'Blade': THR's 1998 Review

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1998's 'Blade'
The vampire movie gets yet another reworking in New Line's excessively gory and unpleasant 'Blade.'

On Aug. 21, 1998, New Line unveiled Wesley Snipes' R-rated Marvel adaptation Blade in theaters, where it would go on to be a late summer hit and gross $131 million globally. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

Put a stake in this genre already. The vampire movie gets yet another reworking in New Line's excessively gory and unpleasant Blade starring Wesley Snipes as a half-breed immortal with big guns and muscles who is determined to rid the world of enterprising bloodsuckers.

Based on characters from Marvel comic books, Blade may slash its way to a respectable opening weekend at the box office, but there's nothing noteworthy about this cinematic killfest. Crossover appeal is unlikely from either side of the tracks — mainstream audiences will stay away and vamp fans of all colors will be wary.

And they should be. Credited to screenwriter David S. Goyer, the scenario is packed with new angles on the pointy-toothed ones — from serums to sunblock — but at its center is a big void. Snipes grimaces a lot as his one-note character goes through hell. He's joined by the viewer having to suffer through an overwrought slaughter that drags on for an ungodly two hours.

The film begins with a literal bloodbath as partygoers at a rave club housed in an abattoir are sprinkled with blood in preparation for a communal massacre. Bursting in to ruin the ferocious gang's fun is Blade (Snipes), an avenging ally of us normal folk, though his mother died of a bite in the neck as she gave birth to him.

Half-man/half-monster, Blade the "daywalker" can leap off tall buildings and has other supernatural attributes, but thanks to a daily dietary supplement, he doesn't crave the red stuff. His ally is fatherly Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), a human whose family was killed by the creeps.

When a burned-to-a-crisp corpse comes to life in a hospital and attacks nurse Karen (N'Bushe Wright), Blade's usual hard-line approach softens and he whisks her away to safety. Although Whistler suspects it's too late to stop her changing, the pair keep her around and she eventually joins the struggle.

Meanwhile, upstart neck-muncher Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) is shaking up the centuries-old vamp society with his group guzzling parties like the opening sequence. When aristocratic Dragonetti (Udo Kier) — how exactly can one be born a vampire? — opposes his power play, Frost rises to the occasion and dispatches the older gent with a trip to the seashore at dawn.

The evil ones are everywhere, according to this movie, with many human allies that have convenient tattoos. Frost's master plan is to harvest some of Blade's precious juices to awaken the "Blood God" and exterminate the human race. The final showdown takes place in a temple erected ages ago for just such a purpose, but one has no interest in the outcome.

Other nasty highlights include a 1,000-pound androgynous vamp archivist who is fried with garlic sauce and the climactic confrontation between Blade and his mother, who lived on as an undead one. The violence is constant and repulsive, from relatively tame examples like Blade's hand-shredding trick sword hilt to Whistler's brutal demise.

Production-wise, the film lives up to this gem in the press notes from set wrangler Kirk M. Petruccelli: "Red is an extremely important color in the film." Sticking their necks out with gruesome success are special effects makeup artist Greg Cannom and visual effects supervisor Chuck Comisky. Needless to say, the concepts of subtlety and restraint are not familiar to sophomore director Stephen Norrington. — David Hunter, originally published Aug. 20, 1998.