Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Norrington|
|Written by||David S. Goyer|
by Marv Wolfman
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Cinematography||Theo van de Sande|
|Edited by||Paul Rubell|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
Blade is a 1998 American vampire superhero action film starring Wesley Snipes and Stephen Dorff, loosely based on the Marvel Comics character Blade. Snipes plays Blade, a human-vampire hybrid who protects humans from vampires.
The film was directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer. Blade grossed $70 million at the U.S. box office, and $131.2 million worldwide. It was followed by two sequels, Blade II and Blade: Trinity, both written by Goyer who also directed the latter.
The film opens in prologue: with a pregnant woman being rushed into a hospital in labor and bleeding, reaching out for something or someone unseen. The doctors have to perform a C-section on her to save the baby, but she dies.
The film then flashes forward to a wild night with a seductive woman (Traci Lords) who leads a young man to a rave club, below a slaughterhouse. He at first has fun, but he notices other people staring at him. He casually bumps into the club owner, later revealed to be Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), a young upstart in the vampire community. The music peaks when blood is sprayed out from the sprinklers above (a blood rain), and most of the people reveal themselves to be vampires. In the middle of the carnage, the armor clad vampire-hunter Eric "Blade" Brooks (Wesley Snipes) arrives and expertly slaughters a number of vampires in the club, leaving Frost's right-hand man Quinn alive and horribly burned as the police arrive on the scene.
While Quinn's body is being examined in the hospital, he awakens and kills the examiner by biting his neck. Blade tracks Quinn down to a hospital, but he is able to bite a resident hematologist, Dr. Karen Jenson (N'Bushe Wright), before escaping once again after Blade severs his arm. In an act of mercy, Blade brings the injured Karen back to his lair and introduces her to Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), his mentor and weaponsmith. Karen resolves to study vampirism and find an antidote before she becomes a vampire herself. In working to find a stable, viable cure, she soon discovers that the anticoagulant EDTA reacts explosively with the vampire infection.
Meanwhile, Frost clashes with his vampire elders of the House of Erebus. He believes that vampires should rise from the shadows and enslave humanity while the elders believe in the subversive rule of (both human and vampire) society through their influence with police, politics, finance and real estate. Moreover, because he was not born a vampire as they were, Frost is shunned for his radical views and reckless activities. Frost studies ancient vampire lore and comes to believe that he can awaken La Magra, the Blood God, to gain absolute power. Together with his minions, he kidnaps, mutilates and kills the chief vampire of the region by exposing him to the sun, and imprisons the others.
Blade combats Frost's various minions in an effort to uncover his ultimate plan. After another encounter with Quinn and Frost's lover Mercury, Whistler explains to a suspicious Karen that Blade's mother, Vanessa, was attacked while pregnant and that Blade is a half-vampire hybrid with all their superhuman strengths but none of their weaknesses except the bloodthirst. After witnessing Whistler give Blade a serum to counter the thirst, Karen successfully develops an antidote to cure herself of vampirism. While Blade is out on an errand, Frost and his crew manage to invade Blade's lair, kidnap Karen and mortally wound Whistler.
Blade gives the infected and horribly beaten Whistler a gun to commit suicide, then arms himself with a number of weapons and a large supply of EDTA. He storms Frost's penthouse, overrunning the bodyguards, and soon discovers Vanessa -- his own mother, whom he believed long dead -- in Frost's bed. She reveals that Frost was the vampire that bit her while she was pregnant with Blade and caused him to become the Daywalker. More guards arrive and attack Blade as Frost intimates a long since sexual relationship with Vanessa and proclaims himself as creator of their "family". Thunderstruck, Blade is defeated and taken (with Karen) to the Temple of Eternal Night for Frost's blood ritual sacrifice.
The temple antechamber drains Blade's blood and filters it through the ancient channels of the temple. Karen escapes the pit where Frost had put her and feeds Blade her blood, thereby restoring his strength. Frost sacrifices the elder vampires in a mystic ritual and painfully gains the power of La Magra. However, the unintended result was not the awakening of the bloodgod, but the culmination of the dead elders' souls that fought absorption as the energies consume Frost's body. Vanessa attacks Blade forcing him to kill her.
In the melee, Karen secures a shotgun from a guard, shoots him dead and kills Mercury with concentrated garlic spray. Blade furiously cuts through Quinn and Frost's minions before engaging Frost. Frost's new powers make him immune to Blade's conventional weapons, so Blade injects him multiple times with EDTA, causing Frost to explode. As the pair leave the temple, Karen offers to cure Blade but he chooses to forgo the cure in order to continue hunting vampires and asks her to develop a better serum. An epilogue finds Blade observing a vampire attacking his date in Russia, indicating that Blade's new campaign has spread into Europe.
- Wesley Snipes as Eric Brooks/Blade: A half-vampire "daywalker" who hunts vampires.
- Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost: An upstart vampire leader who emerges as Blade's primary enemy and who wants to conquer the human race.
- Kris Kristofferson as Abraham Whistler: Blade's mentor, weaponsmith and surrogate father figure.
- N'Bushe Wright as Dr. Karen Jenson: A hematologist who is bitten by the vampire Quinn. She stays with Blade to remain safe while she finds a cure for herself.
- Donal Logue as Quinn: A cocky lead minion of Frost's.
- Udo Kier as Gitano Dragonetti: Head of the House of Erebus.
- Sanaa Lathan as Vanessa Brooks: Blade's mother, believed dead, who became a vampire and lover to Frost.
- Arly Jover as Mercury: Frost's second lover and second in command.
- Kevin Patrick Walls as Officer Krieger: A "familiar", or human servant, of Frost's.
- Tim Guinee as Dr. Curtis Webb: Karen's ex-boyfriend who later becomes a decomposing zombie.
- Traci Lords as Racquel: A seductive vampire who leads a man to the blood rave.
- Eric Edwards as Pearl: The obese records keeper.
When David S. Goyer first pitched the idea of doing a Blade movie, the executives of New Line felt there were only three actors who could possible do the role: Wesley Snipes, Denzel Washington and Laurence Fishburne, but in Goyer's mind, Snipes was always the perfect choice for the character of Blade. Marc Singer was the original choice for Whistler. Jet Li was offered the role of Deacon Frost but opted to do Lethal Weapon 4 instead. Bruce Payne was also considered for the role of Frost.
Marvel Studios had developed the film as early as 1992, when rapper/actor LL Cool J was interested in playing the lead role. Blade was eventually set up at New Line Cinema, with David S. Goyer writing the script. According to Goyer, New Line originally wanted to do Blade as "something that was almost a spoof" before the writer convinced them otherwise. By 1996 Wesley Snipes was attached to star.
Blade was produced on a budget of $45 million and began filming on February 5, 1997, in large part done in Los Angeles, with some scenes being shot in Death Valley. The effects for the film were done by Flat Earth Productions.
The first cut of the film was 140 minutes long and it had a disastrous test screening with audiences. Heavy edits and re-shoots were implemented which delayed the release date more than half a year. The most significant change was the addition of the final sword fight between Blade and Deacon Frost, which did not exist in the original version of the movie. In the ending as it was originally planned, Frost turned into La Magra and became a large swirling mass of blood instead of keeping his form. This was scrapped because they couldn't get the special effects to look right. It can be seen as a special feature on the DVD. Stan Lee originally had a cameo that was ultimately cut from the film. He played one of the cops that come in to the blood club during the aftermath and discover Quinn's body on fire. The scene where Karen and Deacon are talking about the cure for vampirism initially ran a bit longer and answered the question of how the vampires would feed if everybody was turned into a vampire. They would keep some humans alive in giant blood bags to harvest them. The bags can still be seen in a doorway during the scene, and later played an integral part of the plot in Blade: Trinity 
Connections to the comic
The character Blade was created in 1973 for Marvel Comics by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan as a supporting character in the 1970s comic The Tomb of Dracula. The comic Blade used teakwood knives and was much more the everyman in his behavior and attitude. Though courageous and brave, he displayed flaws as well, such as an inability to get along with certain other supporting cast members and a hatred of vampires that bordered on fanaticism.
The character was not originally a "daywalker" but a human being immune to being turned into a vampire. Lacking the superhuman speed and strength of his undead quarry, he relied solely on his wits and skill until he was bitten by the character Morbius. The film version of Blade was updated for a 1990s audience and the comics character was subsequently modified to match. The film's version of Deacon Frost also differs greatly from his comic counterpart. Although the movie retains Frost's upstart ambitions, he was a great deal younger and more updated for the 1990s.
A Blade anime series was also done by Madhouse Company in 2011. The series consists of 12 episodes.
Blade was Marvel's first film success, and set the stage for further comic film adaptations. Blade followed Howard the Duck as the second Marvel property to get a wide theatrical release in the United States. The Punisher and Captain America both had films made previously, but neither saw a theatrical release in the United States.
On review aggregator RottenTomatoes, the film holds a 55% rating. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, writing: "Blade ... is a movie that relishes high visual style. It uses the extreme camera angles, the bizarre costumes and sets, the exaggerated shadows, the confident cutting between long shots and extreme closeups. It slams ahead in pure visceral imagery." Conversely, James Berardinelli gave the film 2½ stars out of 4, writing: "Blade has the capacity to dazzle, but it also will leave many viewers dissatisfied."
Blade went to number one in both Spain and Australia for their opening weekends. With 200 theatres showing the film, Spain's cinema goers earned the film $1.5 million (US) in three days, whilst Australia earned $1 million from 132 cinemas showing the film. In the Flemish Region of Belgium, the film earned $323,000 from 20 cinemas, and the Netherlands earned the film $246,000 from 44 cinemas. France made $1.9 million in five days from 241 cinemas, but the film was less successful in Hong Kong (with $182,000 from 22 cinemas) and South Africa ($159,000 from 64 cinemas). The United Kingdom was more successful, taking in $5.7 million over 10 days, as was Brazil, making $855,000 in four days from 133 cinemas. The film was banned from showing in Malaysia, widely considered to have the most controlling censors in Southeast Asia.
Marv Wolfman, the original creator of the Blade character, unsuccessfully sued Marvel and New Line for $50 million after the release of the film. He, along with artist Gene Colan, receives a "based on characters created by" credit in this film, but does not receive credit in Blade II or the TV series.
A soundtrack containing hip hop music was released on August 25, 1998 by TVT Records and Epic Records. It peaked at #36 on the Billboard 200 and #28 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The British techno band The Prodigy were approached to do the soundtrack and score to the film but had to turn down the offer due to other commitments.
- Turan, Kenneth (6 November 1992). "Blade to Snipes' Heat". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
- Staff (1992-12-08). "Marvel characters holding attraction for filmmakers". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
- Allstetter, Rob (August 1997). "Special Report: Blood on the Big Screen". Wizard (72). pp. 122–3.
- Gary Levin (1996-12-29). "Perelman takes Marvel to bankruptcy court". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
- Michael Fleming (1997-01-27). "Hughes Bros. Turn out ‘Pimp’". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
- Bashirah Muttalib (8 October 1998). "As more pics shoot in Calif., coffers swell". Variety. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
- Marc Graser (1 October 2001). "Flat Earth founder forms new company". Variety. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
- "Blade Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- "Blade :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- "Blade - Reelviews Movie Reviews - James Berardinelli". Reelviews.net. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- Don Groves (13 October 1998). "Germans embrace 'Ryan' at the B.O.". Variety. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
- Don Groves (3 November 1998). "'Antz' swarming o'seas". Variety. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
- Don Groves (9 November 1998). "'Antz,' 'Exorcist' impressive o'seas". Variety. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
- Don Groves (24 November 1998). "'Mary,' 'Whisperer' top $100 mil mark o'seas". Variety. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
- Don Groves (5 November 1998). "'Ryan' under attack". Variety. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
- Wolfman loses Blade lawsuit against Marvel, The Comics Journal
- "Gamespot.com: Blade for PlayStation". Retrieved 2009-07-21.
- "Wesley Snipes back for fourth 'Blade'". Toronto Sun.
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- Blade at The Internet Movie Database
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- Blade turns Ten. Interviews with the cast members from the movie