that was noticeably Too Dark (in form, not content) for me, but they came out the same year?!
posted by rhizome at 4:51 PM on March 1, 2018

At the time, I was rather invested in White Wolf Games Studio's Vampire: the Masquerade, and among my roleplayng cohorts, Blade felt to all of us like it fit right in with that aesthetic, as if someone had made a movie aimed square at our demographic.

Another factor to consider is that Blade predates The Matrix by about a half a year, and at least some of the action movie visual vocabulary from the early naughts that people attribute to that movie's influence actually originates with Blade.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:44 PM on March 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

When I watch this now, I suppose I should think "Wow, this is the first successful Marvel movie!" (because it is) or "Terrific Wesley Snipes Star role!" (because it is). But I get stuck on a) what happened to N'Bushe Wright, who was an obvious star and b) why couldn't people light her not to look ashy in 1998?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:24 PM on February 21

Maybe ashy isn't my word to use there, and maybe I'm using it wrong anyway. But all I'm saying is, the filmmakers in this certainly didn't light Wright as luminously as say the Hughes Brothers did, and that seems very of a period for Hollywood.

I also don't get how she only made a movie every few years after this. I thought she was great.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:54 AM on February 23

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