Jarv’s Birthday Series: Blade (1998)

Who remembers the time before the all-conquering comic book movie? Seriously, this isn’t as strange a question as it sounds, but back in 1998, the only funny book adaptation for ages had been Batman. Marvel had tied themselves up into some lunacy with crossover story lines and clones and some such, and Batman and Robin had died in a major way a few yeas prior. Against this backdrop, a promising British Special Effects person was handed the directing reins on a minor Marvel adaptation: Blade. It was released on 21st August 1998 in America, and it is no exaggeration to say that Blade remains in the top 5 comic book adaptations to date. For the sake of argument, in my opinion the rest of that list is Superman: the Movie, The Dark Knight and, er…

Well, you get the idea. As a rule, comic book films tend to be mediocre to shit, and the massive amount of them simply means that we are exposed to a lot of dreck about fools in badly fitting tights disguised as cinema. Incidentally, and not related to anything else, why is it so damned hard to make a good Hulk movie? We’ve either got one that thinks it is a Greek Tragedy with a constipated Chinese Hulk with Daddy issues who fights a cloud, or one that thinks it, well, I’m not sure the word “think” is applicable, but this Hulk comes complete with a moron Hulk who fights a dinosaur while suffering from erectile dysfunction. Neither of these are any good.

I’m not even certain that Blade qualifies as a superhero movie. I remain almost entirely convinced that Stephen Norrington wasn’t making one. He’s clearly making a horror/ action hybrid about a half-vampire (fairly common, this idea) that kills other vampires. Blade is up against Stephen Dorff’s Deacon Frost, a calculating bastard with a chip on his shoulder, and assisted by Kris Kristofferson’s Whistler, a curmudgeonly old grump with an impressive working knowledge of weapons. Blade struggles against his thirst, and takes serum to combat it, and spends his nights fighting the vampire hordes. Frost, meanwhile, is working to overthrow the “pure bloods” and resurrect the blood god for himself. Assisting Blade is N’Bushe Wright’s doctor, who exists purely as a window into this world for the audience.

This film, from the first major scene to the last, kicks Don Murphy sized arse (nice to see that the fat man, or Blubberella, has been given a cameo here). Wesley Snipes is cooler than an Inuit nudist’s nipples, playing the strong, silent type with some aplomb. Kristofferson has fabulous chemistry with him, and the exchanges between the two of them are a real highpoint to the film. Wright is a bit of a wet blanket, but her character exists solely as an exposition funnel. Dorff puts in a career best performance here. Watching him strut his stuff as Frost really makes it all the more surprising that he hasn’t had more high-profile roles. He’s great being cool, callous and savage when appropriate.

There’s so much I love here, from the opening scene with Blade’s birth to the first major set piece set in the club where blood pours down from the sprinklers leaving a poor, trapped douchebag completely confused and at the mercy of the vampire horde. This scene is epic, and on a personal level, I remember being in a club in South Africa on a large small amount of drugs when they opened the ceiling to let the sun in. It actually played out almost exactly like here, with the music rising in a crescendo before right at the peak they banged the sprinklers on. Obviously, not totally like here, as there was a suspicious lack of blood, vampires or cool black guys with elaborate weaponry, but you get the idea. The other various set pieces in the film are all a high level of ass-kicking punctuated by superbly choreographed moves and wonderful dialogue (including the “Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill” line).

Don Murphy's carer hated bed bath day

Blade introduces a clear and highly complicated world that lurks just below the surface, and allows the audience to develop their knowledge via Wright. This means that when there is exposition, such as when Blade is explaining the concept of the familiar, it’s not forced on the audience in one long and boring hit. Want to know what the Book of Erebus is that forms a major part of Frost’s plan? Well, no bother, because Whistler tosses the information off in one sentence without breaking the flow of the scene. Need to know about Pure Bloods and the vampire hierarchy? No problem either, Frost explains it as simply as possible. All of this exposition, because it comes in fragments, is very, very easy for the audience to swallow and therefore it is simple to suspend disbelief.

Blade is also an incredibly cool film. Norrington, before he got Murphed (From the Oxford English Dictionary, Murphed= Verb, when you fall into the bacon-stained clutches of Jabba the Hutt’s stunt double and your career is destroyed in a fallout of meat sweat and talent vampirism) was on rare form here. He’s full of stylistic quirks that aren’t intrusive (time-lapse photography, and fast-forwarded sections noticeably during the opening), but best of all, knows how to shoot action properly (i.e. with the camera held still and not jammed up the characters’ noses). In a film as action heavy as Blade, that’s a real bonus. Pity he screwed the pooch with LXG, really, particularly given how cool the vampire effects are here.

Overall, this is an epic film. It’s just massively entertaining from start to finish, and despite the good second film, may well be my favourite of the trilogy. Blade is a film that I look back at with fondness, and one that stands up, spits out a cool line and then cock punches those comic book movies that want to be something more (looking at you Hulk). Blade makes no bones about its pulpy nature, this film is about the fun and the violence and frankly it’s one I strongly recommend. I give Blade three and a half cool vampire slayers out of four, and, were it not for the slightly ropy Blood God effects at the end, I’d be seriously considering a maximum.

Next up is the utter shitfest Teaching Mrs. Tingle. A film where Helen Mirren’s Mrs. Tingle tries very hard to teach Katie Holmes about acting, and oh-so-nearly succeeds.

Until then,

Jarv.

The full list in this series:

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

45 responses to “Jarv’s Birthday Series: Blade (1998)”

  1. Xiphos0311 says :

    great flick it’s tight and sparse and absolutely kick ass. Norrington and Goyer were able to take an almost forgotten Z list role player and turn him into a bad ass.

    So while I’m eating lunch and figuring out how to yell at an Officer after the wind storm ends I was skimming through posts from last night and saw that Jarv and Droid were in/near the urban youth asset relocation parade/urban renewal program. Are you boys alright and did you make it into work?

    • Droid says :

      Yeah, I’m good. Made it into work (not so good). The rioting was far enough up the road to not directly effect me. Cheers.

      What’s your criteria for choosing the officer?

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        The criteria for yelling is for not sticking to my carefully constructed training schedule. One of our jobs here is to help train some local gentry and I have a very specifically constructed training schedule(when the local swells bother to show up and aren’t taking French leave). When the schedule gets thrown out the window and jams everything else up becasue the dumb bell thinks his fly by the seat of his pants made up on the spot horse shit is better then what I spent a lot of time creating I get a bit peeved.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        and the entirely galling thing is that the made up horseshit isn’t made up it’s based on stupid training programs from The Basic School(officer boot camp) and wastes everybody’s time since the locals won’t use any of it because they don’t operate like western Infantry. Everything I’ve done was to refine how they do things here and now. They fight like what the west would call Mounted Dragoons and I took that into consideration for the training.

      • Jarv says :

        Right outside the fucking window, but we’re OK.

        Thieving little bastards. Although the cops need a good kicking for incompetence here- may need to send in the army. They’ve lost control completely.

  2. tombando says :

    For what its worth: Napoleon Brandy Hulk>Peking Duck Hulk.

    *Keep your heads low there Droid, Jarv, etc. Egads.

    *Ditto Xiphos.

  3. just pillow talk says :

    No better 1-2 punch of comic book movies.

    • Jarv says :

      Huik and Hulk?

      • Droid says :

        Spawn and Catwoman.

      • Jarv says :

        Watchmen and Watchmen Directors Cut?

      • Droid says :

        Steel and The Meteor Man?

      • Jarv says :

        Daredevil and Elektra.

        Yikes, there are some horrid combinations out there.

        When you bailing from work today?

      • Droid says :

        DD DC is okay. Elektra is terrible.

        I’ll be trying to escape around 5ish.

      • Jarv says :

        Should have said non-Directors cut.

      • just pillow talk says :

        You of course forgot about Frankie’s beloved FF movies.

      • just pillow talk says :

        Are businesses/companies closing down early?

      • Jarv says :

        Some people have got dispensation if they live in affected areas. That’s why I wondered.

        I’m off at 4 anyway. Need a nice nap before they start again. And possibly a delicious sandwich of some description.

      • just pillow talk says :

        Yes, a delicious sandwich goes great anytime, especially during riots.

      • Jarv says :

        Maybe I need to get some popcorn in?

      • just pillow talk says :

        And a delicious pickle. I’m assuming you are well stocked in adult beverages?

      • Jarv says :

        Fucking ran out last night. Luckily Mrs. Jarv is picking some up on her way home.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Well alrighty then!
        Blade!
        First, I am glad to hear that youse made it through the night of the lepus – giant bunny rabbits maraudering (sp?) through London – who’da thunk it could happen?

        Secondly, how did you ever manage it without adult beverage?
        BTW I took out and cleaned quite a few of my uh, bunny repellent(s) last night – just on case those adorable critters decided to take a swim.
        Paranoid – not I. Prepared!

        Ok, back to the topic -Blade!
        Oh yeah!
        As most of you know, it was my all time favorite comic book movie until recently supplanted by CA. I still love this flick Top to bottom, and in all honesty, it may regain its number one status once i rewatch it for the umpteenth time.

        It works on every level for me, just kicks all sorts of ass.
        maybe, because it did not think of itself as a comic book movie is why it worked so well.

        I had never heard of the character Blade before this movie, so I did not even know it was a marvel property.

        The second flick is almost as good, which is amazing in itself.

        Great review Jarvik, esp. considering the circumstances.

      • Jarv says :

        Only ran out at about 11PM.

        Aside from that Blade FTW- I genuinely maintain that it isn’t really a funnybook movie- there’s no origin story, for example. Well, not really.

      • koutchboom says :

        Well if you recall funny book movies used to just fucking happen without an origin story or it was like a little montage. FUCK I should’ve bought BATMAN blu ray this weekend it was in the $5 bin but it was actually $15 so I didn’t want it. But what i remember all it had was just a kick flash back to his parents dying.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Well, there is an origin, but it is handled in such a fantastic manner it almost seems offhand. The scenes of Frost killing/raping blades mother, whisper taking him in as a child etc. Only the Daredevil movie had an origin nearly as compressed as Blade.

        I happen to think the DD movie is underrated. Farrel did an outstanding job as bullseye.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s barely there- The birth scene is done very quickly, and the rest is in exposition.

        Burton’s Batman is truncated.

        Daredevil is shit.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        True about burtons batman, i have not watched that flick in quite a while, i forgot how short that origin was.

        As for the one-two punch, I submit

        Mystery men and FF I

      • Droid says :

        Actually, Blade’s pretty much a beat for beat remake of Burtons Batman. That’s why it’s so good.

        Both origins are handled in the exact same way. As revelations half way through the film that tie the villain to the hero, expanding the conflict between them, making it personal.

      • Jarv says :

        No- There’s the hospital scene way before that.

        Same principle though.

      • Jarv says :

        Teaching Mrs. Titwank review scheduled for tomorrow AM.

      • Droid says :

        Koutch, you should’ve picked up the box set. I got it for a tenner. It’s excellent.

      • Droid says :

        Mystery Men is great!

        Casanova Frankenstein FTW!!!

      • Droid says :

        No- There’s the hospital scene way before that.

        You should watch Burtons Batman again to see how close it is.

        Batman has the scene where Wayne visits the scene on the anniversary. And Vale and Knox discussing it. These scenes = the short flashback in Blade. and doesn’t Whistler mention it to N’Bushe as well?

        Like I said, it’s virtually beat for beat the same. I was condidering writing a comment detailing it, but it would be very long and I can’t be stuffed. It would be easier if you just watched it.

      • just pillow talk says :

        “tie the villian to the hero”

        See, I thought that is what, among other things, gets everyone up in arms with the Spidey films…though in that case it’s for every single fucking film., so never mind.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s also daft. It’s one thing for Deacon Frost to be the vampire that turned Blade’s ma, it’s another entirely to rewrite the first film and include some forced horseshit where Uncle Ben was killed by sandman. And that’s before you rewrite 50 years of accepted continuity for a cheap emotional ending.

        *phew*

  4. Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

    Absolutely fantastic film! The opening is one of the strongest I’ve seen. There is a palpible sense of fear as the young man at the beginning wonders WTF is going on!

    Then it kicks in bigtime. Love this film! And number 2 is kick-ass too. The vamp dusting effects in 2 are brilliant. The effects are a little ropey in this one, but gives a fuck?

    Shame 3 butt-fucked the franchise to death! There should be a crime for making Parker Posey look crap.

    “Blades in the place, London!”

  5. tombando says :

    Was #3 the one where Jessica Biel was running around w/ the tank top and bow? What was that exactly?

  6. Continentalop says :

    I never was as big of fan of this movie as the rest of you, but one thing I liked about it was the concept of the vampires: they were to represent those annoying “cool” hipster fucks who get into clubs while you wait in fucking line behind a velvet rope. Pretentious, douchebag vampires.

    Brilliant.

  7. ThereWolf says :

    Immense film. Love it. The beginning is one of the finest intros to a film I’ve ever seen.

    As a whole, I like the Blade trilogy. The third one, of course, isn’t quite up to scratch.

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