An achievement for the genre

 

Blade (1998) Review 5
Director:Stephen Norrington,
Starring:Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson
Length:120 minutes
Rated:R

 

There have been several disappointing and unfulfilling movies both this year and last that have received the “comic book” label – a heavy blow from the critical community. The film is then perceived as low-class, unintelligent, and thoughtless entertainment. There is a dedicated audience who will see those movies anyway – the ones that actually do read comic books – but overall the movie founders on rough waters. Blade, too, is worthy of such a title. But instead of being among the bottom-feeders, this movie epitomizes the comic book action subgenre. It is surely a testament to its source, as well as a welcome achievement for genre fans.

The movie opens with a young man being led to an underground nightclub by his newfound date. Intent on getting some action, he doesn’t realize anything’s wrong until the techno/hip-hop music climbs to a fever pace and blood begins to rain down from the ceiling. He’s scrambling for his life, surrounded by vampires, until he runs into the thick black boots of Blade (Wesley Snipes). Impossibly clean and immaculately tailored in black leather, Blade is our hero. Nicknamed the Daywalker by the bloodsucking breed, he is a hybrid vampire-human who kills as many vampires as he can to avenge his mother’s death to the nasties. Aided by an aging partner named Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) and a hemotologist (N’Bushe Wright), he must stop a young vampire named Frost (Stephen Dorff) who plans a complete revolution in the ranks.

The opening scenes are almost entirely action and have little to do with vampire legend or lore. Although vampires are a popular fantasy element, Blade ignores this initally and thus resembles something of a more serious Batman. At times, one wonders if this might’ve been the road that the Dark Knight features would’ve taken if they hadn’t succumbed to the goofy direction of Joel Schumacher. As it progresses, though, the movie turns increasingly to its fantasy roots – there are certain rules to putting a vampire in his grave, and even when you follow those you still get a lot of gore. Moments of excessive gore or non-sequitous sex appeal are mostly unwanted but do not detract from the overall value. But by the final scene, the movie has left any Earthen setting and instead prefers a Masters of the Universe-esque swordfight to decide all.

The characters are written in an acceptably melodramatic fashion. Like New Line’s other comic book adaptation from last year, Spawn, this one is more dark than it is light. Unlike Spawn, however, Blade manages to become more realistic through characters that are more easily accepted as well as better defined. Snipes gives us an expectedly stoic Blade, and though not outstanding, he acts consistently for two hours. Dorff’s bad guy Frost is mostly uninspired until the closing half-hour, when Dorff allows wit to take over. Then he becomes a more lifelike character rather than a pale, cigarette-smoking upstart. Despite minor setbacks such as these, it’s no wonder that everything in Blade manages to fall into place. Topped off with absurdedly Oscar-quality sound and visual effects, Blade is a well-spent trip to the theater.