The 90’s were kind of a dead time for comic book films. After the disastrous Batman & Robin, no one really wanted to make comic book films. Sure, you had the odd one out like The Crow or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but Hollywood kind of just looked down on the whole genre as some sort of child’s play. So when Marvel decided to dip their toes into the movie business again, they could have gone with any of their huge brands like Spider-Man or Fantastic Four. Instead, they decided to get gritty with their first “legitimate” big budget Hollywood film, based on the vampire slayer Blade. What seems like a weird decision in hindsight really worked out in the end, with Blade becoming a smash hit and helping eventually fund the X-Men and Spider-Man films that would eventually push Marvel into stardom. Staring Wesley Snipes in the title role, Blade tells the story of a half human-half vampire “day walker” who possesses superhuman abilities and leads a life of hunting and killing vampires. As he hunts more and more, he delves deeper into a vampire underworld that gives him one of Blade‘s greatest villains, Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff).
Released in 1998, while Blade wasn’t a critical success, it turned out to be a huge financial success, blowing Marvel’s expectations out of the water, and creating a new cult phenomenon, and rightfully so. With the Gothic architecture and atmosphere added onto this weird neon bright world, the styling of Blade is easily the coolest part of the film. Wesley Snipes also embodies one of the best roles he’s ever taken up and makes it his own; no one could play Blade like he could, just as Robert Downey, Jr. is the only one who could play Iron Man right. Blade is also Marvel at its edgiest. With the utter amount of blood and onscreen violence, this isn’t the kid friendly fare Marvel eventually became known for, and that’s such a saving grace for this film. Instead of appealing to the mass audience, Marvel concocted a film for the fans, for the adults who grew up with the comics and the ones who want true-to-form adaptions of these characters. Kudos to Marvel for really throwing their cards out there and putting faith in a hard R comic book film in a time where no one really wanted comic book films. Without Blade, who knows where the industry would have went.
dir. Stephen Norrington
Screens Friday, 2/24 @ Coolidge Corner Theatre – midnight!