The 1998 vampire film Blade is one of the earliest examples of a successful movie based on a Marvel property. The vampire-hunting dhampir Blade first appeared in Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula comic series, and while he is now being considered for the MCU, if it was not for the success of his first film, the MCU might never have come into existence.
This gothic pulp classic has all the best elements of a great action movie, and stars Wesley Snipes as the titular hero. It also is very much a product of its times, and not everything about it has aged well. However, for all its flaws, Blade remains a classic.
10 Classic: Wesley Snipes
The performance that Wesley Snipes delivers in all three Blade films is absolutely phenomenal. He is cool, in control, and just an all-around great action hero. That said, there is also a profound sorrow and sense of brooding rage that seethes just beneath the surface.
His ability to continually maintain his poise while still conveying emotion makes Snipes an absolutely convincing Blade—and an even better version of the character than half his comic appearances.
9 Aged Poorly: Graphics
Blade was released in 1998. Even for the time, the film has bad CGI. By modern standards, it is just terrible to the point of making some scenes almost unwatchable.
The climax is particularly jarring when characters burst in explosions of poorly rendered blood, their winged skeletons flying upward with graphics better suited for a Nintendo 64 cartridge game than a major Blockbuster.
8 Classic: Worldbuilding
Much of the film’s worldbuilding builds upon the mythos that surrounds the character in the Marvel Universe, particularly the underground secret societies where vampires live and their allergy to silver. But there is more at work here.
Some of the memorable elements include humans working as vampire familiars, the inner squabbles within vamp society between younger and older generations of bloodsuckers, and the visually distinctive glyphs of their language. The scene in the club with blood raining from the ceiling is also an amazing touch and completely believable for vampires to have in the 90s club scene.
7 Aged Poorly: Plot Holes
There are a handful of plot holes where scenes are constructed in a way that makes no sense. A vampire is able to stand outside in broad daylight at one point with no issues. In another scene, people in a park witness a violent shootout that causes them to flee, then stand around the shooter without reacting.
The inconsistencies of what it takes to kill a vampire also make the fight scenes and Blade’s competence as a killer come into question.
6 Classic: The Writing
Blade is a masterclass in how to write an action movie. The opening scene in the club is the perfect hook to get a sense of the world and who the protagonist is, while also having a great mix of horror and a “wow” factor. This transitions nicely into the next scene where audiences meet the hematologist Dr. Karen Jenson which transitions into meeting Blade’s partner, Whistler.
Every part of the story builds upon the last. The twists are unpredictable but not unbelievable. The tragedies and victories both have weight, while the one-liners are quotable. On top of that, the villain, Deacon Frost, is an interesting character filled with pathos who does as much to challenge vampire society as to challenge Blade.
5 Aged Poorly: Police
Police wear the old blue uniforms they are famed for, rather than the black outfits of the modern NYPD, making this film feel dated right from the beginning.
They also come off as incompetent ill-equipped buffoons. The scene where Blade is pursued by cops in the hospital involves him scaring off a pair of them after their bullets ping off his body armor ineffectually, but then he gets swarmed by more than twenty of them, as though there would just be a small army of them hanging around a hospital. Also, since vampires own the police, it makes no sense that the cops try to stop the bloodsuckers.
4 Classic: Blade’s Weapons
In the original Marvel comics, Blade originally uses wooden knives before getting his gear upgraded. This upgrade translates into the movie, as Blade shoots silver-tipped spikes from his pump-action shotgun and fights with a silver-edged katana.
On top of this, the spikes he carries and his silver boomerang allow him to get within punching distance or hit his enemies from a distance. Beyond that, he has a UV light he uses to synthesize sunlight.
3 Aged Poorly: Fight Scenes
To be fair, some of the fights are excellent. In fact, all of them are excellent in one way or another. It is just that a lot of them feel hokey in some way. The opening fight scene has an incredible opening, but then devolves into bad over-the-top tropes, like when Blade throws a silver boomerang that effortlessly cuts through three vampires while completely ignoring the laws of physics.
The worst example is the series of pointless spinning karate kicks in the climax where Blade and a martial artist ninja vamp just kick past each other like dancers rather than actually trying to hit one another.
2 Classic: Blade’s Look
There was a classic goth-inspired aesthetic that grew in popularity from the 80s through the mid-2000s. It inspired the aesthetics of films like The Matrix, Underworld, and (of course) Blade.
Wesley Snipes stalks through the night in a black leather trench coat and sleek black body armor that makes him both fearless and fearsome, a man who stalks the night and strikes from the shadows.
1 Aged Poorly: Computers as Cutting Edge
Another major trope of 80s and 90s horror and dark fantasy stories was the juxtaposition between the ancient magical horrors of the supernatural world and new cutting-edge computer technology.
Unfortunately, much of that technology now feels very dated. The main villain, Deacon Frost, is a genuinely compelling character who fuses his interest in ancient lore with his knowledge of computer codes. However, the laptop he uses looks like just another ancient relic compared to modern tech.
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