Monday, January 11, 2021

Warner Brothers Blade (1998) Sinks It's Fangs Into UHD!

Blade (1998) Warner Brothers 12/1/2020

Directed By: Stephen Norrington

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorf, Kris Kristofferson, Traci Lords, N'Bushe Wright 

Disclaimer: Warner Brothers Entertainment has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     It's interesting to look back at the state of comic book movies in the mid-to-late '90's. To sum up it was...umm.. Not great. For every Batman Returns (1992) and The Crow (1994) you got stuff like The Rocketeer (1991), Blankman (1994) and The Shadow (1994). These movies failed to find their footing with a mass audience despite going on to achieve some level of cult fame. 1998's Blade came at a time where believe it or not Marvel was not the multi-billion dollar juggernaut and, frankly they were struggling with their properties. It's a small miracle a movie like Blade got made at all considering it was probably considered a risky project. Unlike Batman or Superman, Blade was based off a lesser known IP created in 1973 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan for Tomb Of Dracula #10. They also took a gamble on a relatively unknown director Stephen Norrington who made one low budget film previously. It would also be rated R, also considered risky. This would be the first R-rated Marvel movie (the first R-rated superhero movie goes to The Toxic Avenger 1983) and would see a huge profit of over 100 million dollars on a 43 million dollar budget. Blade follows a half vampire-half human who hunts other vampires. He must aid the human population from being wiped out as food in this action, blood fest. I was curious how Blade held up for me, as it's been probably over a decade since I watched the original film. If I were to sum up this film in just two words it would be cheesy fun. Norrington and writer David Goyer straddle this line between taking the material seriously but also, never forgetting it's suppose to be a enjoyable action film with some humor sprinkled throughout. I also forgot just how moody and atmospheric this film is. It certainly feels like a comic book come to life long before Raimi would perfect this pin-point feeling in his 2002 Spider-Man film. The entire movie has this gloomy tech-Noir-Gothic mixture that feels home in the late'90's cyberpunk And, unlike newer Marvel movies this has a level of sincerity in it's own crazy premise without any winks to the audience. It's actually really refreshing that a movie can allow itself that level of non-irony. Major props for taking a swing at some cool world building and lore heavy plot. 

   Snipes is probably the perfect embodiment of the character and, really in the '90's I couldn't think of a better choice. Wesley has the swagger but also makes Blade a blank slate. The supporting cast is also great with Kris Kristofferson giving a late-career high as the wisecracking, wry witted Whistler. This also features prime-Stephen Dorf as a emo-vampire and the actor actually handles the role well. Of course actors like Udo Keir and Donal Logue are incredibly fun to watch as they devour the scenery. If I had to point to a weak spot acting wise N'Bushe Wright is it. To be fair Wright's Karen is incredibly underwritten and doesn't get to do much. Still, she seems flat with low-energy. So, the movie is far from perfect and I think it's ambitious ideas feel like they get somewhat lost in transition. The movie clocks in at 120 minutes when it could have easily been trimmed down. And, the less said about the horribly dated CGI the better. Overall, I enjoyed this movie way more than I thought I would. It's fun, well directed with a cast that delivers. You can nit-pick all of the films shortcomings but when taken as a cheesy comic book film it sates that thirst.  I am really excited that this most likely means Blade II (2002) will be making it's way to UHD sometime in the future. 

Picture: Like his fangs, Blade looks really sharp in UHD! I really was impressed by the clear uptick in the color, which is more vivid in my opinion than the previous HD release. There are lots of nice detail of things like costumes, textures on costumes and locales. The moody atmosphere I think benefits the most from this new transfer. Though, the downside is that the cheesy CGI is highlighted. Overall, a worthy upgrade. 

Sound: Blade sports a really nice Atmos track. The film is heavy on music, sound effects and design and, in my opinion, offers a complex pulse-pounding sound experience. 

Extras: Blade ports over the same extras previous editions. This includes: Audio Commentary by Cast and Crew, La Magra, Designing Blade, The Origins of Blade: A Look at Dark Comics, The Blood Tide and Original Trailer. 

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