THREE GUYS AND… MOVIES
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
“THE BLADE TRILOGY”
written by Dominick Cappello
I find vampires to be a mixed bag. The pendulum swings greatly in terms of quality. I wouldn’t be caught dead (or undead) watching “Twilight” (2008) or “The Vampire Diaries” (2009), but do admit to have enjoyed “The Lost Boys” (1987), “Near Dark” (1987), and the first two films in “Blade” franchise. Blade was a character from Marvel Comics, debuting The Tomb of Dracula #10, but this was post “Batman & Robin” (1997) / pre “X-Men” (2000) and “Spider-Man” (2002), so comic book movies weren’t hip in 1998 and very little was made of the comic book connection when the film was released. “Blade” was written by David S. Goyer and directed by Stephen Norrington.
The films opens with Traci Lords, an ex-porn star, as a vampire bringing an unsuspecting victim to a rave in a meat locker. After an actual bloodbath, Blade – a vampire / human hybrid played by Wesley Snipes – saves the day and slays many bloodsuckers in supreme ass-kicking fashion. The origin of the character is that his pregnant mother was bitten by a vampire and died while giving birth. He was then raised by a seasoned vampire hunted named Abraham Whistler played by Kris Kristofferson. Blade has all of the vampire’s strengths and none of their weaknesses accept for “the thirst,” so he must inject himself with a serum so to quell this bloodlust.
The main antagonist is Deacon Frost, played by Stephen Dorff, who was probably the coolest vampire since Kiefer Sutherland in “The Lost Boys.” Frost is a rebel and damn sick of Udo Kier and all the pureblood vampire elders who continue to operate in the shadows as they have for centuries. Frost’s plan is to overthrow the elders and resurrect the spirit of a blood god called La Magra, but the ritual requires the blood of a daywalker. Frost does an unconvincing job of offering Blade a truce. This scene has been widely mocked because Frost is out and about in broad daylight, protected only by sunblock. C’mon, people, never heard of suspension of disbelief?
There is a great running gag where Blade is constantly chopping off the arm of Quinn, Frost’s #1 flunky, played by Donald Logue. Frost and company eventually find Blade’s lair and Whistler is killed. No worries. I’m sure the screenwriters will find a way to resurrect him. Then, it’s the big reveal that Frost was the vampire who attacked Blade’s mother, so Frost is practically Blade’s father. Also, Blade’s mother has been alive the entire time, played by Sanaa Lathan, a.k.a. Mrs. Cleveland Brown. Tragically, Blade has to slay his own mother, but you’re not going to ever find Blade crying about it like other comic book heroes would.
Frost successfully transforms himself into La Magra. Originally, Stephen Dorff would have been replaced by a crimson red CGI tornado, but the filmmakers were enjoying his performance and didn’t want to replace him with a visual effect. After an epic sword fight, Blade uses an anti-coagulant, which was mistaken to be his serum, and this causes Frost to explode. Dr. Karen Jensen, played by N’Bushe Wright, offers to design for Blade a gene therapy cure for his vampirism, but he declines because he still needs his abilities in the ongoing battle with the bloodsucking fiends. Never before had a vampire movie kicked this much ass. Stephen Norrington has yet to craft another film that lives up to “Blade.” His claim to fame since has been retiring Sean Connery with “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (2003).
“BLADE II” (2002)
Who could make Blade even more awesome than he already was? Ladies and gentlemen… Guillermo Del Toro. David S. Goyer again penned the screenplay, which had Blade searching for Whistler, who had become a vampire after apparently being killed in the first film. All is well as Whistler is rescued and successfully rehabilitated. Blade has a new techie named Scud, played by Norman Reedus long before “The Walking Dead” (2010). Whistler and Scud have a combative relationship to say the least. Meanwhile, a mutant vampire called Jared Nomak, played by Luke Goss, is waging his own vendetta against the vampires. He is infecting them with his disease and turning them into “The Reapers.” Nomak is introduced in a really cool scene set in a blood bank.
Damaskinos, an elder of the vampire nation played by Thomas Kretschmann, offers a truce to Blade and company because he needs their aid in the fight against Nomak. Blade only agrees because The Reapers will start going after humans once they are done with the vampires. Blade must work with “The Blood Pack,” who had initially been trained to hunt him. Two of the more prominent members of the Blood Pack are Nyssa, played by Leonor Valera, and Reinhardt, played by resident badass Ron Pearlman. Nyssa is the daughter of Damaskinos and there’s sexual tension between her and Blade. Reinhardt is an alpha male just like Blade, so they are at each others throats for most of the movie. There’s some real great back and forth between these two macho actors.
There are two big action sequences with The Blood Pack vs. The Reapers. The first is set in a vampire nightclub. At the conclusion, Blade and Nomak cross paths and Nomak poses an interesting question to Blade. “Is the enemy of my enemy my friend or my enemy?” The second battle is down in the sewers and truly showcases Guillermo Del Toro’s talent as a filmmaker. A perfect blend of action and horror. Nyssa is badly injured and Blade lets her feed on him, which was nice reversal of how the Dr. Karen Jensen character in the original film allowed Blade to feed on her.
Not surprisingly, the vampires betray Blade once he vanquishes all of The Reapers (save for Nomak). Damaskinos was actually responsible for the creation of Nomak, who was his failed attempt to create a daywalker like Blade. Nyssa was the only vampire not privy to the double cross. It is also revealed that Scud is a traitor, but Blade had been onto him the whole time and Scud gets blown to pieces for his troubles. Blade then uses a few classic pro wrestling moves to take out the vampire’s human lackeys and slices Reinhardt in half with his trademark sword. Damaskinos, Nyssa, and Nomak play out their family drama, then Blade slays Nomak in the climax. Nyssa had already been bitten by Nomak. She wants to die a vampire, so Blade brings her out into the sunlight and she disintegrates in his arms. A rare sentimental moment for Blade that didn’t involve Whistler.
Overall, this was one of those rare sequels that lived up its predecessor. It was clever in that instead of more good looking, euro-trash vampires like were featured in the original film, Guillermo Del Toro presented us with unattractive, horror movie bloodsuckers. Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Pearlman reunited on “Hellboy” (2004). Luke Goss played the antagonist in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008). I got to see all three live at New York Comic Con 2008.
“BLADE: TRINITY” (2004)
Why wasn’t this movie called “Blade III”? Well, I guess that would’ve made too much sense. No, the subtitle was “Trinity,” signifying three individuals coming together as one. Bullshit. Basically, the point of this film was to burden the protagonist with some painfully annoying sidekicks called “The Night Stalkers” because Wesley Snipes was hesitant to continue playing his signature character, so a spin-off with Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Beil was already in the works. But, you shouldn’t plan too far ahead because there never was a movie produced starring The Night Stalkers. David S. Goyer, writer of the first two “Blade” films and “Batman Begins” (2005), was promoted to the director’s chair.
The Marvel Comics logo was finally featured at the start of a Blade film because comic book movies were now all the rage in Hollywood. Honestly, the logo seemed a bit out of place to me because the first two films did just fine without having to piggyback on the success of other Marvel properties. That’s what it felt like they were doing as appose to them bringing attention to the source material.
The villains, Parker Posey and Triple H, resurrect Count Dracula. What? Triple H? He filmed his scenes in 2003 during his bicycle shorts period. You longtime WWE fans know what I’m talking about. Of course, this movie thinks it’s too cool to refer to Dracula as Dracula, so they called him Drake instead. Blade kills a “familiar,” a human who is subservient to vampires. It was established in the previous films that these familiars hope to be converted into vampires, so why does this idiot seem elated to be dying for them when there is NO immortality as a reward? Did he volunteer for this dead end assignment?
Whistler gets killed (for the second time in the series) and Blade is then joined by the aforementioned Night Stalkers. Mr. One Liner and Ms. Box Office Poison. Blade does little to hide his disgust that Wesley Snipes was allegedly feeling on set. By all accounts, he was not happy about the creative direction of this film. There was at least one cool scene where Drake goes to a Hot Topic type store and the employees mouth off to him, so he savagely kills them without mercy. None of this “mopey, cry for me, it’s sad to be a vampire” crap.
The climax was poorly arranged in the cutting room. You shouldn’t break away from Blade vs. Drake to show Triple H vs. Van Wilder. The battle with Dracula himself was the culmination of Blade’s war with the vampires. The unfunny sidekick vs. the steroid infused henchman was inconsequential. Drake was defeated by Blade and quite gracious about it, while the other vampires were vanquished by garlic laced anthrax (or something) which was to be the ultimate weapon for destroying all suck-heads once and for all. Then, in the epilogue, Ryan Reynolds explains that the war was far from over as a CGI Blade rides off on a motorcycle. Far from over? You jackasses swore that it was the endgame? I rented the DVD way back in 2005 when there were still video stores and there were several alternate endings, none of which made anymore sense.
“Blade: The Series” (2006), which ran for only one season on Spike TV, starred rapper Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones as the title character and Jill Wagner, the hostess of ABC’s “Wipeout” (2008). It was a lackluster effort at best and I was not even remotely surprised when the plug was quickly pulled. The Blade saga definitely went out with a whimper. Shame. At least we still have the legacy of the first two films… until there’s a reboot.
– Dr. Rochester