Stephen Norrington, “Blade” (1998).

Sep 27 2010

Blade

As you folks can probably tell, I’m working my way through the summer movie franchises — for it certainly feels like summer in the Bay Area right now — and Blade nicely satisfies my jones for action-fantasy, especially if gouts of blood are involved. (You could do worse, like with Resident Evil, or with any of the Scorpion King installments.) All the inadvertent phallic campiness aside — and an unnecessary semi-incestuous subplot — it’s a fun, bloody romp.

The deadpan Wesley Snipes is a vampire killer, but an unusual one: he’s part-vampire himself, with all the powers and none of the usual garlicky weaknesses. The CGI may not have aged very well — the main special effect seems cribbed from John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China, all the way back from 1986, and I can’t imagine why it would be an homage — but the action is nevertheless slick and confident. It may be a bit cliched — sheets of glass are shattered very loudly every fifteen minutes — but it helps, of course, that Snipes is a martial arts expert himself, so Blade isn’t marred by the itchy cutting back and forth that plagues the filming of action sequences. (The soundtrack is also prime mid-90s electronica: Photek in the end credits, and the Pump Panel Reconstruction Mix of New Order’s “Confusion” in the fantastic opening sequence in a bloody underground rave with Traci Lords.)

Another big difference may have to do with the fact that Blade‘s screenwriter, David Goyers, has more of a pedigree: other than the TV series Flash Forward, he wrote the screenplay for Batman Begins, and the story for The Dark Knight. The audience is forced to swallow a lot for the backstory — a powerful Mafia-like clan of vampires, dissent in their ranks in the form of Stephen Dorff, who plays a nightclub owner and habitue (the bad guys throw all the good parties, it seems), and an insane Saturday-matinee awakening-the-gods ritual — but it’s to Goyer’s and director Stephen Norrington’s credit that this universe makes thrilling sense. Looking forward to seeing the next Blade.

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