Blade (1998)

The world we’re presented with in Blade is one where vampires exist and have done so for thousands of years. They walk around like regular people, although you can only see them at night. Sunlight, as movies from decades previous have told us, can kill them. However, holy water and crosses do nothing. Those are myths. Blade makes sure to tell us these things, because if it didn’t, we might question why nobody carries around these potential weapons.

A truce exists between the vampires and humans, although we never get to the nitty-gritty details of the arrangement. Vampires are allowed to live, while they’ll only kill a certain amount of humans each day? I’m not sure. Apparently, vampires run the police, blood banks, and own half the real estate of downtown. Maybe that’s the deal they made with the government? I don’t know, but I wanted to. However, things like these are only brought up in order to make us seem like the vampires are more powerful than they really are, and also to make them seem evil, even if only a select group is doing anything to violate the terms agreed upon.

Our hero is named after the title, or, more likely, it was the other way around. Blade (Wesley Snipes) was born by cesarean section to a mother who was recently bitten by the creatures who hunt during the night. We meet him several years later when he decides to take out some frustrations on a group of vampires who were having a party. He gets a long action scene where he uses guns, silver stakes (which are not a myth and end up disintegrating vampires) and a very nice sword. He then heads to a hospital, ends up rescuing a woman who was bitten, and takes her to his hideout.

Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) is waiting for him. He tells Blade that he should have killed the woman, who we learn is named Karen (N’Bushe Wright). She’s given a 50/50 shot of not turning into a vampire after they treat her wounds. When she awakens, we’re told that there’s a war going on between vampires and vampire hunters, although a deal was reached there in order to keep it off the streets. I would have loved to be in that negotiation room.

We then meet our villain, Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff). He hosted the party that Blade so rudely interrupted, although he doesn’t appear to distraught when he learns of the deaths of many of his invitees. He’s not a pure-blood — that is, someone who was born a vampire and not turned later — but wishes so dearly to be one. His evil scheme involves summoning the blood-god named La Magra that will create a “vampire apocalypse”, turning everyone on the planet into a vampire or a corpse.

Since Blade somehow manages to walk around during the day, have an immunity to silver and be and all-around tough guy, he’s the one that’s going to have to stop Mr. Frost. There is a great deal of effort given to hide away the reasoning behind these resistances, although even when it’s revealed, it’s not a big deal. He has to take a serum for some reason, and it’s starting to fail him. Blade isn’t a happy character, and he does have a weakness, which makes him seem somewhat relatable.

That’s the key to having a great superhero film; you need to have your lead have some sort of flaw. Blade has one, although, like I said, since the film tries to hide it for as long as possible, I’m not going to undermine that attempt. He ends up being a good enough character to carry the film, and he definitely needs to. Both his physical presence and the way his character is written make sure he’s the focal point at all moments. Considering how weak the other characters are, Snipes has to carry this film. He does an adequate job in this regard.

I’m still very unsure of how the villain manages to get away with his plot up until the end. We’re told there are so many vampires out there, that even with the hunters going around, there are more vampires being created than being killed. There’s an entire counsel of older, pure-blood vampires. They know that Frost is planning something, and he tells more than enough people so that one of them could tattle and his entire plan would be ruined. Why nobody tries to stop him early on doesn’t make sense to me. But maybe there’s another sort of agreement that says vampires don’t kill other vampires. It turns out that all of these agreements turn out to be pretty important in the grand scheme of things.

Blade is an action film, first and foremost, and as a result is made or broken on its action scene. For the most part, they’re pretty entertaining, although the insistence to contain a ton of CGI (which all looks terrible) was a shame. The fight scenes were all a lot of fun though, and since most of the time, weapons are used instead of fists, you’ve got a lot more that you can do with the large set-pieces.

The story, on the other hand, is the generic villain-with-a-plan one, which is likely something you’ve seen a dozen times. It doesn’t do anything new, except killing off a major character earlier than it rightfully should have, but it’s predictable and won’t hold your interest. You’re hear for a vampire action movie, not a character study. I know, but it would have been nice for their to be one major twist. And no, Blade’s weakness, true nature, or whatever you want to call it does not count.

In the end, Blade is a fun action movie that has vampires replacing your average villain. Not much is done with the vampires, except that it allows you to defy gravity and human limitations a bunch of times. That’s a good decision in my eyes. It has an interesting protagonist, a bunch of exciting action scenes, and a generic story that serves just to give an excuse for these set-pieces and sword fights. It’s good enough entertainment, and an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

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