Comic book movies are far from a new development in the world of cinema, but it is easy to discern the difference between movies like Batman and Robin (1997) and Blade (1998), and today’s comic book fare. The former is filled with cheesy one liners, cartoonish villains and rote, cliche plots that simply exist to get the movie to the next action scene. The comic book it is “based” on is just a tool to get people to come see the movie, and oftentimes the plots and characters of the movie only faintly resemble its source material, if at all. Today, we are offered more serious films based off of comic books; movies that tend to closely resemble their source material and mix state-of-the-art CGI with mature plotting and characterization more often found in non-superhero/comic book movies. Is this a good development for movie goers? Well, it would certainly seem so as record amounts of people are going to see these films, and comic-book creators Marvel and DC are reaping the benefits. I harbor a certain nostalgia for films like Blade however, for they embrace the fact that they are silly and aren’t afraid to focus on action at the expense of plotting and characterization.
The premise to this film is very simple: Blade (played by recently freed convict Wesley Snipes) is a half-human/half-vampire vampire hunter. He hates vampires and enjoys killing them. Most of the movies run time is spent by Blade either killing vampires or planning on how he can kill more vampires. His obsession with the creatures of the night dates all the way back to his birth, when his very pregnant mother was bit and killed by one, right before Blade popped out. This origin story is very similar to that of another comic book hero, Batman, who witnessed his parents senselessly killed by a mugger, sparking a lifelong obsession with defeating crime. Blade is essentially the black version of Batman. There is a distinct difference in his voice when he is on the hunt for vampires, versus when he is talking to humans. It’s not as noticeable or jarring as Christian Bale’s “Batman voice” but it is clear that both men put on a persona when they are out on the streets fighting their respective enemies. Due to the inherent nature of vampires, Blade is most commonly on the hunt from dusk to dawn, just as Batman inhabits the night to more effectively fight shadowy crime figures. Both are viewed as mythic figures by their enemies, and little is known about either except for what their name and reputation provides.
Blade also wears sunglasses. Dark, sleek, bad ass sunglasses. There is one instance in the movie where he recites one of his signature one-liners (which are usually incredibly cliche and only funny because of Snipes complete devotion to the bit) and puts his sunglasses back on. Sounds innocuous but if you can watch that scene without The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” screaming through your head with accompanying images of David Caruso’s smug face, I don’t want to know you. Blade occupies a similar space as a show like CSI: Miami, which is often mocked for its silly puns and lazy science, where entertainment is king and everything other than thrills takes a distant back-seat. Jerry Bruckheimer was not involved with the making of Blade as far as I can ascertain, but this film would fit right into his action-packed oeuvre. The cinematic world today is certainly not hurting for mindless action movies with franchises like The Fast and The Furious, The Pirates of the Caribbean, and Transformers dominating the box-office every other year. What Blade provides (and maybe these films will also provide once they’re 15 years old) is a portal to another time, a way of perfectly summing up a decade of action and comic-book movies in 2 hours.
Blade also has various similarities to another movie with a protagonist who dresses in all-black with accompanying black sunglasses: The Matrix (1999). There are a handful of shots in Blade that show crowds of people walking around, as the villain of the film talks about how sheep-like they are, and their ignorance of the true reality that surrounds them. This is, of course, the same insufferable philosophy 101 material that inhabits The Matrix as a movie and as a series, and probably speaks to the general fad of actions movies gradually becoming smarter and more self-aware since the end of the 1990’s. Still, it is hard not to compare the two movies during scenes like the picture above comes from, or when another character turns to Blade and says (verbatim) “You’re the chosen one
Neo Blade!”. This film came out a year before The Matrix however, so we’d have to either add to the long list of movies that it borrowed liberally from, or chalk it up as a coincidence.
Are you looking for a fun, mindless movie in which Wesley Snipes wails on a man’s testicles for 10 seconds? Or how about a movie where Snipes and an Asian man have a quick competition in the middle of a fight to see who can kick higher? Then you’ve come to the right place! If you’re a nerd like me, it might interesting to watch and compare with the action and comic-book films of today, but there is little of interest here in terms of plot. It’s a great movie to watch with a group of friends and some beer, nothing more, nothing less.