A Word in Favor of Blade | National Review

A Word in Favor of Blade | National Review

A still from the 1998 movie Blade ( Warner Bros. Entertainment/ Screenshot via Youtube)

In the course of trashing Morbius, Kyle argues that it “dials back the clock on comic-book movies to a generation ago, when the genre was not yet the absolute center of popular culture but more like Hollywood’s back room, where possibly profitable but defiantly skeezy things took place.” He continues that, in this halcyon era:

Movies about superpowers were dim, derivative efforts directed not by Oscar aspirants but by gleeful hacks whose main concern was to stuff the thing with lots of dumb special effects to give its intended audience a break from worrying about their SAT scores. As in predecessors such as Blade and Underworld, Morbius bets that you really can’t go wrong with the target audience of half-bright teens when you’ve got super-strong vampires hurling each other around the scenery and making bloodthirsty noises through their fangy teeth.

The implication is to place Blade, the 1998 comic-book film starring Wesley Snipes as the titular half-vampire, half-human vampire hunter, in this tradition of shlock. Well, I’m no teen, even though I may be half-bright (at best). But in my view, Blade works far better than it has any right to. It’s anchored by a strong performance from Snipes, as Tom Breihan argued for the AV Club:

In Wesley Snipes, Blade had a star who was willing to fully invest himself in the movie’s goofy vision. Snipes talks as little as possible, radiating laconic contempt and impatience like Clint Eastwood circa Dirty Harry. He smiles to taunt the vampires he’s about to kill. He moves with economical ferocity, and the movie is smart enough to take full advantage of his martial arts skills.

Blade is still shlock to some extent, to be sure. But it also works as both a late-’90s action movie and as unexpectedly modern comic-book escapism (Blade is a Marvel character; this movie came out in 1998, two years before the first X-Men movie and four years before Tobey Maguire swung into our hearts as Spider-Man). Its opening action scene, though marred by some unfortunately dated CGI (also scattered throughout the rest of the movie), is still one for the ages. Moreover, as Breihan noted in a different article, by having trenchcoat-wearing people in sunglasses going around and doing cool things and talking about how the world we see is fake, it beat The Matrix to the punch by a year. (It even beat The Matrix to bullet time!)

Anyway, Blade is no Lawrence of Arabia. But I think it belongs to a slightly higher class than the shlock with which Kyle places it. If for no other reason than . . . this.

Jack Butler is submissions editor at National Review Online.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.