“… the fight scenes and design of the film still hold up rather well, and the make the experience an overall enjoyable one.”
It’s interesting to go back and watch old movies or franchises and see if the praise that has been said over the years really holds up, or if these films were just a product of their time. One of the more interesting examples of this is Blade. Released in 1998 Blade follows Blade, a vampire-human hybrid who vows to destroy as many vampires as he possibly can. Things get a little more complicated when it turns out that Deacon Frost, a high ranking vampire, needs Blade to achieve his plans of world domination.
As I said Blade is a movie released in the 90’s, and it might just be the best representation of that decade (save for something like Hackers, maybe). Blade opens up with a fucking sweet dance club scene. Strobe lights, unusual setting, music that makes your brain melt, it has it all. This sets the tone for the film better than I ever could. Blade is definitely something I would call a product of its time. It tried so hard to relate to the current time period, maybe in an effort to get more people to like it, that a lot of it is now ridiculous. And it’s not even a great look at the 90’s, it’s a look from people who were in the time period. So we only get to see the “cool” parts, but now those parts aren’t so cool. Everything in Blade adds to this weird feeling that you’re looking into a time capsule. The soundtrack continues the loud, droning EDM music throughout the film’s entirety, and Blade even features some really dated filming techniques that instantly pull you out of the film. Time-lapses and speed-ramping are only two of the examples of things you will find in Blade that make you go “did people really think this shit looked good?”. Now by this point you must be thinking that the effects in Blade must be utter shit. Everything else in this film is painfully dated, so why would the effects be any different? Well you’d be right, but only partially. The effects in Blade are kind of a crapshoot. Whenever you see something that was digitally created it’s approximately a 50/50 shot that it will look decent. And I say decent because none of the effects in Blade are breathtaking, at best they are decent. This isn’t a knock against the film because effects from the 90’s still looking decent isn’t a terrible thing, but it just had to be said that you shouldn’t go into Blade looking for amazing special effects.
Another thing that Blade showcases the 90’s is the importance of a campy story. People love tongue-in-cheek humour, and a lot of older films (things like Demolition Man) have that. Those films still hold up to this day because instead of being bathed in their time period they kind of poke fun at it. Blade doesn’t do this. Blade has a lot of humour, but most of it (at least from what I could tell) is unintentional. Instead of Blade taking the idea of a half man/ half vampire going around in the 90’s killing other vampires and saying “look at how ridiculous this is”, it was decided to play that idea straight. The problem is, this isn’t really an idea that can be taken seriously. This means that instead of Blade getting ahead of the curve and making us laugh at how ridiculous it is, it mostly ends up being the butt of the joke. Blade still had some funny moments, like Stephen Dorff’s many freak outs as Deacon Frost, but for the most part I spent my time laughing at Blade instead of with it. And unfortunately the performances only reinforce this idea that Blade was trying too hard to be serious. Wesley Snipes puts on a gruff voice to try and persuade the audience that what they are watching is supposed to be intense, when in reality it’s absurd. Everyone in this movie plays their roles like their lives depend on it which isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t really work within the context of this story. And it also doesn’t help that a lot of these “serious” performances were themselves steeped in 90’s culture, so you had to look past hilarious outfits and mannerisms to even see what was going on.
But let’s be serious here, nobody watches Blade for any of the things I just criticized. When you sit down to watch Blade you want to see one thing: Wesley Snipes kick the shit out of a bunch of vampires; and Blade gives you that in spades. The fight scenes in Blade are what save this film or me. Sure they are also over the top, but in action movies I’m more lenient towards what we see. If all action on screen was realistic movies would be a lot less interesting, so I’ll give Blade a pass. The fight sequences in Blade are so fucking cool because it is rarely ever a one-on-one fight. Vampires are everywhere, and this movie does a good job of reiterating that point during every fight sequence. We get to see Blade fight ten, twenty, sometimes even a whole dance club full of vampires; and each fight is just as cool as the last. And it isn’t just the fighting itself that’s cool, but also all of the gadgets that Blade uses. This motherfucker is like Batman, but instead of clowns he fights vampires. The shit that he has on his utility belt brings so much more to every fight, and it makes sure to always keep you entertained. Sure Blade could just stab every vampire in the heart, but instead he uses: silver bullets, spear guns, mace, a sword, and liquid that makes motherfuckers explode to name a few. It’s amazing to watch these sequences take place because you know where they are going (Blade wins, obviously), but it’s how they get there that is the fun part. And the designs of these gadgets themselves are cool as well. Instead of just repurposing stuff that already exists, Blade made sure to make you really believe that these gadgets are special. It’s the small details that really matter. Everything fits the aesthetic (of being super cool in the 90’s), but its also amazing to look at. Things like Blade’s sword for example: It’s a sword, sure. But when you look closely you’ll see that the care that went into designing everything about it was immense. They even went so far as to give it a cool defence mechanism. Even things like Blade’s many different rides are designed in such a way that would give any “mall ninja” a hard-on. It’s all just so fucking cool.
Overall Blade is a movie that doesn’t hold up well to the test of time. Everything from the effects to the music to even a few of the filming techniques just reeks of the 90’s, and it makes it hard to look at Blade without laughing. The good news is the fight scenes and design of the film still hold up rather well, and the make the experience an overall enjoyable one.
I give Blade a B