Retro Review: Blade (1998).
Before Black Panther brings all of his majesty to the the big screen we look back at Marvel’s OG Black Superhero: Blade.
It is going to be hard for me to be unbiased for my upcoming review of Black Panther. I’m am excited all the way down to my cold, pea-sized soul for this movie. So before I sit down on Thursday for a viewing, I thought I’d reminisce over Marvel’s first big black superhero movie, Blade. While it’s far from a masterpiece, it is schlocky fun, it has aged better than you’d think, and it has the single best movie line ever uttered.
Vampires (or nightwalkers, as they prefer to be called) are real, and they are real scared of Blade the Daywalker (Wesley “Tax Evadin'” Snipes). Gifted with “All of their strengths and none of their weaknesses”, Blade fights a two-man war on bloodsuckers. Deacon Frost (Steven Dorff), seeks to gain the upper hand in this war by becoming a God. Things go poorly for him.
A Product of Its Time
Listen. We here at Deluxe Video Online enjoy dunking on the Blade Trilogy almost as much as Wesley Snipes enjoyed dunking on Woody Harrelson. I’m here to say that while the second Blade is one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and Blade Trinity was just a WWE-jock-sniffing trip to the chuckle-hut, the first Blade… wasn’t that bad. It was hokey and overwrought, but I always remembered it as one of those “So Bad It’s Good” flicks.
It has all the halmarks of that generation of action films. Namely, a late-80’s has-been enflaming his ego by crushing a bunch of scrubs. Arnold, Seagal, and Van Damme all had 90’s flicks like this; at least Blade had something that resembled a plot guiding it.
It also had that late 90’s style that was soon to peak with the first Matrix Movie. Everyone was issued a black trenchcoat and guns. Lots of Guns. Everyone hung out in poorly lit dance clubs and meat packing plants. One liners had gone from Schwarzenegger tongue in cheek to deadly serious. Everyone tried to look straight into your soul while reading Mark Liefield-esque comic lines like they were Shakespeare. The resulting comedy is delicious. It was like a bunch of c-list actors met at a Hot Topic to LARP like the world depended on it.
Re-watching Blade reminded me how unevenly a film can age. The first Blade is like a Nightwalker with poorly applied sunscreen on: sure, it’s mostly ageless, but some places are looking worse for wear.
Although Snipes is pretty much housing scrubs, he does it like they all owe his mother child support. He hits and kicks and slices and shoots them with palpable disdain, and when those scenes are done with practical effects, they age very well. The parts done with CGI.. not so much.
The CGI is a jaggy, pixelated mess. So bascially Transformers. The vampires *bamf* out of existence in laughably bad fire, the “Imma catch my CG sunglasses like a badass scene” was hilarious(ly bad), and Deacon Frost.. Blood God….
Teeing Off on Dorff*
If you ever wrote an essay on how Marvel movies have a distinct dearth at the Villan position, you better put Blade as your central piece of evidence. Before his ascension to Godhood, poor little Stephen Dorff looked like a junior varsity wrestler getting matched up against The Ultimate Warrior. After becoming a literal God, it goes even worse. Dude? You’re going up against a guy whose only weakness is being super thirsty for blood. Why did you think becoming sentient blood was a trump card? Blade didn’t need that serum; he could have drank your ass to death.
Also, the final fight had the worst special effects I’ve seen since Zoombies. Zoombies, people. The only thing that saved Blade from ending as a horrific train-wreck (by turning it into hilarious train wreck) is this line, presented in all its NSFW glory:
A Nightwalk Down Memory Lane
This movie is so much cheese, I hope all the people who made it weren’t lactose intolerant. Is Black Panther going to be a better black superhero movie? Umm, the Black Panther Superbowl car commercial is already a better black superhero movie. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun before the royal proceedings by watching Marvel’s first attempt at black magic. Just be careful: watching it as a drinking game would cause a BAC that even a Blood God couldn’t recover from.