Viking Night: Blade
By Bruce Hall
April 14, 2016
I’d like to start with a joke.
Traci Lords and Lemmy from The Shield walk into a bar. The bartender is all, “What’ll you have?” Traci says, “Blood and murder!” The bartender turns on the sprinkler system, which sprays blood all over the dance floor. Before anyone knows what’s happening. Wesley Snipes shows up with a shotgun and a bunch of knives and murders everyone in the room except beloved character actor Donal Logue, who is left pinned to a wall, screaming and on fire, and poor Lemmy, covered with blood and probably a little embarrassed at missing a shot with Traci Lords. While all this is happening, Junkie XL is dropping mad beats in the background.
Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is how you start an action movie.
It’s also not lost on me that the fight scenes throughout Blade are wonderfully choreographed near masterpieces, somewhat reminiscent of what we’d see in The Matrix a year later. I don’t know for sure whether one inspired the other, but let’s just say that Blade, if nothing else, is a fantastically stylish film with a great sense of humor and a strong sense of economy. In fact, with the astonishing success of Deadpool this past February (February!), the time seems right to revisit one of its spiritual ancestors - another raunchy, R-rated superhero flick that also probably should have failed, but didn’t.
If you’re not in the know, the premise behind the story is that Blade (Wesley Snipes) was born half-human, half-vampire, on account of his mother having been bitten while she was pregnant with him. She died at birth, leaving her son with a whole lot of really cool superpowers, and a burning desire to rain vengeance on the bloodsucking freak who orphaned him. Blade boasts the same super strength and hyper aggressive dental work as other vampires, but unlike the full blooded variety, Blade can tolerate the sunlight. For years, he and his grizzled partner Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) have used these abilities - along with an endless assortment of guns, knives and gadgets - to battle the undead wherever they can be found.
The backdrop to all this will be suspiciously familiar to fans of the Underworld franchise. Vampires exist in the shadows as part of a secret society, complete with elaborately arcane rituals and bizarre codes of conduct. They also secretly run the world, having bartered an uneasy truce with humans, with one side not wanting to exterminate its food supply, and the other not wanting to...well...be exterminated. But now, an ambitious upstart named Frost (Stephen Dorff) wants to upset the order and enslave humanity under some kind of Soylent Green-esque undead apocalypse. And he’s betting on an ancient vampire prophecy to make it happen.
The only catch for Blade is that in order to keep himself from turning into a full vampire, he’s required to periodically take a special serum that allows him to control the change. I won’t spoil whether or not this ever becomes a critical plot point. And have you already guessed that Frost’s Prophecy somehow involves Blade? And that the two characters share a very special, very dangerous connection that will culminate with an epic fistfight at the climax of the film? Look, just about every beat in this story follows a pretty standard action movie template, and nothing happens onscreen that you won’t have guessed five minutes in advance. But this ultimately serves as a benefit - as I said earlier, Blade is a wonderfully economical experience, and every aspect of it gets converted into momentum. It just never stops being fun long enough for you to care that it makes no sense whatsoever.