Bladerecommended viewing

MTV techniques finally put to good use
★★★
Released: 
1998
Director: 
Stephen Norrington
Starring: 
Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, N'Bushe Wright
The Setup: 
Comic book vampire killer in awesome adventure.
Discussion: 

I'm sorry, this movie is great. I've seen it three times, and I want to see it again. Here's why:

This is one of the best examples I can think of where MTV-style exposition is used effectively. The story here is actually remarkably complex, with several intertwining undertones about race, family, and tradition, and much of the exposition is accomplished via flashes of images and associations. The music and rhythm of the entire film is edited in a very musical way, rising and falling and regulating the viewer's energy levels very carefully. When you really watch closely you see that this film is incredibly well put together.

This movie has some very interesting themes, which it handles in a way that gives a good name to action movies. The first is that of blood and race. You might think this is "just an action movie with a black hero," but I think this movie is VERY much a black film, and should be seen as such. The main theme is Blood as a metaphor for family and race. The villain, Deacon Frost, is outcast among vampires for not being "Pure Blood"... for not being BORN a vampire. He resists his human side. Blade was born half-vampire and resists his vampire side. Blade's girlfriend, played by N'Bushe Wright, is not the traditional Halle Berry-type black beauty, and her apartment is not the typical Architectural Digest-type. Why? I think to show that her character has remained true to her African-Americanism, not trying to be yuppie-ish and strive to fit in with whites. In contrast, Blade's mother shows up all made over and sleeping with a white man, and she tells Blade that "these are my people now." The message is that she has turned against her blood. Of course themes of blood and purity are uniquely suited to a vampire movie, and this movie takes them up and handles them in an interesting way. Blade is one of the few movies with African-American characters who succeed BECAUSE of their difference, not because of trying to blend in with whites.

Another thing this movie evokes very will is the underlying creepiness of city life. Scenes of buildings and alleys as the light shifts and voices whisper, as well as the chase scenes in the subway reflect the strangeness of living in close proximity to so many people, some of whom may be very different. This movie would make a good double-feature with Dark City for this reason.

In addition to all this, the movie is just a blast. Blade, the character, is VERY, VERY cool. The violence is extreme in a jokey, not crass way, and the rhythm and vibe of the movie is dead on (note how many reviews mention the bravaura opening scene). I say it rocks.

Should you watch it: 

Goddammit YES!

RELATED MOVIES:
BLADE II takes the horror edge to this movie to an untoward degree and is very nasty, violent and gory, losing the fun in the process. I walked out of it in the theater, but fanboys like it.
BLADE TRINITY goes more with the fun aspect and softpedals the horror, and is fun, if you thought that Resident Evil was fun, but not much more than that.