24 October 2008

Blade Trilogy

Such Promise, But Blade Sequels Lacking
By Kristin Battestella

When it came time to continue our Halloween movie marathon with Blade II and Blade Trinity, it was soon apparent that the series lost some of its edge since 1998’s Blade. Cool technology and vampire dustings can’t save this Wesley Snipes train.
His mother was attacked while in labor, and thus Blade (Snipes) is born half human, half vampire. Raised by weapons master and vampire hunter Whistler (Kris Kristofferson, Millennium), daywalker Blade hates vampires and struggles with his need for blood. Young vampire Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff, Backbeat) uses Blade’s weakness for Dr. Karen Jensen ( N’Bushe Wright) against him and seeks to capture Blade for his unique blood.
Blade establishes its universe and vampire set of rules firmly and sticks to itself almost to the end. The film went through several rewrites and re shoots before coming up with its best but still lacking ending. Initially, the devices and dustings in Blade’s very impressive opening are cool, but after so many years of Buffy, I’m a bit tired of vampires exploding or burning to ash in visually cool ways-or better yet with quips and great humor. Stake them and kill them already.
The Blade Trilogy (Blade/ Blade II/ Blade: Trinity)
It might be odd to say it so, but I much prefer the bad ass blackness Blade brings to the vampire genre. Previously, African American vampires were somewhat of a joke or parody- turned slaves, or voodoo fiends. Eddie Murphy’s Vampire In Brooklyn didn’t help. Thankfully, Blade fills another gap in this urban minority horror genre. There’s edge, conflict, and intelligence for the most part.

Blade is also a comic fan’s dream, with references and allusions to numerous comic books and heroes. Without the popularity of this first film, we might not have had the comic film boom and franchises like X-Men or Spiderman. I can’t fault the comic origins for director Stephen Norrington’s emphasis on the explosive finally rather than Blade’s torment over being half human/half vampire-which dominates the early part of the movie. I’ve read many a dark and serious comic book. 

Blade II (2002) picks up two years after the first film. A new subset of reaper fiends is hunting vampires, and Blade must unite with a vampire task team before the hunters upset the underground balance between humans and vampires. Screenwriter David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) brings Whistler back under some pretty thin circumstances, but some of the better dialogue is between Whistler and new tech boy Scud (Norman Reedus, The Boondocks Saints). Ron Perlman-now of Hellboy fame-is sufficiently bad ass as vampire henchman Reinhardt, but the silly detonator beacon that Blade sticks to the back of his bald head takes the kick ass down a step.
It’s strange to say I miss Stephen Dorff, but his asinine hedonist style was at least believable to a degree, unlike the decrepit vampire eaters here. How many times must they get whacked, shot, and tossed through windows? Blade II lets action and effects take over the more somber elements from the original film, which Goyer can clearly write about if Batman Begins is an example. Isn’t Blade still conflicted about his dual nature? Are we supposed to care if he is? Blade II would have the viewer think not. Skim on story, sure, but action fans will dig Blade II and its creepy cool devouring sequences.
2004’s Blade Trinity starts out promising. After Blade is set up by familiars and kills a human, he is taken to the authorities. New vampire villain Danica (Parker Posey) can’t keep Blade, for he is rescued by Abbie (Jessica Biel), Whistler’s illegitimate daughter, and Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) an ex vampire. Together the trio must destroy Drake aka Dracula.
I like Dominic Purcell on Prison Break, but he’s nearly impossible to take seriously as Dracula. He’s worthy of the tough ass Blade we’ve known for two movies? Come on. Blade has its own vampire universe, why even bring a seven thousand year old Dracula into it? Trinity starts out so realistic; Blade in the news and being chased by cops-and the extended edition gives us more dialogue and explanations. Unfortunately, somewhere halfway through, we end up with dues ex machina vampire cures, gadgets, and history. Ryan Reynolds’ (Waiting) comic relief is not needed because we’ve fallen into such unbelievably again. Blade was already the black hip post Buffy vampire. We didn’t need a tag team of pretty white kids cracking jokes. American Pie’s Natasha Lyonne as a blind scientist? Are you serious?

Trinity seems to go for some cult stunt casting with this crew, including Parker Posey, who normally is great fun as the cute or bitchy hip chick like Dazed and Confused and You’ve Got Mail. Here unfortunately, she’s made to be one stupid and ugly vampire. What happened to the original vampire organizations established in the first film? Where is Karen and her hematologist realism? Dividing the issues of cures and vampire origins among a young, sexy white cast is not in the spirit of Blade. Unless you’re a die hard fan of the Wesley Snipes and the comic books, I’d rather watch Blade ten times over before I view Blade II and Trinity again. After these two disastrous sequels, why would anyone tune into the short lived Blade: The Series?

I never thought myself so sappy, but audiences who love the tragic romantic vampires ala Interview With A Vampire won’t enjoy the action and fast paced style of the Blade series. There’s enough story and establishment of its universe with Blade for serious enjoyment, and action and gore enough for those fans in Blade II and Trinity. Unfortunately, the lack of consistency and further suspension too far into unbelievability doesn’t give this trilogy much repeat viewing. Blade should have been much more than kick ass.


thebonebreaker said...

I enjoy this trilogy. (though I was already a fan of Blade, from the comics)
While the 3rd one is defintely the weakest one, I love the 1st & 2nd - I would even say that II is the best of the three!

Nice Reviews! :-)

Kristin Battestella said...

Glad you're sharing your thoughts with us, Bone! My favorite comic is Flash Gordon, slightly different style!

Kristin Battestella said...

Our Blade conversation is also happening at Horror Addicts. Stop on by!