Stephen Norrington’s 1998 adaptation of the comic book “Blade” is a movie that’s often overlooked and or ignored as one of the comic book movie hits that broke ground. While it was never as mainstream as “X-Men” or “Spider-Man” it was a hit movie starring an African American hero, with an R rating. And while it hasn’t aged quite well since its initial release (it’s aged about as well as “X2,” which is good and terrible), it’s still a trailblazer worth seeking out right this second.
Branded the “Daywalker,” the titular Blade is a vampire hunter who uses an arsenal of weaponry, a custom katana, and his superhuman abilities to stalk the demons of the night. Born from a mother who was bitten and killed by a vampire, Blade is pulled with his mentor Whistler in to a scheme by a gang of elite vampires led by young Ethan Frost. They seek to revive an ancient vampire deity which will grant them invincibility, now it’s up to Blade and a female officer to stop them.
“Blade” is a very Marvel movie, but also a very non-Marvel movie. It works within the spectrum of what we expect from the MCU, while also embracing so much of its roots in the comic books. “Blade” was made as a means of celebrating blaxploitation and Hammer films, and Norrington holds true to the narrative beautifully. Wesley Snipes is at his best here, offering a nuanced and exciting turn as the titular hero who operates on a gray scale. This makes him the perfect foe for Ethan Frost and his band of nasty blood suckers. That said, “Blade” falters with unsteady pacing, a genuinely unsurprising plot reveal in the finale, and some choppy editing here and there. There’s also the big CGI painted showdown in the climax that looks terrible; even in 1998 it looked terrible.
In the annals of comic book movies, “Blade” is one of the first that quickly revived a sub-genre that was swiftly murdered by “Batman & Robin” only a year before. It’s a bonafide comic book movie heavyweight.
Commentaries featured on the UHD and Blu-ray includes one involving star Wesley Snipes, co-star Stephen Dorff, writer David Goyer, cinematographer Theo Van De Snede, production designer Kirk Petruccelli, and producer Peter Frankfurt. The second commentary comes alongside an isolated score, pushed along by composer Mark Isham.
Other bonuses sit on the Blu-ray, unchanged from the previous releases. That begins with a 15-minute making-of, an older but very good EPK. Blade’s production design is explored for 22-minutes. There’s a 12-minute look at the historic comic; this segment looks at the character’s origins and writer Goyer’s inspiration bringing him to the big screen. Finally, everything from blood, religious and science perspectives, et al. is focused on in a unique 20-minute piece.