This review for the 'Blade Trilogy' was made possible by our readers voting in the first ever "Review Line" thread in the High-Def Digest forums. Each month, an assortment of titles will be put to the vote, for our readers to say what they'd like to see most! Be sure to check the forums for the monthly poll to voice your opinion on what you want to see next!!!
Marvel Comics properties didn't exactly burn up the charts in the old days. While DC had their share of hits, particularly with their two largest franchises (Superman and Batman), Marvel's assorted heroes and villains were in short supply, and when filmed, were shown little respect. 'Captain America' and 'The Fantastic Four' went direct-to-video and unreleased (respectively), and the Dolph Lundgren 'The Punisher' was punishment (and didn't even feature the famous skull shirt!). The best film made from the massive stable of heroes? 'Howard the Duck.' While that film has always held a place in my heart, it seems the vast majority would rather watch an eighteen hour cut of 'Batman and Robin' while being tattooed with Batman insignia and product placement, instead. 1996's 'Generation X' may be utterly forgotten, but the tale of young mutants certainly was a step forward...at least more so than the David Hasselhoff starred 'Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.'
Marvel got its first big break in 1998, with one of the lesser properties in their illustrious history, Blade. Debuting in The Tomb of Dracula #10, in 1973, the character was never a hot or popular commodity, as he completely disappeared from the face of Marvel for over sixteen years, until the rebooted 'Ghost Rider' brought back the interest in occult characters. Before the movie was released, Blade had only received ten total comic books with his name in the title...a mere fraction of the Marvel heavy hitters that had existed continuously since the early 1960's.
'Blade went on to be Marvel's first real success, a full two years before their comic book adaptation craze started, with 'X-Men' opening the floodgates, as it were. There was even a Blade sequel before 'Spider-Man' crashed the party, breaking every comic book movie record. But now we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's flash twelve years back, to a time when Marvel comics were best kept in print, and DC ruled theaters, though their grip was slipping...
'Blade' - (3/5) "Sooner or later, the thirst always wins..."
You know, forget pimps, because it's hard out here for a vampire slayer, particularly a self-loathing one like Blade (Wesley Snipes). He's a vampire himself, in a way, after his mother was bitten by one before going into labor and dying. He's a half-breed of sorts, with all of the vampire's strengths, but none of their weaknesses. He can walk outside in the daylight, but he has to keep the vampirism in his body in check, otherwise the bloodlust can consume and disable him.
The world seems run by vampires, as their treaties, power, and influence have made the world a dangerous place. They own the police, and half of downtown New York. With Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) making waves in the vampire community, with his rebellious views and disobedience to the accepted rules, vampire activity has spiked. An ancient vampire prophecy tells of a Blood God, a vampire so powerful he'll convert the entire world. It's up to Blade, his partner Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), and Karen (N'Bushe Wright), a doctor who was bitten by a vampire, and is slowly turning, to save the day, and the world. Load up on all the silver stakes and garlic mace you can carry!
There's a faux motivational poster making its rounds on the internet that says everything there needs to be said about 'Blade,' and its vampire film brethren, showing Snipes' Blade being the way 'Twilgiht' really should have ended. Edward Cullen? You lucky that the Man isn't around. You'd be disintegrated faster than you could bite your lip and sparkle.
'Blade' is hardly an original film, or an innovative one (save for the use of bloodbanks as a vampiric necessity, a cool idea (which may have been done before) that fits in my line of thinking, as I find the whole "bleeding yourself out" thing to be really, really gross). It's a bit of a generic action film, with the Daywalker seemingly replacing Van Helsing in the classic tale, but damn is this one fun guilty pleasure, for a number of reasons. It can be argued that 'Blade' opened the door for the later, and greater, comic book movies that have owned theaters ever since, and while the entire theatrical run of 'Blade' sounds like an opening day for a 'Spider-Man' film, it was more than impressive for its time and place. We're talking about a hero who was more of a background character in comics. A supporting role. But, much like Luke Cage and Iron Fist, two other obscure Marvel heroes who have been rumored to receive film adaptations in the very near future, fame doesn't matter. With a small budget, financial success is damn near guaranteed.
'Blade' follows a basic story structure, and is so paint-by-numbers that it really doesn't require much thinking. You get your introduction to the character, and the theme of the movie, in the opening, showing how vampires operate in modern times, and how one man can take down an entire army of them, and evade police at the same time. You then meet the supporting characters, and the villain, and slowly they piece themselves into the main plot. Conflict is introduced, clues are followed, tension and drama is introduced by way of attacking Blade's cohorts, all leading to one final battle between evil and not-so-evil. But the beauty of 'Blade' is that it doesn't matter how predictable or cliche the story is, as it's easy to just enjoy the film for what it is: mindless slaughter, mixed with internal anguish and guilt, which will be used against the character in the climax.
There are no hokey comic conventions here. Sure, Frost's rise to power in the vampire ranks is silly, and his legion of minions is a tad too convenient, and sure, Blade pieces the puzzle together a bit too slowly, leading to a last second confrontation, but we don't get massive battles that expose the world to the hidden fight. There are no reveals, or news coverage of strange occurrences. There aren't even any sides being changed mid-film.
Vampire lore is treated somewhat respectfully, too, as 'Blade' doesn't reinvent the wheel, have douche vampires playing baseball, or survivng sunlight (though the skin cream is a tad ridiculous). Mythology of the characters is dissected, as are their strengths and weaknesses compared to classic beliefs. But, sadly, the rules 'Blade' sets in place aren't exactly held up. They say crosses do no harm, but silver and garlic do, yet the main vampire killer in this film is an anticoagulant. The climax to the film has background (read: fodder) vampires distintegrate from punches. Punches. Not from a hand wrapped in silver barb wire, or coated in garlic. Just kung fu punches and kicks from 'Blade.' It's kind of a buzzkill, really, as it ruins the mystique and power of the creatures.
'Blade' may not be the best comic movie out there, but one could not ask for a better film concerning a non-integral Marvel character. Honestly, one could leave the film, not knowing it was a comic movie, and be shocked to find out the real history of Blade. That's part of the charm. With a quick and understandable backstory and introduction, lots of action, and an obvious villain character to root against, 'Blade' doesn't redefine the wheel, but it does take us along for the ride.
'Blade II' - (4/5)
The enemy of my enemy is my friend/ally. An over-used theme in the world of cinema and theatrics, to be sure, and the focus of the second film in the 'Blade' series. Blade may be part vampire, but he doesn't like it all that much, and he sure as shit isn't all too fond of vampires in general. They have his companion Whistler, have converted him, and have been torturing him for two years. Seemingly as soon as Whistler is back in Blade's arms, and converted yet again, conflict will arise.
The Reapers. The Bloodpack. Blade. It's like a Ménage à trois of hatred and distrust. The vampiric Bloodpack, a group of trained hunters who are vampires, don't much trust vampire hunter Blade, yet have been forced to form an alliance with their mortal enemy, due to a new threat: mutated vampires who feed on both humans and vampires, alike. A group of equal opportunity bloodsuckers, led by Nomak (Luke Goss). With tensions at a high, distrust through the roof, and danger around every turn, it's up to Blade to work with the ally he doesn't trust, and to borrow yet another cliched term, "keep his friends close, and his enemies closer."
Stephen Norrington, the director of the first film, is nowhere to be found in this sequel, as Guillermo del Toro takes the reins of the 'Blade' series to heights that, in my opinion, would never be reached again. Yes, a rarity in film, a sequel outdoing its original, not just in box office take. The new settings, mood and atmosphere, along with new characters that fit better into the story that doesn't rely on introducing characters just meld perfectly, fixing some of the gaps and shortcomings in the first film to create a more believable, entertaining affair, with more of the stuff fans loved the first time around for good measure!
It is somewhat natural, these days, to have vampire movies incorporate other monsters. When a single species of creatures, or even one creature period, used to be enough to sell a movie, they've been done so often that it seems studios want the "bigger, better" effect by combining elements, throwing their creations to the wolves, as it were, and 'Blade II' is one such beast, where vampires take on a sub-species of their own kind, hybrids, of a sort, that have mouths more akin to the Predator than anything. Thankfully, amazingly, this is one combination that doesn't include werewolves, but uses the typecast of Blade himself: a variation, an anomaly in the structure of vampires. An equal adversary, on the opposite end of the spectrum, much like Agent Smith is to Neo.
'Blade II' trumps the original in many ways. First, the storytelling. Yes, I do think the very structured, somewhat routine route that 'Blade' took made it enjoyable, but the wild, untamed, borderline uncontrollable pace and structure found in 'Blade II' are a great strength. There is still a series of acts, but they blend, and the role of aggressor changes constantly in the film, between who really acts in control: Reapers, vampires, or vampire hunters. There's more personality shown, in Blade, and in villains, who want more than just to be some god-like character this time around. Fight scenes are more personal, and are honestly more brutal. There are no punches that lead to vampire disintegration, and Reapers, much like zombies, find themselves to be very difficult to kill, impossible to contain, and a hidden threat, of sorts, infecting quietly at times.
It also helps that we get an entire group of villains who are more than just cliche, in the Bloodpack, which includes Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman. Reapers are one dimensional beings, that only develop in the final ten or so minutes of the film, but they create a nice, hostile environment for the film to take place in, and their habitats create a nasty, dark, murky, claustrophobic effect, perfect for the characters involved, removing the possibility for escape.
'Blade II' isn't perfect, by any means, though, and the fight scenes are an example of that. CG Blade. That really says all that needs to be said, as computer effects stand out like sore thumbs in fight scenes, as characters jump between reality and computer generation far too much for my tastes, performing some silly and outright ridiculous moves along the way. What's worse, though, is logic. Each member of the Bloodpack has his own unique weapons, from swords, to guns, or even giant hammers. But when their weapons prove innefective on Reapers, what do they do? They enter tighter enclosures, with the same failing instruments, despite already finding out the one weapon that works on the creatures...one that affects them, as well. It's just silly. Why they didn't load up on flashlights, and just be really, really careful with them, is beyond me. Perhaps it isn't as entertaining seeing laser tag as it is seeing hack and slash action, but it is outright stupid and unbelievable that a group of trained hunters refuse to listen to rationale and insist on their tried, true, and failed weapons of choice.
'Blade II' perfected the formula as much as it could be done, as this bloody film is loaded with twists and turns, some that can be seen a mile away, others that can be seen as a revelation. A smarter script, a director with superior vision (one only need look at the resumes on that one...), better performances, and more complex fight sequences create a sequel superior to the original in just about every way.
'Blade Trinity' - (1.5/5)
"In the movies, Dracula wears a cape, and some old English guy always manages to save the day at the last minute with crosses and holy water. But everybody knows the movies are full of shit. The truth is, it started with Blade, and it ended with him. The rest of us were just along for the ride."
'Blade Trinity,' if this has been a ride, you're like the rides at Six Flags that randomly decapitate employees who wander where they shouldn't go. This makes sense, though, as you're a film that shouldn't have been given a go. I suppose the fact that your older brothers made pretty good bank made you an eventuality more than a probability, but there is no excusing how thoroughly you ruin the mystique. You may as well have made "The Force" a bunch of bacteria.
Forgive the puns in advance. It seems Blade (Snipes) has 'Drop Zoned' himself into a big world of trouble, when Danica Talos (Parker Posey) proves she's not the 'Best in Show,' but she sure might be the smartest, framing Blade into killing a human disguised as a vampire, and capturing it all on tape. The FBI (don't forget, the vampires control the police, as was pointed out in the first film) raid Blade's safehouse, and end up killing his compatriot, Whistler. Captured by his enemies, Blade is rescued by the Nightstalkers, who include Whistler's bastard daughter Abigail (Jessica Biel) and the big mouthed Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds), who have been 'Waiting...' to get a warrior the caliber of Blade in their ranks.
The vampires have unearthed an ancient evil. Literally. Ancient. Evil. The OV himself, the original vampire, Dracula (Dominic Purcell), or Drake, as he now likes to be called. He's had a few thousand years to think up that clever name. Well, after being 'Prison Breaked,' in a sense, Dracula learns of the new vampire hunter, and a fight to the death is in the cards.
When I first saw 'Blade Trinity' so many years ago, I wanted to throw things through my television. I just flat out loathed it. But then, a funny thing happened...well, more tragic than funny. I had the "fortune" of seeing the third 'X-Men' film, the third reboot of 'The Punisher,' and the third 'Spider-Man' film. For all of its shortcomings, 'Blade' part three was nowhere near as awful as the other Marvel third installments. In this unholy trinity, the final 'Blade' outing looked good. Now that's scarier than any vampire. That doesn't mean I think it's some legendary, awesome, or even enjoyable film now, mind you, but I went in with nothing but horrible memories, and I left wondering if I should give other films I hated so long ago another chance.
Let's just get this out of the way: the script is horribly cliche. There's nothing original here. There's the occasional fun moment (Dracula walking into a store that sells nothing but vampire novelties, with his likeness cartoonized and bastardized to the point that it drives him to murder), but for the most part, this is filmmaking going through the motions. There are no new neat camera actions, no amazing sets, and most certainly no invigorating action sequences...the film blows that load early, as the opening fight/car chase, with the finale that sets the entire story in motion is the high point.
The acting is also legendary in its ineptitude. Snipes goes through the motions, and is about as human as the ashen remains of his vampiric victims. Kristofferson is painful in what little screentime he gets, and to boot, he looks like an elderly woman in drag. Purcell is not lead villain material, as he lacks a screen presence of any kind...not that he's ever had one, mind you. Reynolds plays the same old shtick, the smart aleck-y know-it-all jerkface, only this time, he gets beat up a bunch, too. It's hard to say he does a good job, when he plays the same role that he always had up to that point (Jennifer Aniston, take note). Biel had yet to truly break out, and considering how much of a dead fish she was here, it's amazing that even happened. Looks go miles, I suppose. The lowpoint, though, has to be good ol' Paul Levesque, WWE's Triple H, as he panders and broods like he's in front of a crowd, rather than in a real room with real people. The real high points were Posey, who is pretty consistent, honestly, and John Michael Higgins, in his brief role as a psychologist looking at Blade's mental well-being.
'Blade Trinity' has numerous other failings, so let's get straight to them! Characters announce their intentions aloud, despite already performing them. Apparently, the screenwriters felt the audience would be too stupid to understand what's going on. The film devolves into a music video twice, with Drake walking around modern civilization after his little origin flashback, in a series of sequences that belong nowhere near a professional film, and again with Biel practicing her archery, improving in a fashion that can only be found in a montage. Biel's only character development is found with the fact that she loves her tunes, as we constantly see her mucking around with her computer, iTunes, and her MP3 player. Like we give a rat's ass what bands a fictional character listens to... The plot device for the film, the Daystar virus being brewed up by the Nightstalkers, is about as lame as can be. We want to kill the grandfather, the originator of all vampirism, with something other than a classic weakness? How lame is that!?!? Vampire dogs are neat, but it was done earlier, and better, with zombie dogs in 'Resident Evil.'
My biggest complaint? The finale. Not to spoil too much for those who haven't seen this compilation of excess, but we get to see a vampire stronghold in the end. We had a similar finale in 'Blade II,' only that abode made sense, with lots of protective devices to keep sunlight away from the ghastly ghoulies. This time around? A freaking highrise looking building, covered with windows. Why would any creature make their headquarters in a building that could kill them for more than a minute a day, let alone over half a day, considering how long summer days can be?!??! It's about as illogical as Snipes' tax strategies.
The 'Blade' series is a fun ride, regardless of its low points, as the highs can be quite enjoyable, with two initial installments that can be argued either way as to which is superior. The third film may be a disappointment, but compared to the third films in the 'Batman,' 'Superman,' 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,' and 'Crow' franchises, let alone the previously mentioned Marvel properties, it isn't as disastrous as it could have been. Wesley Snipes has made a career out of some questionable film and personal decisions, but his involvement in the 'Blade' franchise has to be one of the wisest moves he ever made. No actor alive, in my opinion, at the time would have been a better fit for the character, even if Snipes isn't a perfect fit at times.
The Disc: Vital Stats
The 'Blade Trilogy' is not yet released in America, and is currently available through Alliance out of Canada. Each disc is Region A locked, housed on BD25s. There are no main menus for any of the titles included. Each and every film is available individually, as well, and occasionally can be found much cheaper collectively than the box set.
Every piece of artwork on this release is bi-lingual, including the spines, and the artwork on each title is reversible, to emphasize English or French. The spine of the box itself is predominantly English, with tiny French title blurbs beneath.
'Blade Trinity' is not the unrated cut, but is instead the theatrical version, which is a full nine minutes shorter than its counterpart.
There have been rumors about the American release of the 'Blade' films, but so far nothing have come to fruition. There currently are other releases of the 'Blade' films on Blu-ray, including Dutch imports that have the proper aspect ratios for all three films...uh oh...keep on reading.
'Blade' - (2/5)
The most loved title in the series by some (with 'Blade II' receiving its share of love), 'Blade' didn't deserve this. Alliance's pressing of the first part of the trilogy is in 1080p, but not in the OAR of 2.35:1. Rather, it's 1.78:1. To quote the man himself, "Motha-fucka, you outta your damn mind?!?!" Blade's quite the eloquent speaker...
The AVC MPEG-4 encode is a hit and miss affair, even if one ignores the alteration in the film's ratio. Reds are bright and nasty, in a good way, particularly in the bloodbath opening scenes, and blacks are often appropriate in their depth, but unfortunately, colors often are too damn bright, as levels seem to have been bumped up. Delineation is average at best, but the black on black (on black on black) layerings to Blade's attire are all clear and distinct, which is quite amazing, really. White levels are off, sometimes are too busy, and are pretty much ugly as a whole. There is a significant amount of noise, to the point that it almost belongs in the audio section of this review.
Contrast is all over the place, as is depth and detail. That said, there is only a tiny flick here and there of dirt or debris, as this is one clean looking pile of mediocre! Edge enhancement is present, while there is also a small bit of artifacting to be found every now and again. The dated special effects can be distracting, but that's no fault of the lukewarm, botched, butchered transfer...if anything, it's a good thing the transfer does show their age. Alliance provided fans a low blow on this release, causing many to have to seek out the Dutch import, as it is rumored to be superior. Considering how this Canadian release looks, that wouldn't take much.
'Blade II' - (3/5)
'Blade II' is perhaps blessed, in that it wasn't made for 2.35:1. The 1.78:1 ratio for this disc is slightly different than the 1.85:1 theatrical showing, but considering Warner Bros. does this to most of their releases, as well, it's hard to blow that much of a gasket. Wrong is wrong, but it isn't drastic, like before.
The video qualities in 'Blade II' are a step forwards from the original. Sure there's still some noise, but it has been greatly reduced. Artifacting remains, and can, at times, be worse, and the film is loaded with random murky shots, but much like 'The Relic,' or del Toro's 'Mimic,' the dark, grimy, nasty aesthetic is an aesthetic choice. Delineation is a bit troubled, and is more noticeable due to how dark the film is. Sadly, we don't get the layered effect on Blade's outfit anymore, as it doesn't differentiate itself in this one. Edges are cleaner, a plus, but skin tones often exhibit a yellow jaundiced kiss, a minus. Detail levels are strong when they want to be, particularly in the decaying, gothy sets, but all in all, this release looks average at best. It's not likely to ever look "5 star," but it still could have been better.
'Blade Trinity' - (3/5)
At first, 'Blade Trinity' had me ready and raring to rip Alliance a new one. The OAR for the film is 2.35, but the packaging stated 1.78:1, just like the first film in the trilogy, and we have read about how that one turned out. Thankfully (more like amazingly), the third film in the 'Blade' series is given its proper ratio.
It still doesn't look all that special.
Artifacting, though minor, remains an issue, while light ringing is viewable often. CG elements stand out like a sore thumb, despite the few years gap between films having a huge leap in effects technology (what few year span in recent years hasn't?!?!). The lighting for the film is beyond moody, as the opening gives every element a yellow, diseased looking tint, while other times blue, grey, and, naturally, black elements invade anything and everything in sight. Delineation is problematic, and given the overall murky/grimy feel of this film (though it is nowhere as bleak and cruddy by design as 'Blade II'), it's not a good combination.
That said, there is some solid detail to be found, as sets constantly look incredibly rich. There's nary a fuzzy moment in sight, and grain levels are utterly miniscule, and apparently untampered with. Pedestrian as it may be, 'Blade Trinity' could have looked a whole lot worse.
Each and every film in the 'Blade Trilogy' have the same technical specs and features, with each disc defaulting to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, with the lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, as well as the French Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs, being the only items in the menus for these releases.
'Blade' - (3/5)
'Blade' is hardly an old film, really, but it sure does sound like one at times. Yes, I did remember to switch to the lossless track when it began playing. It's just that even the lossless track isn't all that great here. This isn't a matter of the old "hiss and snap" effect as it is the fact that the audio sounds really, really flat at times. Dialogue lacks any pop, despite being clear, with the only hard to understand lines being the fault of the performances behind them. Localization effects aren't over the top, but they add a nice layer to the audio, perhaps to make up for the fact that gunfire lacks any movement, it just localizes and that's that. Movement is in effect vehicularly, though, even if it isn't really all that special. Bass is reserved, but it gets a nice little thump in the soundtrack. This entire mix just feels reserved, dampened, and weak, save for the door explosion, which is all sorts of bad ass. Just don't have high hopes going in to it, and you'll be happy.
'Blade II' - (4/5)
Now this is more like it. Where 'Blade' fell flat on its face, 'Blade II' picks up running at full force with an active mix that left me positively thrilled due to such a massive difference. Dialogue still stays front and center (save for some ambience/background noise), but the sheer increase in activity from all channels is spectacular. Noise finds itself localizing in rears, with nothing in the fronts at times, movement is cleaner, including the fact that bullets finally learned how to move through the room! Range is increased, though the high end still doesn't seem too viable. Bass levels are upped tenfold, as club scenes actually have a solid thump, while soundtrack and atmospheric bumps are rocking. It could have been more, and it could have been slightly better, but don't get me wrong: this is a pretty solid sound mix!
'Blade Trinity' - (4/5)
Where 'Blade II' improved in sound quality, 'Blade Trinity' keeps the standard set by the sequel. Dialogue is never drowned out, sadly. Directionality is solid, movement doesn't feel unnatural, bass levels get a nice boost in the score and soundtrack, and there are lots of nice little pops and cracks in the impacts in fight sequences. Dynamic range is superb as well, while volume levels adjust naturally, creating an enjoyable, though somewhat dated, mix that doesn't leave one wanting to constantly adjust the sound settings and/or volume. This isn't demo, but it's pretty damn good.
Each and every release in the 'Blade Trilogy' is barebones, with no features to speak of, whatsoever. The discs included are the exact same as the standalone versions, with the only discernible difference being price, and packaging. The three case wide slidebox included is quite attractive, though its insistence on using holographic backgrounds and deep blues instead of blacks is beyond confusing. It's also concerning that the box states this is a "Blu-ray Premium Series" release. What's so premium about it? An extra piece of cardboard that's all shiny like it were a Cullen?
'Blade' isn't the best Marvel franchise that has been adapted to the big screen. In fact, it may very well be one of the more obscure, secondary characters to ever get such a treatment. That said, 'Blade' opened the door for many of the comic book movies that have wowed us (think 'Spider-Man 2') or bored us to tears (like the 'Fantastic Four' films) ever since. The series has two films that are quite enjoyable, in different ways, and a third film that doesn't hold a candle to the others, but is still better than most other comic book third films.
Available exclusively in Canada as a box set (though also available in a few other countries in individual releases), the 'Blade Trilogy' is one of the biggest titles released to our neighbors up north, without even a confirmed date in its country of origin. The Blu-rays themselves have their high and low points, though, and with not one single extra to be found, it is hard to recommend this set as anything but a stopgap until the domestic versions finally bow. In that sense, this set is solely for the impatient fans only.