Midwest BSFA member Tiffany Luckey is back with the fourth installment of our “Rewatch” series, giving us her take on the 1998 film Blade.
With the introduction of Black Panther in Marvel’s upcoming Captain America: Civil War film as well as his own film slated for 2018 (soooo far away), the excitement and interest in POC comic book characters are at an all-time high. That’s why people are just a tiny bit pissed that Scarlett Johansson, a white woman, is cast as Major Kusanagi, an Asian woman, in the live version of the anime/manga series Ghost in the Shell. Because…whitewashing.
But let’s not dwell on that. Instead, we’ll focus on Blade, the 1998 film that started many a black person on the road to comic-book-turned-film nerdom. Based on the Marvel comic of the same name, the movie stars Wesley Snipes as Eric Brooks/Blade, a vampire hunter (who just so happens to be a part vamp himself) who’s set to protect the human population as well as avenge his mother Vanessa’s (Sanaa Lathan) death.
Blade’s arch-nemesis in the film is Deacon Frost (Stephan Dorff), a new vampire leader who is half human (aka not a pureblood vampire) who’s hellbent on world domination. With some backup from his mentor/confidant/father figure Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) and hematologist Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright), the daywalker kicks some serious ass and takes metric ton of names.
Blade’s plot may be lost on some watching it for the first time, but that’s normal of many superhero-comic-turned-movie since the endings of these are not actually the stories’ endings—hence the multitude of sequels that are akin to comic issues. (Seriously, the average person can’t recite any plot of any X-Men film.) But the more you watch superhero films, the more you’ll appreciate them and perhaps brush off any plot confusion. Even if you can’t get with the story line, the cinematography in Blade is stunning (especially for a film that was released almost 20 years ago) as it reflects the bold imagery of the comics.
The acting is supreme, too. Snipes is a martial artist (bet’cha didn’t know that) and had starred in quite a few action films before Blade, so him stepping into superhero mode looks effortless. Wright also does a wonderful job with Jenson, and should’ve had a much bigger acting career—like she should be the lead in a Shonda Rhimes show or Lee Daniels film or something by now. But, you know, Hollywood.
Blade is a fun, adventurous film that has developed a cult following in the past two decades, especially among African-American comic fans. The titular character is not the first black Marvel character created, but he and his film paved the way for Marvel superheroes in cinema in general. As its first theatrical success, you could say he sired the current crop of successful Marvel superhero movies that have been overrunning the theaters for the last decade *runs away, avoiding tomatoes being thrown for that pun*. Blade symbolizes strength and courage during adversity, which POCs are faced with a lot (how you doin’, systemic racism?). It also shows that black superheroes can be just as—or even more—iconic and powerful as their white superhero counterparts.
If you haven’t watched Blade in a while or not at all, do it. Trust me, it’ll make seeing Black Panther on the big screen even more worthwhile.