..

BLADE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue
Director: Stephen Norrington
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 121 Minutes
Release Date: December 22, 1998

“There are worse things out tonight than vampires.”

“Like what?”

“Like ME.”

Film ***

Hardly has a movie version of a comic book embraced the very life and atmosphere as Blade. There is hardly a scene in the movie that doesn’t carry something astounding to look at, no matter if it’s visual effects or simply artful and at times frenetic camerawork. Released in the summer of 1998, many critics ranked Blade as the most ear-shattering, frenetically paced movie next to Armageddon, which was released at the same time. You get a sense of the movie’s feel right from the opening scene, which features some of the most outstanding combat moves and visual effects ever blended into a single action scene.

Highlighting the film is a terrific performance from Wesley Snipes, who is the perfect choice for the title character, who has a distinguishing look to him as well as a god-like presence, even to that of his enemies. Blade, we learn, is part vampire and part human. While giving birth to him, his mother died quickly as the result of a vicious vampire attack, resulting in Blade’s current state. He has since then vowed revenge on the entire race of bloodsuckers, who are at the moment plotting a deadly takeover of the world.

The vampires in Blade are uniquely depicted. Most of them are flesh and blood humans by day and pure vampire blood by night, controlling everything from police to all of the night clubs. Blade’s arch-enemy is the power hungry Deacon Frost, played memorably by Stephen Dorff. Frost is plotting an uprising act that will place him at the head of the vampire race, in addition to possible world conquest. It’s up to our hero to stop him. Blade also has his hands full while taking care of Dr. Karen Jensen (N’Bushe Wright), who has been bitten, but not to a full effect. She may hold the skills to develop additional vampire demising chemicals. Blade’s weapons come from his own personal Q, a veteran vampire slayer named Whistler (Kris Kristofferson).

It sounds as if I could easily give the movie a higher average than I am giving it, but Blade as a vampire movie pales in comparison to two other movies I hail as near-masterpieces; Robert Rodriguez’ From Dusk Till Dawn, and the much underrated John Carpenter’s Vampires, released a few months down the road from Blade, and did less than half of this movie’s business.

Still, loves of gore galore will get their money’s worth, and then some. I even have some friends, much of whom are die hard fans of horror movies, say that this strictly action flick is by far the goriest film they’ve ever seen, which I can sure believe. By the end of the first fight scene, I counted at least ten plus decapitated heads, in addition to the multiple disintegrated bodies. In short, if you’re weak on the stomach, stay clear.

Blade is a one of a kind comic book movie triumph that is frequent with a visual presence to die for. Headlined by two knockout performances from Snipes and Dorff, and some truly bloody good fight sequences, which are very bloody good, this is one rock ‘em sock ‘em action pic that will keep entertaining for years to come.

Video ****

I mentioned the look of Blade being strong in atmosphere and comic-book visualization, and who better to enhance this mode than the pros at New Line, whose Platinum Series soared to newfound heights when this release first hit the shelves nearly four years ago. The anamorphic picture quality is in word, flawless. There is no visible sign of any picture compression, grain, or image dimming. All that shows is that of a glorious looking movie that shines to true perfection on a glorious looking disc.

Audio ****

Blade also carries with it a pulse-pounding sound presence in almost every aspect, and New Line’s presentation resulted in one of the first most astounding discs to ever hit the market. The 5.1 audio mix is virtually flawless in its sound quality, that there probably isn’t a single instance of sound that doesn’t pass by. From the fiery action sequences, to the techno-infused soundtrack, Blade still goes on record as one of the most impressive sounding discs of all time.

Features ****

The Platinum Series from New Line is always setting the standard for extras, and this release pretty much demonstrated this notion. For those who have not yet purchased this disc, you’ll be pleased to hear that this fully loaded disc is now priced under $20. Featured on the disc is separated pieced, but wonderful commentary track with director Stephen Norrington, writer David S. Goyer, stars Wesley Snipes and Stephen Dorff, director of photography Theo Van De Sande, production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli, and producer Peter Frankfurt. Also included are four separate featurettes: La Magra, Designing Blade, The Origins of Blade, and The Blood Tide. Included as well are some original pencil sketches, the original trailer, and some DVD-Rom content.

Summary:

Blade still sharpens with mass doses of entertainment to this day, and comic book fans who have been awaiting a worthwhile movie adaptation of a source needn’t look any further.