News

Twenty Years Later, Blade Still Slays Its Vampire-Flick Competition

Looking back at how the Wesley Snipes movie resurrected the comic-book film and injected new blood into the vampire genre.

by | August 20, 2018 | Comments

(Photo by © New Line Cinema)

Blade truly has the longevity of the undead. Released a full two decades ago – it landed, swords swinging, in theaters on August 21, 1998 – it is remembered as one of, if not the, pre-eminent vampire movie of the ’90s. (That’s against tough competition that includes Interview with the Vampire and the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

Critics at the time drove a stake through director Stephen Norrington’s Blade (it has a Tomatometer score of 54%), but the comic-book–inspired vampire martial arts movie had a cultural life long after death. It spawned two sequels – one of them a criminally underrated entry on Guillermo del Toro’s IMDB page – a TV series, an anime series, and a host of imitators. And over the years it has gained an Audience Score of 78%, with almost 500,000 people registering their reviews.

Why are audiences still thirsting for Blade after all this time? Why do we keep going back to the Blade well, some 45 years after the character first appeared in Marvel comics and 2o years after he made his big screen debut? If you dare to continue, we have five reasons why the character and film have stood the test of time.


1. IT WAS A CAREER-DEFINING ROLE FOR WESLEY SNIPES

In the ’90s, Spike Lee alum Wesley Snipes was transitioning out of drama and into action. After a blowout performance in Demolition Man, Snipes found himself in a host of middling action-thrillers until landing the lead role in Blade. Playing the titular half-vampire, Snipes embodied the role he was born to play – a character that allowed him to capitalize on his martial arts prowess and his natural intensity. Snipes became Blade, imbuing the iconic character with tragic humanity along with the badassery, making the vampire slayer an instant icon that resonated with audiences.

So great was Wesley Snipes’ portrayal, audiences rejected the 2006 Blade TV series, which starred Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones instead as the slayer (despite the show not being too bad). To this day, some fans are begging for Marvel to somehow get Blade – Snipes’ Blade – into the MCU, where Marvel’s most successful onscreen black superhero could meet its first.


2. IT COMPLETELY REPACKAGED A COMIC-BOOK CHARACTER FOR MODERN AUDIENCES

It’s no exaggeration to say that Norrington, screenwriter David Goyer, and Wesley Snipes reinvented Blade, a character that had languished to some degree in comic book obscurity. Debuting in Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973), Blade quickly became a fan favorite for his big attitude, immunity to vampire bites, wooden throwing knives, and his relentless quest to kill Deacon Frost, the vampire who’d killed his mother. Only slightly more brash than his Hammer Horror-inspired co-leads, Blade soon found himself adrift, a relic of his era, as the years passed.

Goyer’s script reimagined Blade as the kind of slick, black-leather–wearing martial-artist protagonist who would become the model for post-Matrix action movies of the ’00s. He was again very much of his time, but his time was now – and the reinvention worked. No more wooden blades: Blade used a silver-edged katana and glaives. No more holy water: Blade used anti-vampire serums that made victims explode in waves of gore. Waves of gore!

Forget what you know. This is Blade.


3. IT FEATURED A GREAT SCRIPT BY DAVID GOYER

Once upon a time, Goyer was known for The Crow: City of Angels (a gory 12% on the Tomatometer), the supremely underrated Dark City (Certified Fresh at 74%), and a bevy of direct-to-video features. Blade’s release would kickstart a career turnaround that would make him a household name synonymous with comic-book feature films. He has writing credits on all three Blade movies, all three of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. He has also contributed to the Constantine, Flash, and Krypton TV series – and that’s without mentioning his non-comic book-inspired features.

Goyer’s hardboiled, character-centric approach was key to selling Blade‘s vampire-infested Detroit. It grounded the character’s all-new mythology of secret societies and paranoia. Ultimately, it was instrumental in reviving the comic-book film after Batman & Robin soured critics and audiences the year prior. Which leads us to our next point.


4. IT HELPED RESURRECT COMIC BOOK MOVIES

By the early 1990s, when it came to superhero movies, there was Batman and there was only Batman. So successful had Tim Burton’s two Batman movies been, they became fully emblematic of the superhero genre; so when Batman & Robin failed with critics and audiences, the genre seemed doomed. Blade’s release the following year, however, illustrated many things:

  • Comic-based movies didn’t have to involve superheroes.
  • Comic-based movies didn’t have to be mawkish or over-the-top.
  • Characters other than Batman and Superman could succeed.
  • Superhero fare could be for adult audiences. And very freaking violent.

5. IT WAS R-RATED BEFORE IT WAS COOL

Sometimes we act like like DeadpoolKick-Ass, and Logan are part of some new, violent, and cuss-filled phenomenon, but the Blade series started it all with endless f-bombs, no-holds-barred action, buckets of gore, and, in the sequel, del Toro’s signature creature effects. Again, Blade was an exception in its own time – while rival franchises like Spider-Man adopted a quirky ’60s vibe, and the X-Men films dripped in formality and stilted humor, the Blade series proved that the genre could be slick, versatile, and adult-oriented.

That, too, paved the way for adult-oriented comic-book adaptations including Constantine, V for Vendetta, and The Losers. Even Zack Snyder’s Watchmen owes a debt of gratitude to Blade‘s stylized martial arts and unflinching bloodshed.

And now Deadpool’s doing it, because of course he is.


Blade was released in theaters August 21, 1998

Tag Cloud

documentary teaser japanese period drama YouTube Creative Arts Emmys mutant Elton John video TBS spanish language italian Super Bowl crime thriller name the review war Spike Ovation child's play Biopics Dark Horse Comics Funimation San Diego Comic-Con festival razzies medical drama hispanic parents satire australia crime Logo HBO Opinion The CW zero dark thirty concert Box Office trailers high school ABC Signature Sundance Now Nickelodeon The Witch Lucasfilm news DC Comics Crunchyroll WGN docudrama hidden camera screenings romance 93rd Oscars RT History TIFF rom-coms breaking bad independent indiana jones disaster Exclusive Video reboot comics kaiju TruTV YouTube Red cartoon fresh Mary poppins free movies Comic Book Reality Competition 2017 Anna Paquin movies Toys canceled TV shows The Purge binge classics Freeform Oscars Disney Channel stand-up comedy DGA Brie Larson Cannes true crime ID History women films Peacock spain robots zombies pirates of the caribbean hist zombie romantic comedy Reality Netflix foreign Watching Series cinemax universal monsters Fox Searchlight indie Pride Month Columbia Pictures supernatural Paramount Heroines TCA Winter 2020 Lifetime Western sports OWN X-Men NBC Star Trek cancelled television crossover singing competition TCM 21st Century Fox Awards Country TCA 20th Century Fox National Geographic Fox News Tumblr AMC CMT Infographic stoner Rocketman Walt Disney Pictures ABC Family asian-american worst 72 Emmy Awards reviews prank historical drama SundanceTV FX USA Black Mirror HBO Max serial killer technology black award winner social media Black History Month TV renewals Schedule E3 rotten movies we love Netflix Christmas movies superhero natural history casting YA Mary Poppins Returns Sony Pictures scary movies finale Mindy Kaling 2018 cooking The Academy Animation SXSW MTV Marathons Premiere Dates jurassic park BAFTA werewolf doctor who Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Pirates hollywood FXX Apple TV Plus Warner Bros. Comedy Central Disney streaming service Video Games The Walt Disney Company Martial Arts Tarantino PaleyFest diversity Amazon Prime emmy awards Britbox Interview DirecTV 2021 Summer VH1 deadpool Extras Legendary Certified Fresh BET Awards Spring TV transformers Emmys discovery halloween politics Song of Ice and Fire 99% TV james bond Emmy Nominations kids criterion Bravo cancelled TV series television mission: impossible Teen 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Television Critics Association TV Land Acorn TV Apple TV+ Mystery Stephen King animated popular SDCC WarnerMedia BBC America series Comedy Action dc APB LGBT A24 sag awards a nightmare on elm street Spectrum Originals Trophy Talk cops directors Awards Tour PBS 007 Fantasy french GIFs Lifetime Christmas movies rt archives Quiz Hulu TCA 2017 Women's History Month godzilla laika docuseries Starz FX on Hulu Rock cancelled TV shows Paramount Network documentaries nbcuniversal Chernobyl blockbuster President ViacomCBS halloween tv Epix Mary Tyler Moore cats Turner Sneak Peek obituary game show VOD OneApp sequel Disney Best and Worst Countdown movie psychological thriller justice league political drama IFC latino First Reviews biography ITV boxing ABC versus LGBTQ new star wars movies Pop CW Seed spider-man Marvel Studios jamie lee curtis Hallmark Christmas movies golden globes Sci-Fi science fiction Rom-Com golden globe awards Paramount Plus Food Network Academy Awards superman richard e. Grant Shudder Film Festival Lionsgate 45 CBS festivals Sundance TV BBC One Apple FOX DC streaming service CBS All Access worst movies Shondaland Captain marvel dragons travel Avengers Disney Plus 2020 Holiday ESPN Sundance 24 frames tv talk quibi Winners Superheroe all-time Crackle toy story saw Valentine's Day Pixar spy thriller 2015 Masterpiece Cartoon Network sequels book screen actors guild joker blockbusters Mudbound Election critics Vudu children's TV dark dceu Christmas Hallmark spanish composers Showtime Tomatazos Superheroes Ellie Kemper ghosts First Look Hear Us Out IFC Films Amazon Studios rotten heist movie Adult Swim comedies stop motion comiccon Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt mockumentary Alien revenge 2016 Comics on TV nature kong Grammys 2019 comic king kong slashers Marvel Television spinoff 4/20 batman DC Universe Universal franchise renewed TV shows Star Wars Amazon Prime Video thriller A&E video on demand Writers Guild of America Endgame Discovery Channel blaxploitation facebook nfl The Walking Dead New York Comic Con Horror Musical christmas movies twilight space Red Carpet vampires cults Television Academy Trivia Musicals CNN El Rey 71st Emmy Awards USA Network based on movie talk show MSNBC fast and furious venice witnail sitcom dramedy streaming comic books Drama Disney+ Disney Plus Photos harry potter Baby Yoda game of thrones Music Arrowverse elevated horror YouTube Premium adventure E! football PlayStation Pet Sematary Kids & Family aliens telelvision TV One remakes cars adaptation theme song Year in Review Cosplay Syfy Polls and Games Tubi Travel Channel south america Character Guide NYCC The Arrangement unscripted dogs strong female leads VICE Esquire Binge Guide Fall TV canceled chucky Thanksgiving Set visit anthology GLAAD monster movies cancelled TCA Awards Calendar crime drama Trailer Nominations Broadway Family best psycho anime Nat Geo Holidays Marvel Turner Classic Movies miniseries toronto American Society of Cinematographers Classic Film Rocky book adaptation Podcast what to watch MCU archives GoT Amazon Ghostbusters TLC Pop TV Film See It Skip It RT21 BBC BET ratings police drama green book die hard TNT Winter TV HBO Go boxoffice scorecard