A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 488 – Blade

Blade – July 1st, 2011

Working in a library, I get a lot of people who look to me for book recommendations (and movie recommendations) but on the flip side I also end up having a lot of people try to recommend things to me. Sometimes this works out well, like with the 13 year old girl who’s pretty much got exactly the same taste in fiction that I do and whom I’ve found to be a very astute and critical reader. Sometimes it’s not so great, largely because most people who make recommendations to me aren’t really concerned with personal taste and preferences. And they’re hard to get rid of. Say you read/watched it just to get them to stop and they’ll want to talk about it. Say you will read/watch it and they’ll ask if you have yet every time they see you. Say it’s not your thing/you don’t have time/etc. and prepare for battle. So when people try to recommend Twilight to me, I tell them I prefer my vampires to be more like this. That tends to bring an end to any attempt to get me to dish about how dreamy Edward Cullen is.

If you’re looking for a vampire romance with pale and angst-ridden heroes whom the heroine can sigh over? You are watching the wrong movie. The hero has angst, to be sure, but he doesn’t sparkle and he doesn’t brood (much) and the heroine spends more time Doing Science than she spends sighing. Oh, and there are action scenes with guns, swords, silver spikes and incendiary devices. And a UV lamp for extra burny fun. There’s blood too, in case you forgot at some point what the movie’s villains (and hero) are. There’s a lot of blood. Like, a ton of it. Okay, so most of it is in the opening scene, but there’s still a lot even after that.

Speaking of the opening scene, this movie has what is, in my opinion, one of the best openings ever. And after seeing almost 500 movies in the past almost 500 days? I think I can say that with some authority. It is perfectly crafted to let you know who the bad guys are, who the good guy is, what the bad guys are like, what the good guy is like and what you’re in for in the next two hours. We start with Traci Lords, who has a character name but it doesn’t matter since it’s never mentioned and she’s only in the movie for about 10 minutes. She has a fast car and a douchey guy and she brings him to a club in a meat packing plant. You might think you know where this is going and you might be half right. Because the aim is definitely to feed on the douchey guy but he ends up unscathed. Scared witless, but unscathed. Anyhow, in the club they dance and she blows him off and then the sprinklers turn on and start spraying blood everywhere. Then our hero enters and proceeds to kill the vast majority of vampires present with clean and ruthless efficiency before cornering one particular vampire and pinning him to the wall, then setting him on fire. The whole scene’s got some pounding music going on and fast visuals with well choreographed action. It’s the best thing in the movie and now it’s over.

That’s not to say there’s nothing else good in the movie. It’s just that after that opening? Nothing can compare in terms of sheer cool factor. The movie has a bunch of great action scenes and Blade gets to be a total bad-ass for the vast majority of it. But that one scene. Yeah. It’s perfect. But the movie must go on or it would merely be a music video. So on we go to the plot. Blade is our main character, played by Wesley Snipes. And part of me will now always associate him with Noxeema Jones from To Wong Foo, but this is a very different character. Blade is known as the Daywalker, because while he was born as a vampire after his mother was bitten while pregnant, he takes a serum that suppresses his vampiric traits. So he doesn’t drink blood or hunger for it and he can go out in the day (hence the nickname) and he still gets to be super strong and super fast and all. Blade also has a really neat super power that lets him stand in the direct path of spattering blood and not get a drop on him. I don’t think this is related to his vampire status. I think it’s just that he’s such a bad-ass that blood spatter is afraid of him. There are at least two instances where he’s standing in the direct path and his matte black gear is spotless.

Anyhow, Blade and his powers of cleanliness and badassery are working on exterminating all the regular vampires. And according to this movie there are a ton of them and they dabble in just about everything. There are a number of different clans and they have their own businesses and night clubs and whatnot and he goes around cleaning them out. Told you: cleanliness and badassery. He’s got a human named Whistler who helps him out by making him new gear and weapons and eventually he gains a woman named Karen as another assistant after she gets bitten by a vampire in a hospital and he takes her to his hideout to try and stop her from becoming a vampire. Turns out Karen is pretty awesome both because she quickly learns how to handle herself in dangerous situations (she gets captured a couple of times, but always when there are a bunch of vampires to overpower her) and because she’s given more to do than pine for Blade. Because see, a romantic plot for Blade just isn’t going to happen. He isn’t romance material. So Karen feels some emotional pull towards him, but ends up directing it towards scientific research. Because she’s a hematologist. Lucky Blade, huh?

Karen and Blade head out to learn about what the vampires are planning. Obviously, something is up. Blade questions some people, like vampire Quinn (played by Donal Logue, who has one of the strangest and most varied set of roles on his resume I can think of aside from Michael Sheen) and a wannabe vampire who’s pledged himself to vampire Deacon Frost in hopes of being turned one day. He doesn’t get turned, by the way. I’d imagine being a vampire’s indentured servant is really a lottery with slim chances. Deacon, played by Stephen Dorff, is a young vampire who was turned from human, not born a vampire like the rest of the big high council. He’s kind of bitter about it and wants to be one of the big-wigs, so he’s researched some old vampire lore and learned about a ceremony that will turn him into a blood god called La Magra. The ceremony involves getting twelve pureblooded vampires together with a daywalker and using a combination of their blood in the right place. And the rest of the movie goes as you might expect.

There are some twists here and there. Some turns that aren’t necessarily expected. But for the most part this movie isn’t trying to serve up anything shocking. It’s trying to be cool and explosive and feature lots of fight scenes where vampires get staked and disintegrate. Frost and his crew have cool parties and Blade and his crew have cool weapons and the special effects aren’t perfect but they work just fine and there’s Action Hematology and enough humor to be fun without being goofy. And there’s plenty of blood and little to no romance, so it’s pretty much got exactly what I want out of a modern vampire movie.

July 1, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Blade

July 1, 2011

Blade

We own quite a few comic book movies, and quite a few vampire movies, but this film and its sequels are the only ones that qualify as both. In truth, though, it’s not really much based on the comic book from what I’ve been able to gather. I haven’t read the books but it looks like Blade was a king of cheesy seventies series that tried to capitalize on the blacksploitation craze of the time. This movie is more of a cool modern take on vampires. Influenced more by Whitewolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade series of games than anything else, or so it seemed to me.

What we have here is your basic martial arts, explosion filled vampire action movie. Right from the beginning it sets the tone very well, showing us that the vampires of this movie are not all old fogies in capes – they’re young (in appearance) social folks that like to party as much as they like to murder. We’re introduced to the vampires in an underground rave at a secret vampire club called bloodbath. It is called this because as the vampires dance about to the music they are sprayed with blood from overhead sprinklers. They’re all about hedonistic pleasure, thrashing about in the blood and toying with a snack that one of them brought along, right up until a single badass in a spotless black leather trench-coat comes along and starts to slaughter them. That would be Blade.

Blade, the daywalker, was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped while she was in the process of being turned into a vampire. As a result he has the recuperative powers of a vampire and the super strength, and the thirst for blood (which he barely contains) but he is not affected by sunlight and he ages like a normal human. We discover all this when he rescues a young lab tech from a hospital after she is attacked by a vampire he is hunting. He brings Karen back to his Blade-Lair where she meets his pal Whistler and sees all his cool toys.

It’s a good thing that we have Karen here because she’s a great all-purpose tool for the movie. She can ask all kinds of questions, which helps because there is a LOT of exposition to be laid out here regarding the vampires, their social structure, their weaknesses (crosses and holy water do nothing but silver can kill them – which I thought was werewolves) and Blade’s lifelong mission to hunt them down and kill them. She’s also conveniently a herpetologist specialising in blood-born diseases and therefore can provide not just some science lingo to handwave the existence of vampires in a fairly realistic modern world setting but also provide new weapons for Blade and a potential cure to his vampyrism. Furthermore, although she’s not really a romantic interest for Blade, she’s not too hard on the eyes and she eventually gets around to kicking a fair amount of ass in her own right during the final showdown.

Blade’s nemesis in this movie is an upstart vampire called Deacon Frost who is scheming to take over control of the vampire world from the elder council who currently rule. He’s also uncovered some long lost secret ritual which will help him in this goal – and of course the only thing standing in his way is Blade, whose blood also happens to be a key ingredient in Frost’s ritual.

I was kind of shocked to discover, when we started to catalogue our movies at the start of this project, that we didn’t own this DVD. It was odd. Odd because we owned the second and third Blade movies, so why not the first? Also odd because I really like this movie and used to own it at one time, so where did it go? This is a great DVD with a lot of fascinating extra material that’s well worth owning, so it surprised me to find that I didn’t have it any longer.

Really, the special features on the DVD are almost as interesting to me as the movie itself. For example: how many action movies have the cinematographer on the audio commentary track? Theo van de Sande is full of great tidbits about the techniques used to give this movie that slightly sharper than reality look which brings it so much to life. Things like using a strobe light synched to the camera aperture during the scene in the vampire night club to make the blood from the sprinklers look like sharp droplets instead of a stream. Things like using unique silver nitrate film for sharper contrasts and deeper shadows. It’s fascinating stuff.

Then there’s all the information on the movie’s action climax. The original ending (some parts of which are on the DVD) involved Frost becoming a “blood tornado” in an effects laden mess that left early test audiences disappointed because it didn’t deliver a good final clash between Frost and Blade. It just didn’t work. So the entire final confrontation was re-worked with a great swordfight between the two of them and Blade using a completely different method to defeat Frost. Which meant that the means he used to overcome Frost had to be layered into the rest of the film. It involved re-writes, re-shoots, new plot devices and new action scenes… all of which are so seamlessly incorporated into the final product that I’m not really sure in some cases what is new material and what was part of the earlier cut. Even more amazing, considering all the tweaking and re-working that had to be done on the movie, is that the film actually works very well as a whole.

The acting is perfect for this genre of action film. Wesley Snipes makes a great Blade with all his sneering and his martial arts action flare. Khris Khristofferson is so memorable as Blade’s mentor and partner Whistler that the writers of the sequel had to find a way to undo his off-screen death so he could be in that movie too. Stephen Dorf is just the right as Frost, combining ambition with and egotistical swagger. I know that one of Amanda’s favorite parts of the whole movie is Donal Logue as Quinn, Frost’s oft-dismembered right-hand man. And there’s N’Bushe Wright as Karen, who does an admirable job of moving the plot along.

Why and how did I let this movie escape from my collection? I have no idea, and I’m glad we have this movie project as an excuse to re-purchase it so that I own it once more. This is a DVD well worth having in my opinion.

July 1, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment