Back in '97, something terrible happened to the superhero movie, and it's name was 'Batman & Robin'. Still considered one of the worst movies of all time, let alone superhero movies, it pretty much killed any further 'Batman' films, and most studios seemed to think the superhero movie couldn't quite be done to full advantage quite yet. So the question was, what now? The answer was to introduce a hero that people may have been familiar with, but they could easily do their own thing with. On top of that, give it an R-rating, because you can get away with more of a dark take on things that way. The final product was 'Blade', and at the time, it blew us all away.
Being that it was released in '98, and R-rated, I didn't manage to catch it in theaters, having just turned 16. This was also back when the theater actually cracked down on underage people who sneaked their way in to R-rating. Nowadays, I'm never surprised to see a group of 5-year-olds wandering in. But upon renting it once it came out, I remember loving it, and wishing I had gotten the chance to see it on the big screen. It was dark, action packed, Blade was a badass, and I even considered the special effects good for the time. That said, they are now so painfully dated, it looks cartoonish, but the rest of what I enjoy about it is certainly still there.
The film starts with a very brief backstory in which a woman, freshly bitten by a vampire, gives birth to Blade. 30 years later, Blade is known as the "Day Walker", as somehow when the infection carried over to him as a baby, he managed to absorb all of a vampire's strength with none of the weaknesses. However, the blood thirst was one thing that he managed to inherit, which he staves off, using a consistent injection of special syrum.
Blade's villain in this is a young, turned vampire (in other words, not pure-blood) named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) who has big plans for the vampire world, wishing for them to take it over, and essentially wiping out all humans. I like to refer to this as "Magneto Style". Anyway, it's the basic story of the race between hero, who wants to prevent, and villain, who wants to destroy. It's not entirely a new concept.
For it's time, 'Blade' was considered something very special, and is often claimed to be the spark of the new superhero movie. For the most part, people seem to give that title to 'X-Men'. Personally, I tend to side with this one a bit more as the "spark", where 'X-Men' more just got the ball rolling. Of course, 'X-Men' also wasn't R-rated, so there were still some limitations with this and a younger audience.
Watching it now, there's a lot more one can nitpick about, not the least of which being the laughable CG effects. I'd even say they were actually pretty bad for the time, but that's CG in the late 90s for you - not quite developed to perfection yet. The villain, Deacon Frost also comes across as a little weak. I remembered him being a total badass the first few times I watched this, but nowadays I guess I just see the douchebag shining through a bit more. Other ideas they have here are silly, like the vampires using sunscreen to get around in the sunlight without dying. But I mean, the sun is as strong as it is, so that's just confusing. It's just not quite as great as I remembered it, and by today's standards, there's cheesiness spilling out of it's seriousness.
That said, it's still a fun movie, and it marks an R-rated superhero movie that came along, and succeeded, way before 'Deadpool' did it's thing. 'Deadpool' wasn't really a first, it was just resurrecting an idea that studios seemed to forget about - likely because PG and PG-13 offers itself to a wider audience. But isn't it strange that they seemed to have something special here, and never even made a string of R-rated superhero movies? It's not perfect by any means, but it's kind of a gem for it's era.
Leave a Reply.