Blade

Blade

****

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Though Joel Schumacher's universally-panned Batman And Robin looked to have killed off comic book movies quicker than a stake through the heart, director Stephen Norrington and writer David Goyer felt there was plenty of life left (ironic, given the subject matter). Taking a hero that was B-list at best (Blade first appeared as a supporting character in Seventies Marvel pulp The Tomb Of Dracula) the dynamic duo set out to prove that, despite past failures, adapting from graphic novels wasn’t like ice-skating uphill.

And thank your essence of garlic they did. Right from the neat credits sequence where cityscapes fast-forward from day into night it’s clear that Norrington and Goyer have perfectly-captured the mood, tone and look of this shadowy, paranoia-filled world. The critics might argue that the script isn’t Shakespearian, but it takes the right approach; strip the camp, go dark and take things seriously.

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As his mother was bitten by a vampire just before giving birth, Blade (Wesley Snipes) became a half-breed with all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses. Together with mentor and weapons-maker Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), Blade dedicates his life to waging war on the legions of vampires who operate largely unknown to society. After saving haematologist Dr Karen Jenson (N'Bush Wright) the trail leads to up-and-coming vamp Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff).

Full of visceral action from start to finish, this is a kinetic mix of impressive stunts and inventive shots (see Blade jumping out a window after hurling Karen onto a mattress). Indeed, the titles are still listing on the screen when we spill into one of the greatest scenes any superhero movie has offered to date as our ‘hero’ takes on an abattoir full of nasties in a techno-pumping (the tune is Confusion by New Order, for those wondering) bloodbath nightclub. Rarely does an opener pull you in or leave such an impression.

Though production company New Line thought the only people who could pull off the “daywalker” were LL Cool J, Denzel Washington, Larry Fishburne and Martin Lawrence, Wesley Snipes inhabits the titular role and makes it unthinkable for anyone else to don the shades. Combining martial arts prowess with acting ability to ensure that he both kicks fanged-ass and delivers the lines (not to mention the fact he also produces and choreographs), Snipes simply is Blade.

Elsewhere, though Wright is fairly forgettable as the resident damsel in distress, the ultra-sweary Dorff makes for a charismatically-memorable villain and bearded growler Kristofferson is the very epitome of cool (“catch you f**kers at a bad time?”). Additionally, Donal Logue is a decent henchman and Udo Kier is so convincing as a vampire that he may actually be one.

Unfortunately, it’s undeniably let-down by the climactic showdown. Okay so there are plenty of cool moments too (death by wire, Blade roaring "Froooooost!"), but the whole La Magra section does its best to undo all the previous good work with over-the-top silliness. Frost joining back together again with CGI blood? No thanks. Little winged-skeletons bursting out of mouths? No, no, no.

However, despite these late blood-bursting mis-steps, after the snow-covered last minute, you’ll be gagging for the inevitable follow up. Paving the way forward for modern comic book adaptations, Blade is well worth sinking your teeth into.

Reviewed on: 13 May 2009
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Blade packshot
A vampire half-breed wages war on his killer brethren.
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Blade II