In the wake of Avengers: Infinity War I thought I’d take a look back where Marvel movies started for me. For me it began in 1998 with the release of Blade. A complete contrast to the Disney style Marvel films we see today but a long-time favourite of mine. From the dry humour to over the top violence, it checked all the boxes for me as a kid.
The main contrast between the two styles used by the studios is with the humour. Where Disney crams as many jokes in, so the audience can’t feel anything, Blade features dry humour. It also allows for the sad moments to feel sad. They accomplish this by replacing a space for a joke with Blade being a badass instead. This works tremendously in the film’s favour considering the setting for the hero. Equipped with a heavy arsenal and one-liners Blade is able to tackle all the hurdles in his way.
Right off the bat, the audience is witness to the type of film this will be. Blade’s opening scene takes place in a vampire nightclub where the audience witnesses his repertoire of slaughter.
What is possibly one of the strongest openings to a superhero film, Blade is able to show the type of world and hero the audience is dealing with. From guns to close-combat, Blade can do it all and setting up the different levels of bad guys to come.
The general story for the film is still an interesting one. Blade is half-human, half-vampire and seeks to eradicate vampires from existence whilst combatting the needs of a vampire; primarily thirst.
He pursues this crusade by utilizing a variety of weapons from his father-figure, Whistler. In his conquests, Blade discovers the antagonist, Deacon, is attempting to release the Blood God and must be stopped at all cost. While this is a fairly similar trope of the bad guy trying to end the world, it’s the execution and reason that are different. It makes sense for vampires to desire ruling over humans, as people do over their own food like cows.
The finale of Blade is an over the top wet dream for action fans. With diverse forms of combat getting kicked off with a trademark superhero entrance and an energetic score blending in creates a wonderfully gory atmosphere.
Considering the very basic story of Blade, it was still able to feature some compelling themes. Love, loss, surrogacy and courage are heavily featured even if they don’t shove it in your face unlike traditional Disney MCU iterations of heroes. Whether this is done through tropes, like wise old man/ father figure, or through subtle actions it works surprisingly well.
One of the things overlooked about Blade in particular is the complete lack of an origin story. The film drops you in a world where Blade is already established which allowed one of the strongest openings scenes in a superhero film seen yet.
There are moments of flashbacks and exposition throughout the film to fill in the blanks to compensate for this. However, it was refreshing not have to spend an entire act on discovering who the main character is. Certainly a style the MCU should have adopted.
The film successfully introduces an unusual amount of lore considering its run time and how packed of action it is. The audience is shown, in detail, the outer and inner circles of vampire culture.
Blade uses some of the traditional myths in vampire hunting whilst denying others. This was a great and thought out step. Silver works, meaning we can see a range of weapons exploit this material to efficient ends. This adds thrilling mashups between ranged and close-quartered combat with a twist. Crosses on the other hand are swiftly put down to “urban legend” and for good measure too. Seeing the hero clad in crucifixes would either be too preachy, for this type of film, or look ridiculous.
Touching on fashion, Blade is very obviously made towards the end of the 90’s as shown through a couple of fashion trends. The trench coat; to be made more popular by The Matrix the year after, allowing for a generation of angsty teenage boys pretending it gave them depth.
Another iconic addition to the characters are the sunglasses, frequently worn inside, at night. I don’t know why this was a thing as it seems more inconvenient than anything, but it allows for some dramatic dialogue exchanges when they’re being taken off.
The Hero We Need
One of the curious features within the film is how, in essence, a black man like this is never confronted by civilians. Blade dons a bulletproof vest, sword and guns on display out in the open whilst simultaneously smashing a cop’s face into a car nobody seems to care. This is particularly strange as it’s set in an American city and we know the racial tensions there.
People seem to have forgotten that before the MCU, this film had a black lead and a black female sidekick. And she accomplishes a lot. She starts off as a damsel in distress and grows to be a person who creates a cure and is able to take care of herself, brilliant development on a simple scale. Earlier this year people were heralding Black Panther as this iconic masterpiece of diversity whilst simultaneously overlooking this film.
I feel that if Blade was made today there’d have to be a whole social commentary on this but I’m glad in this feature there isn’t. They don’t need to make room for bloated exposition about the political climate. Just straight to business within the parameters of the story.
I enjoyed revisiting Blade and found it particularly interesting to see where the “modern” superhero started coming out. Blade is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and accomplishes a lot without shoving it in your face. It’s a shame that more lessons weren’t learned from this film and applied to today’s MCU. Overall Blade will always have a place in my heart for the weird ride it is and is the hero we need now.