A friend sent me an e-mail all geeked after watching The Avengers trailer and he was stoked! He wanted to know how superheroes became such a fundamental part of the summer movie madness. My answer was it all started with a Black “hero” who proved there was money to be made in mining comic books for gold.
The superhero movie that doesn’t get nearly enough credit for kick-starting the superhero movie genre is Blade (1998). Before it the last caped crusaders we had the bloated mess that was Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin (1997) that croaked the franchise until Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale breathed life back into it minus the Arnold Schwarzenegger quips and nipples on the Bat-suit.
But Marvel was even more dead in the water. Think about what kind of superhero movies they had cranked out. The Punisher with a mumbling Dolph Lundgren? Roger Corman’s made for ten cents version of The Fantastic Four? Junk.
Then along came a little movie about a third-rate supporting character in the long canceled Tomb of Dracula comic book. Nobody had any expectations from Blade, but it totally kicked ass with a tough performance from Wesley Snipes and surprisingly stylish direction from Stephen Norrington. It also had one of the coolest openings of any action flick (see below). Blade kills men, women, guards. He even kills the d.j. Man, Blade sure does hate techno music.
Blade didn’t make a ton of money (made for $45 million and grossed $75 million), but it did make enough money to show Hollywood there was a market for super hero movies that didn’t insult the intelligence of its audience.
Marvel picked up the lesson. Next up were Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) and that got the superhero movies off the mat and back into the business of being summer movie blockbusters.
Not until Batman Begins (2005) did DC get back in the game and though The Dark Knight Returns is the best superhero movie ever made, Marvel has been far more successful in diversifying their portfolio with multiple characters having lucrative launches while DC has so far failed to generate a similar character (Superman Returns, Jonah Hex, Green Lantern) to build franchises around.
But it all began with Blade and though it’s kind of been forgotten, it shouldn’t be. The sequels Blade II is just as good as the original while Blade:Trinity is a hot mess that killed the franchise deader than Batman & Robin. Despite the 49-year-old Snipes’ problems with the IRS, Blade is a character that deserves to return even if the role has to be recast.
Superhero movies have gone from something Hollywood looked down its nose at to one of the most essential determining factors on whether it’s a profitable year or not. Paramount and Warner Brothers have millions tied up in next year’s The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, but the expectation is both studios will rake in millions more.
Blade is not a great movie. It’s not made on the ambitious scale of a Thor or Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s a B-movie and it’s bloody, cynical and earns its “R” rating. When Blade growls, “Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill” you don’t even care that it’s a badly written line that makes no sense. Superheroes don’t say “mother fucker,” but then Blade is a vampire slayer, not a superhero.
If not for a vampire slayer who won’t pay his taxes we might not be stuck with superheroes up to our eyeballs..
- Wesley Snipes On ‘Blade’ Sequel: ‘I’d Do Another One’ (splashpage.mtv.com)
- George Clooney Calls ‘Batman & Robin’ a ‘Difficult Film to Be Good In’ (screenrant.com)
- Jarv’s Birthday Series: Blade (1998) (moonwolves.wordpress.com)