Blade (1998)

Starring Wesley Snipes, N'Bushe Wright, Stephen Dorff and Kris Kristofferson
Written by David S. Goyer:
Directed by Stephen Norrignton

Need I say more? I saw this movie in the cinema and the sheer badassness in the opening scene will never ever be trumped. I will never ever see something like that in thecinema again. Not only that, the movie was very enjoyable and it has been said a lot of times and I will repeat it. Marvel should thank Wesley Snipes on their hands and kneesfor showing you can make a good comic adaptation and for saving Marvel's ass. Too bad Marvel let its ass get fucked by the mouse.

-Bop's review of Blade (Greatest Heroes of Black Cinema, The Supernaughts-2016)

With all this talk about the Black Panther film being the first Black Superhero or character based from a comicbook, I thought I’d shine some light on this sudden “revisionist’s history”. Although Black Panther is a major film backed by Disney, there was this one somewhat lesser known film that not only preceded it, but in fact, became this catalyst for the soon to be Marvel renaissance in cinema! That lil film soon to reach its 20th Anniversary, is called Blade.

Back during the mid-Nineties, there were a minuscule assortment of comicbook flicks. Aside from the Schumacher Batman franchise, other pulp movies have made their debut, most notably those which primarily consist of African Americans as the lead character.Unfortunately, Meteor Man, Spawn and especially Steel were piss poor adaptations of their comic counterparts. (Meteor Man being the exception since it was what's considered an original concept.)

Fast forward a few years from that era and you have what is seen as a major gamble. Actor Wesley Snipes (New Jack City, Demolition Man, White Man can't jump) originally wanted to develop a film based on Marvel's Black Panther, however the project did not come to fruition as many, including yours truly, would hope.

Thus, Snipes had diverted his attention toward another Black themed hero from the Marvel Universe. But this time, it’s a less known character who would be considered 5th or even 6th tier.
This titular character is based on the rather obscure, if not cult favorite vampire slayer who debuted in Marvel Comics' Tomb of Dracula series. Blade is half vampire, half human thanks to a tragic incident (Used as a prelude in the film.) where Eric Brooks pregnant mother who was attacked by a vampire prior to her giving birth.

As a "side effect" Eric is gifted with superhuman abilities i.e. strength, speed and reflexes. And unlike most of his Vampire brethren, Blade is immune to sunlight, UV rays, crucifixes and holy water (well, the last two weapons have no effect on Vampires from this cinematic tale anyways.)
ergo "All of their strengths and none of their weaknesses.
From the start of this film, I was impressed with the introduction of this character during the rave club scene owned by main antagonist Deacon Frost (Dorff) where some partygoer is led into a blood-soaked dance floor intended to be some appetizer for a huge group of "hangry" Vampires until a dark leather cloaked figure crashes the party and this is where the fun really begins!

Blade not only demonstrates his arsenal of swords, machine pistols, A stake firing shotgun along with his "Bladerang", but his martial arts prowess making him a certified badass. Finally, there's a potential to break Marvel's losing streak in cinema history! Sure, 1989's Punisher was a fun actioner, but it wasn't what most would say, "Box Office" compatible and don't get me started on Albert Pyun's Captain America. Not only was cap plagued by poor production values, a weak script, cheesy dialog followed by an environment message, but the actor who played Steve Rogers, Matt Salinger, looks nothing like Captain America! And those plastic ears didn't help much either. But I digress.

Blade's objective is to prevent  Frost, a young reckless underling of a shadowy Vampire cabal from obtaining the power of the La Magra with his blood being part of the maguffin, he discovers a shocking revelation about his origin. Frost I suppose, was to Blade as the Joker is to Batman. And it’s no mere coincidence of how the hero comes into proximity with his nemesis. Part of the narrative can be compared with 1989's Batman be it the unveiling of who "killed" Blade's mother (Compare: Bruce Wayne's parents) the potential love interest, Karen and of course fight scenes against the villain's henchmen.
But despite those comparisons, Blade's tone has more weight than Tim Burton's Batman.
The plot is more streamlined, the pacing is great as you see Blade follows the trails of unraveling what or how powerful the spirits of the twelve ( La Magra the Blood God) can be, leading to an amusing face to face encounter with Deacon Frost .

“Oh, so it's back to pretending we're human again? C'mon... spare me the Uncle Tom routine, okay? You can't keep denying what you are, man. You think the humans will ever accept a half-breed like you? They can't. They're afraid of you. And they should be. You're an animal, you're a fuckin' maniac”!

This was one of the more important scenes that stood out for me due to its brilliant use of meta.
Be it racial undertones, the caste system or the metaphorical dialogue of Vampirism being compared to a sexual disease. All without the need to off heavy handed or preachy.

“How'd you get that scar, Deacon? A born vampire would have the power to regenerate from birth. You must've gotten scarred before you were turned. Isn't that right? Vampires like you aren't a species. You're just infected, a virus, a sexually transmitted dis...”

This movie isn’t as dark or nihilistic as some would assume based on its premise, as a matter of fact, what humor that is implemented, is well timed. I couldn't help but laugh hysterically when Blade accosts a familiar, then picks his pockets.

Dr. Karen Jenson: “Oh, great. Now you're robbing him. You gonna rob me, too”?
Blade: “How do you think that we fund this organization, huh? We're not exactly the March of Dimes”

That was just an example of the many quirky lines throughout the movie and by then you know Blade isn't your average comicbook movie, but something refreshing.

Snipes had given so much creative output to not only the film, but the titular character in general the “bladerang” was technically his idea as was the Asian culture and philosophy that’s not only limited to Martial Arts but a poignant scene that entails Eric slices the base of a plant, that is some symbolic gesture of a mentor’s passing, (I’m sure by now, many of you readers are aware who this person is.) and how the student is now the master but not before getting some serious payback. Blade’s persona has a modicum of swagger, is stoic, ruthless and yet uncompromising toward his enemies as seen when he takes no prisoners after the death of his friend and mentor.

The rest of the cast adding more credibility to this movie, Stephen Dorf is unforgettable as the cocky and sadistic Deacon Frost who also has his share of cool dialogue while Kris Kristofferson’s Abraham Whisker has his moments. “Catch you fuckers at a bad time” never gets old! N’bushe Wright as Karen Jenson isn’t your garden variety Damsel in distress archetype, she’s not only resourceful but fierce when shit gets real. In some ways, the narrative feels as if it’s told from her perspective since she’s vital to the story since she was the one who tapped into Eric's conscience after being bitten by  Frost's top henchman during the first 20 minutes in.

Blade is one of the few if not many movies I can never get bored of each time I happen to catch it on Cable, Streaming services or even when watching it from my Blu-Ray collection.
The kick ass and I do mean kickass, fight scenes toward the end sets the standards in modern age action films, the cinematography is refreshing and let’s not forget how influential Blade is, whether it’s the black leather fashion, swordplay or the bulletime effect which preceded that of the Matrix films! Also, it served as an inspiration to a few videogame characters from Tekken's Raven to Devil May Cry's Dante. Marvel owes a debt of gratitude to Wesley Snipes who made something out of an obscure Comics character in lieu of not making a film based on the first Black Superhero. And now, as of this writing, the Black Panther movie has finally come to light after being stuck in development hell for over twenty years.

Snipes may have not been directly responsible for the new Black Panther movie, but it was both his and David Goyer’s contributions that paved the way for Panther and the Marvel films before and afterward.
Happy 20th anniversary Blade, if there was any motherfucker who could ice skate uphill, it's you!