Superhero Month: "Blade" Review

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

Superhero Month: "Blade" Review

-- Rating: R (strong, pervasive vampire violence and gore, language, and brief sexuality)
Length: 120 minutes
Release date: 21 August 1998
Directed by: Stephen Norrington
Genre: Horror, Action

"Blade" was one of the most popular movies from the '90s. With the advent of complex computer-generated animation, the late '80s and '90s saw a multitude of superhero films, and it became popular to produce films based on comic books. "Blade" was one of many, and it could have easily been lost in the flood of superhero films, especially considering it was directed by Stephen Norrington, who had not yet made a name for himself. Fortunately, it stood out from the masses by combining superhero action with horror and a heavy dose of animated violence.

Unlike the hero from the comic books, who is simply a human with a deep hatred for vampires, Blade, played by Wesley Snipes, is a human-vampire hybrid. Like regular vampires, he craves blood, but he has none of their weaknesses. Silver and garlic do not affect him, and he can roam freely in the sunlight, for which the vampires call him the Daywalker. He actively hunts vampires alongside his elderly human companion, Whistler, played by Kris Kristofferson. Whistler regularly injects Blade with a serum that holds off his cravings. However, Blade's body is beginning to develop a resistance to the serum.

The film opens with a grisly hospital scene that sets the rest of the movie's intense, dramatic tone. A pregnant human woman has been badly bitten by a bloodthirsty vampire and is giving birth to her child. Her doctors perform an emergency cesarean section, saving the life of her child, Eric, but she does not survive.

Several decades later, there is an incident at a vampire nightclub that turns into a bloodbath when Blade arrives and opens fire on the patrons with a shotgun. He exits as the police arrive, leaving a massive vampire called Quinn severely injured and apparently dead. When the paramedics bring Quinn to the mortician, he is discovered to have several abnormalities, including unusual jaw muscles and teeth. During the examination, he awakens and immediately attacks the technicians, nearly killing both before Blade shows up and saves the woman, whose name is Karen. Quinn, who is one of the few vampires who is a match for Blade, escapes in the chaos.

Because Karen has already been bitten, Blade cannot let her go free. He brings her back to his home, which is hidden away and stockpiled with an arsenal of weapons. She meets his assistant, Whistler, who injects her with a substance consisting of silver nitrate and garlic essence in an attempt to keep her from turning into a vampire. However, the cure is not foolproof, and only time will tell if she will remain human. After treating her, Blade brings her back to her apartment, where she is nearly killed by a human police officer owned by a vampire called Frost.

As Karen gets closer to turning into a vampire, and she tries to find a way to stay human, she works with Blade and Whistler to track down Frost, Quinn, and several other dangerous vampires on the Council before they can find a way to kill Blade or take him alive. Frost, in particular, is especially dangerous, drawing on Blade's human conscience and his love for his deceased mother to manipulate and weaken him. The film is action-packed from start to finish, and the slower periods where they are working to find a cure are few and far between. As opposed to being a romance-driven film like many other superhero movies from the same era, "Blade" focuses on delivering as much violent action and adventure as possible without abandoning the complex story.

Even though the cast is largely made up of unknown actors, the casting is brilliant and remains loyal to the characters from the comic books. Thanks to strong acting, engrossing action, and a surprisingly complicated plot for an action film from the '90s, it is no wonder "Blade" was such a hit and remains popular to this day. Even though so many comic books have been adapted into films, "Blade" is still at the top of many lists of favorite films and still speaks to modern audiences. The fact that "Blade" is based on a comic book series makes it easy to look past the occasionally tongue-in-cheek undertones, enabling the viewer to focus on what was truly a loyal adaptation of one of the most popular comic books of all time.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5