“There are worse things out tonight than vampires.”
Ahoy, daywalkers! Aidan here.
Go on, jam to that Mystikal joint. I’ll wait.
All done? Kickass.
Marvel wasn’t always the commercial juggernaut (no pun intended) we know and love today. Sure, they wielded kingship over the comic book world for decades, grooming industry greats like Frank Miller and Jack Kirby along the way – but during the mid-to-late 90s, things were headed downhill fast. Suffocating under bad business choices and overspending, Marvel Comics was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Every book the company published signaled one more dying gasp for air, and the only thing weaker than their waning comic book influence was their presence in Hollywood.
Pre-1998 Marvel films are hilariously bad. Other than the decent made-for-TV Incredible Hulk films, all the company had under its belt were the piles of shit that are Doctor Strange, Red Sonja, The Punisher (which isn’t that bad), Captain America, The Fantastic Four (made secretly, only to keep the rights to the characters), and the made-for-TV Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., starring none other than the great David Hasselhoff.
But with their dying breath, Marvel signed the Nick Fury screenwriter on for one last hoorah: an adaptation of an obscure 1970s exploitation character who hunted vampires. Enter David Goyer. Enter Blade.
The film grossed $131 million on a $45 million budget in spite of a lack of any substantial advertising campaign, a Spring release (instead of the horror movie’s traditional Halloween), and a basis in “funny books.” After that, we had X-Men and Spider-Man, and the rest is history.
Simply put, Blade is the reason modern comic book films exist.
Starring Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, and Kris Kristofferson, Blade tells the story of a hybrid vampire-human who hunts the evil bloodsuckers, having himself been born of a vampire-bitten mother. When the hunter (Blade, played by Snipes) uncovers a world-threatening plot brewing in the vampire underworld, well… shit gets real.
This fucker created the first working formula for grown-up comic book films. Goyer’s script is dark and edgy, tapping into and building on The Lost Boys‘s gritty, modern take on real-world bloodsuckers and their hidden society. They’re smart, well-organized, and understand the necessity of discretion. Blade‘s moody palate is inky and cold, and its action sequences breathlessly thrilling. It’s a crisp action film saturated with emotional intensity; the film succeeds as a piece of pre-new-millennium techno-punk neo-noir and as a truly involving character film.
It boasts extremely impressive (but never excessive) CGI and thrilling hand-to-hand combat sequences. Its pacing is fantastic and, like I said, created the structure and tone for comic book films to follow. The film perfectly balances the serious morbidity of its subject matter with the inherent silliness of its subject matter; this shit is scary, but it’s fun to watch.
None of the characters – not even Donal Logue’s Quinn – are wasted, and Stephen Dorff’s Deacon Frost is especially entertaining to watch. To this day he remains one of my all-time favorite movie villains. He’s not imposing, but he sure as hell is menacing. He can make your heart drop with a glance, and his brash confidence in every action makes him memorable. His ideologies and “evil plans” are curiously echoed beat-for-beat by Magneto in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, released a mere two years later. Coincidence? Nah.
Blade himself is a bad-ass, but a vulnerable one whose relationship with his mentor Whistler (Kristofferson) is completely believable. We’re taught by Blade about the vampire world through the eyes of Karen Jenson without having to endure an obligatory cliche love story – Blade ain’t got time for that. With every twitch, grin, grimace and bad-ass Aikido strike, Snipes truly makes the character his own – very much akin to Robert Downey Jr.’s meta-embodiment of Iron Man and Christopher Reeve’s timeless stamp on
Superman before that. Snipes is Blade and Blade is Snipes; the character exists in no other way for me. Call him what you want, but the guy is the fucking Daywalker.
I have a personal connection with Blade that lends itself to my hyper-enthusiasm for the film; at 4 years old, it was my first rated-R movie. My dad would sneak me secret viewings of the film’s opening vampire massacre as my mom was off running errands, and as I got older, getting to see more and more of the film was a glorious thing. Blade is perfect to me, an immaculate action film that stands as an eternal benchmark by which all comic book films have since been judged. Things only got better with the sequel.
Just stay away from the third one. It’ll piss you off. Goyer needs to stick to writing.
See you next week with another installment of Movies That Deserve More Love!
Until then… it’s open season on all suckheads.