2020 will be the first year that Marvel Studios hasn’t released a film or television season/series since the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Many see it as a much needed break from the MCU, with a chance to regroup and gain a refreshed perspective on the films. Luckily, there is still plenty of superhero content for those who have a craving for them, and there’s a treasure trove to be found, rediscovered, or rewatched. Luckily, the 1998 film, Blade, has just been released for the first time ever in 4K. And listen, as a huge fan of the MCU but also one that needed a break, Stephen Norrington’s Blade is everything you could ask for, because this movie absolutely rips.
In 1998, the only other theatrically released film based off of a Marvel property at the time was Howard the Duck. So, let’s just all go ahead and agree that Blade was the film that really set off the domino effect that resulted in the superhero genre of film we have today. No disrespect to Howard the Duck, but Norrington’s film just feels like an absolute breath of fresh air in 2020, so the impact upon release must have been electrifying. To think this is what superhero films were like is absolutely jarring. Leaning fully into its R rating, Blade is hyper-violent, over-the-top, and a straight up brutal vampire film, which is another genre that seems to have been morphed into something else entirely. Both elements are balanced keenly in this film, and a large part is due to the script from David S. Goyer, also known for his work on The Dark Knight trilogy. But, the magic doesn’t stop at the script, nor does it end with Norrington’s direction, which plays expertly with the use of darkness, but also the various shades of red that are standard for a zombie film. No, the man of the hour has to be thanked a bit.
Wesley Snipes stars as the titular half-vampire, half-human, and talk about legendary. With an iconic costume and some very late-90’s catchphrases, this flows between cheesy to completely badass, but it just works. If it were in the hands of somebody else, perhaps it wouldn’t function as well. But with Snipes at the helm, he is just so suave as he swings around his shotgun, his oversized pistol, and of course—his insanely cool sword that is stored in his jacket of all places. I like to imagine that Snipes just showed up and was acting as his normal self, because he plays it way too calm and collected to appear as if he’s acting. From cursing out cops shooting at him to destroying apartments, clubs and delicate historical treasures, Snipes doesn’t carry a charismatic attitude that superheroes tend to display. Instead, he carries a demeanor that screams everyone around him better stay out of the way. He’s in a lane of his own, and rightfully so, for the film is clearly carving its own path.
However, for all this film does right, there are plenty of misses with regards to the choices made. First off, for a hero as awesome as Blade, Stephen Dorff is simply not a thrilling enough antagonist. He’s not developed all that much, and he just comes off as an entitled child. However, the final fight between him and Blade is solid, although it isn’t even the coolest fight in the film. I will attest that’s a difficult bar to reach, considering the first few fights are genuinely spectacular, and one even made my jaw drop. Secondly, while the action scenes are great, the more emotional moments of the film fail to match up to the standard set, which is odd because all three protagonists are genuinely great. Perhaps Snipes’ cold attitude in the film doesn’t allow for much emotion to be pulled from, in which case it seems like an unwinnable situation due to his commanding performance being the most powerful asset .
Even with its problems, Blade is a genuinely fun film that doesn’t sacrifice some hardcore grit for laughs. In fact, it has plenty of both! Best of all, in a time when home video releases seem rather barren, this 4K release offers two commentaries: one with the composer and one with Snipes, Dorff, Goyer and more! Commentaries are always full of great tid-bits and behind the scenes information, and on a film like this, one can only imagine what gets revealed. At a clean cut 2 hours, Blade is a wildly enjoyable ride, and is a perfect midnight screening, genre-packed film. Superhero films like this essentially don’t exist anymore, and great vampire films are far and few, so this makes Blade a genuine double threat, and should be sought after quickly if you’re looking to satiate that hunger! Yes, vampire puns really are the greatest.
Blade in 4K is out now and available physically and digitally.