Time once again for Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the movies I own on a home media format of some kind, and blogging about it. Because I have a lot of DVDs and a blog, so, why not? Today, it's back to the beginning. According to the comic book geeks, our current run of superhero films started with Blade. This appears in my notes at July 13, 2013.
Tonight, I've been thinking it's time to go back to where it all began. As we all know, for the past little-bit-more-than-a-decade, superhero films have dominated the box office. Specifically, films based on Marvel characters. The more mainstream film historian will tell you that it all started with X-Men back in 2000. But the hardcore comic book geeks and film enthusiasts will tell you that it actually started with Blade released in 1998.
Blade did what a lot of superhero films are aspiring to do right now. It's dark, it's gritty, it attempts to be realistic. We shouldn't be surprised that the screenwriter is David S. Goyer, who went on to write Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel. Before all that, he did write the Blade trilogy (and directed the third one), and he kind of got the ball rolling. I remember reading an interview with Goyer in which he boasted that, thanks to getting the ball rolling with Blade, he had consulted on every superhero film in development in the first half of the 00s.
Blade came out at the time when I was just discovering the Internet, and had begun following the development of movies online. I'd been watching Blade and its woes. It was originally supposed to come out in the spring of 1998, then it got pushed back to the fall of 1998 so they could re-tool the ending. DVD was just starting to come into the fore as well, and I do remember in the home media forums how it was regarded as one of the best-produced special edition DVDs back in the day. And trust me, lots of people poured over the original ending and what it meant and...yeah. This film did have a pretty serious fan following for a while there.
Watching it again tonight, the film, though, truly is a product of the 1990s. The clothing styles. The techno music that was popular at raves at the time. And the computer animated special effects, which are now horribly, horribly dated.
Actually, you know what other late 1990s film it reminded me of tonight? The Matrix. This came out a full 6 months before The Matrix, but a lot of it does seem like low-budget Matrix. The martial arts scenes, a hotel lobby shoot-out at the climax, the aforementioned techno on the soundtrack, a lot of it does seem Matrix-esque. Probably why this film's fan following did wind up being short-lived. The Matrix came along and quickly overshadowed it.
This film really did serve as the gritty reboot for the superhero film genre. I mean, the most prominent superhero film before it was Batman & Robin, which many said killed the genre. We also had Spawn, which was quickly forgotten, and then along came Blade. Finally, superheroes were being taken seriously again. And the fact that it was a barely-remembered, C-list character that got things going was pretty darn cool.
Excitement was high when this film came out. Well, at least it was in the circle of geeks I hung out with back in college. When I saw this in the theatre, it was at Augustana's welcome back event. At the start of every semester, the Students Union would make a deal with the movie theatre in Camrose and all the students would get in for free one night. Fall of 1998, back at school, and the free movie was Blade. And it earned the highest praise I can give a movie: I saw it in the movie twice. My best friend -- one of the biggest Marvel zombies going -- actually missed free movie night, so I dragged him to the theatre a week later and paid money for the second time. That's how good I found the film at the time.
And you know what? Watching it again tonight, it actually holds up pretty well. Seeing as to how this spawned the superhero film genre as we know it today, it's kind of quaint in that it's pretty low budget compared to what's now being pumped out. I believe in previous entries I mentioned the "low-budget-made-in-the-1980s" look, The Terminator being the best example. That look is all over Blade, just a little more...polished.
So for those who have forgotten...Blade. Half-human, half-vampire. As they describe it in the film, he has all of a vampire's strengths, but none of their weaknesses. Well, save for one. He does have the thirst for human blood, but he has a special serum that suppresses that. His powers came about when his mother was bitten by a vampire just as she was going into labour with him. And now, using his powers, he has become the ultimate vampire slayer.
Fun trivia fact: the film was originally going to have the same name as the Blade comic book, which is Blade the Vampire Slayer. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer had just premiered on TV, so they dropped "the vampire slayer" to differentiate it.
Blade is played by Wesley Snipes, whom you may remember was a pretty big action hero back in the 1990s. It's tough to get a handle on Blade as a character because he is very much the stoic hero. He's a man of few words and fewer emotions. But the few times in the film he does let his facade break and we see him show some emotion, it's pretty cool.
Kris Kristopherson plays Whistler, Blade's mentor, trainer, weapons-maker, and surrogate father figure. Kristopherson uses pretty much all the cowboy archetypes that Jeff Bridges now specializes in. He's actually pretty funny and is the comedic relief for most of it. He's not silly...he just doesn't give a shit anymore.
And our villain is the vampire Deacon Frost, played by Stephen Dorff. He is, for lack of a better term, an asshole. He's sick and tired of vampires running around in the shadows and figures it's time for vampires to take over the world. He is a pretty good villain, as he constantly looks down on those around him and constantly has that smug sense of superiority.
The plot, in case you've forgotten. Blade is on the trail of Deacon Frost. But, Deacon Frost is attempting to start a revolution in the vampire world. Frost figures he knows how to unleash La Magra, the vampire god, and bring about an apocalypse that'll put vampires in charge of the world. And it's up to Blade to stop him.
But yeah. Watching it again tonight, it's still pretty good. It's one of the oldest DVDs in my collection. As I said, when it hit DVD, DVD was still new and exciting and this was one of the more heavily praised special editions. So it was one of the first I bought.