(Watched for the first time, 16 June 2012.)
It’s easy to split the history of superhero films into two eras: “Before Batman & Robin”, and “After Batman & Robin”. Broadly speaking, after the excellent first Superman movie there was a gradual decline through successive Superman and Batman sequels, until Joel Schumacher hit the absolute nadir that was his second Bat-Film. (You might say he deconstructed the genre, ha ha.) After that, the Modern Superhero Film began to rebuild itself. First, it sheepishly tried to distance itself from its origins with things like X-Men (“What would you prefer, yellow spandex?”), but then, as it became the decade’s dominant action film genre, it gradually learned to embrace and take pride in its own comic bookiness, until we hit The Avengers fourteen years later.
The starting point of that revival was 1998’s Blade.
Watching it for the first time now, it’s an OK action film. A few memorable images (such as the blood shower scene at the start), some decent action sequences (nice payoff with Blade’s booby-trapped sword), some dated special effects, lots of gratuitous swearing and gory executions (“See,” it tries to say, “this isn’t your average funny-book movie!”) and lots of bog-standard exposition. It’s also far too long.
Blade himself isn’t a particularly appealing character – the way his plight is portrayed here isn’t much more nuanced than it was when the character appeared in the ’90s Spider-Man cartoon series. N’Bushe Wright’s haematologist is a far more sympathetic protagonist.
I think I’ve been spoilt by the likes of Buffy/Angel and Being Human, because the “vampire factions in-fighting and talking about how people are cattle” in this movie didn’t interest me in the slightest.
There are lots of dated flashy speed-ramping editing tricks throughout. Unfortunately, although Wesley Snipes can no doubt handle the martial arts perfectly well, he’s let down by some ridiculous undercranking in several of the action scenes (even more obvious than the sparring scene in Equilibrium).
The movie’s climax, involving blood from a sacrifice running along stone channels into a giant circular room in order to resurrect an apocalyptic demon, reminded me of the first Hellboy movie. (Which was, of course, directed by Guillermo del Toro, the director of Blade 2.) It would have had even more in common with Hellboy’s climax if, instead of concluding with martial arts combat, it had gone with the “Lovecraftian monster” battle that was originally shot for the film.