Blade (1998) Movie Review

The new trend for horror films, or movies dealing with the traditional creatures of horror films (vampires, werewolves, monsters, etc.) has been, for the last decade or so, to find a new “twist” to the story. Every movie with any horror element in them has been doing it. The Forsaken sought out and found a twist on the vampire myth (although the execution was lacking); Ginger Snaps put a new twist on the werewolf legend (and was much more successful). The trend goes as far back as the short-lived TV show “The Kindred,” which bears more than a slight resemblance to the atmosphere and “world” of Stephen Norrington’s Blade.

Blade stars a buffed up Wesley Snipes as the titular character, a half-human, half-vampire who hunts the undead. Blade isn’t really concern with protecting humanity; he’s really after revenge on the bloodsuckers for biting his mother when she was pregnant with him, thus infecting him with vampire weakness (the need for blood), but also giving him vampire advantages (augmented strength, speed, and agility) that allows him to hunt them at will. They call Blade the “Daywalker” and vampires fear him, because he has all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses like fear of daylight. Blade is aided in his crusade by Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), a gruff veteran who makes the weapons that Blade uses.

Trouble arises for the pair when a new, young vampire name Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) surfaces to make a hostile takeover of the vampire establishment in search of a mythical vampire God that will grant anyone who finds it Godhood. Can Blade stop Deacon Frost in time, or will humanity become nothing more than chow for Frost’s new vampire nation?

Blade is an action-adventure film more than it is a horror film. The only real horror element is the presence of vampires who sucks blood, but the vampires aren’t scary. The movie’s twist on the legend is that the vampires have been around so long that they’re really a subspecies of man, not just a group of shadowy nightstalkers. The vampires have their own set of “Elders” that runs things — including multinational corporations and other capitalist endeavors. The Elders wear suits and delivers commands to the younger vampires, who are starting to distrust them and turning to Deacon Frost for leadership instead.

The vampires are shown as like any other group of humans — in fact, they appear like a minority grooup instead of bloodsuckers. When Frost starts getting too powerful and is collecting his own army of young, rebellious vampires, the Elder vampires are disturbed and more than a little afraid. Their kids are turning against them! These are interesting subplots, but unfortunately they’re not explored nearly enough. In fact, the above statements were taken from just a couple of scenes from the entire movie!

Blade is all about action. After an intense, blood-drenched opening where Blade takes on an army of vampires raving in an underground catacomb, the movie continues to move at a brisk pace. The action is the movie’s highlight, and of course when this happens story gets lost in the shuffle. Then again, I didn’t really mind, since I’ve seen this “new twist” before in the TV show “The Kindred” and the vampire God plot was, shall we say, a little stupid. How many times do I have to watch a movie where the hero is the “chosen one” but doesn’t know it? Too many times, I’m afraid, and Blade adds itself to the ever-growing bodycount of tired cliché.

Director Stephen Norrington keeps the action moving, moving, and moving! The movie does take a few moments off to talk about the concept of the vampire nation and to delve into Blade’s past, but those are only brief detours before the movie turns back to what it does best — action. The movie looks good, especially at night, and the early rave scene when blood sprinkles out of faucets to a sea of jubilant vampires really sets the mood for things to come.

The movie relies heavily on cgi for vampire effects, most notably the “dead vampire” effects. When a vampire dies, it literally dissolves into ashes (think TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). Although the cgi gets very cheesy and obvious in the end when flying, winged skeletons begin attacking a group of vampires. Those were the only fake moments in the entire movie, though, and for the most part Blade kept the cgi to a minimum, relying on old-fashion gore instead.

Probably the most fortunate aspect of Blade the movie is that its star, Wesley Snipes, is a notable martial artist, and Snipes delivers his character with perfect precision. Blade is tight-lipped, but capable of the occasional sneer or snicker. He’s stone-faced, cold as hell, and is almost never without his black shades. In a word, Blade is cool. I also enjoyed the interaction between the young Blade and the older Whistler. Their relationship feels like father and son — an estranged kind, anyway.

As the lead villain, Stephen Dorff (Deacon Frost) proves to be lacking in the menacing department. While Dorff seems to have the body to be an athlete, his Frost comes across as somewhat weak and uninteresting. Even after Frost is endowed with superhuman (even more so) speed and strength, he still looks unready to battle Blade. In fact, the filmmakers might have done better to exchange Dorff with Donal Logue, who plays Quinn, Frost’s right-hand man. Logue quite literally chews his scenes and looks much more menacing than Frost — in an insane, completely out of his mind sort of way.

Blade moves fast, kicks a lot of ass, and rarely stops to take names. It’s ultra cool, looks cool, and is cool.

Stephen Norrington (director) / David S. Goyer (screenplay)
CAST: Wesley Snipes …. Blade
Stephen Dorff …. Deacon Frost
Kris Kristofferson …. Abraham Whistler
N’Bushe Wright …. Dr. Karen Jenson
Donal Logue …. Quinn

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