Blade (1998) / Action-Horror
MPAA Rated: R for strong pervasive violence and gore, language and brief sexuality
Running Time: 120 min.
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N'Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Traci Lords, Sanaa Lathan,
Director: Stephen Norrington
Screenplay: David S. Goyer
Review published July 1, 1999. Revised on June 20, 2006
After his mother (Lathan, Brown Sugar) had been bitten by a vampire during her pregnancy, her son Eric, later dubbed "Blade" (Snipes, Major League) was born with reconstructed DNA, giving him a mixture of strengths between vampires and humans. At the age of puberty, he became a bloodthirsty daywalker, a vampire that could walk in the sunlight without harm. Disgusted by what he had become, Blade now wages war against the vampires, searching for the vampire that bit his mother and cursed his life. Meanwhile the vampires are set to wage war against the humans, led by a half-breed named Frost (Dorff, Entropy). Frost seeks to summon a blood god named La Magra to convert the humans to vampires forever, and he needs Blade's blood to do it.
Blade is based on a character created back in the early 1970s, starting off as a supporting character in the Marvel Comics horror title, "Tomb of Dracula", and much later, given a series of his own. Alas, the film never really breaks out of comic book depth, and thus the characters are superficial and unsympathetic. Not that you really need strong characterizations in an action-horror movie, but this one seems to be going for a little extra in terms of sympathizing with Blade's plight, but to no real avail.
Even taking it on its own action-junkie terms. a main weakness comes from villain Stephen Dorff being too much of an action movie lightweight to counter Snipes' strong presence as the hero.
It's not all bad, as the film has a nice look to it, with director Stephen Norrington (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) effectively using the color red to counter the silver and black aesthetics of the sets and costumes. However, that also brings up another weakness; the sets and costumes look like sets and costumes, instead of the necessary semblance of the gritty reality that should have been Blade's world.
It's hard to believe that a movie that lasts a smidge over two hours would do so little in the way of character development, The underlying emphasis of the film is to develop its characters as merely people that like to dress up to look cool and kick ass. As a result, we never really give a damn about their livelihood or purpose, resulting in the final confrontation between Frost and Blade resounding from the hollowness caused by a lack of creative process that dressed everyone up, but gave them nowhere meaningful to go.
-- Followed by Blade II in 2002 and Blade: Trinity in 2004. Also made into a TV series in 2006.
©1999, 2006 Vince Leo