The following movie critique portion of this review was written by my colleague Cainan Myracle.
When you ask someone nowadays what their favorite Marvel film is, they most likely will name one of the many Marvel Cinematic Universe films. They most likely won’t name the Fantastic Four films with Chris Evans, the Punisher film with Thomas Jane, though they might name Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider. But one of the greatest Marvel films ever made, and in my opinion the grandfather of Marvel films, is 1998s Blade. Marvel’s first black superhero led film, though this hero killed a lot of people (mostly all bad) and used a ton of profanity.
Blade was the ultimate rated R comic book film. Led by action superstar Wesley Snipes, Snipes embodied Blade. He was Blade, in my opinion he still is Blade – you have your work cut out for you Mahershala. The film also had a nice cast of talent supporting Snipes, including Kris Kristofferson as Whistler, Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost, Sanaa Lathan, Donal Logue and N’Bushe Wright. The film focused on Blade, a vampire hybrid that has all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses. The Daywalker as many label him. Blade is out to destroy the vampire nation, especially Deacon Frost who is up to all kinds of trouble.
The film takes full advantage of Snipes charm and charisma as well as his martial arts background that set the stage for his performance as Blade that would carry on into two more films. Snipes has some terrific one liners that to this day continue to be quoted. Surely you have heard people say, “Some mother f*ckers are always trying to ice skate uphill”. Snipes was wearing the dark black shades for most of the film but could carry a scene just by a smirk or smile. Kristofferson shines as the tough and gritty father figure that supports Blade in his quest to rid the world of blood suckers. Dorff has an extensive film background but he is most known for his role in Blade. He plays the villain of the story who wants to rule the humans and establish his own dominance in the vampire kingdom.
It had been years since I had seen Blade but for the 2020 Halloween season, I decided to watch the entire trilogy and the 1998 film still holds up very well. The VFX are dated but they are not cheesy or hard to watch. They really did not need a ton of VFX from what I could tell other than the end fight with Frost and his Blood God powers. The film is a true classic that only gets better with age. I love the horror elements of the film as well. They did not go over the top like the next films would. They kept it simple. I am excited to see what Mahershala Ali can do in the role and I hope Marvel will make the film rated R because I feel Blade works better as an R-rated character. They have their work cut out for them and even if the film is good, nothing will take away from the treasure that is 1998s Blade.
There was a scene cut from the movie that showed Morbius making his presence known. Blade could have been the first film to kick off a cinematic universe for Marvel. Wouldn’t that have been something?
The 4K UHD Blu-Ray of Blade offers a noticeable uptick in quality in almost every respect over the accompanying Blu-Ray. The improvement in the black levels are especially strong in this presentation, staying deep and inky with excellent detail. When compared to Blu-Ray, the 4K version allows for way more depth, clarity and stability to the image. The film is one that has a very stylized look, from the dour color palette to the cool blue filter that is used in portions of the film, and this disc allows for a vividness that has been lacking previously. The highlights are balanced with no instances of blooming to be found. This disc puts the High Dynamic Range to good use with the strobing effects and the intense sunlight that is very bad news for vampires serving as a particular standout. The pops of color are often extremely impressive, especially in the vats of deep red blood that are used throughout the film. The depth of field is improved as specific aspects of the production design present with greater clarity than ever before. Skin tones and facial hair are really well defined throughout the film. If there is an issue with this presentation, it is the fact that the film grain looks managed at points, which leaves the transfer looking unnaturally smooth in places. Other digital anomalies such as compression artifacts or crush are not apparent. This is mostly an excellent transfer with increased detail and crispness that serves as a substantial improvement over the Blu-Ray.
The 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc comes with a knockout Dolby Atmos presentation that handles the action incredibly well. The track offers expert level immersion into the environment so that even the subtlest elements are represented. The Atmos presentation takes full advantage of the expanded channel allotment. During the early blood-soaked rave sequence, the channel separation is readily apparent with height channels coming alive from the kinetic sequence. All of the sounds are balanced well during the action sequences from hand-to-hand combat and sword play to heavy gunfire. The many fights and other such hard-hitting moments provide a fantastic amount of activity in the low end. Directionality of sound is never an issue with this track, and dialogue is reproduced with supreme clarity. Speakers remain remarkably engaged throughout the film, even during the quieter moments. The film establishes an impressive room tone that makes you feel like you are right there beside the characters. The audio presentation is a wonderful experience from start to finish.
- Audio Commentary #1: Actors Wesley Snipes and Steven Dorff, screenwriter David S. Goyer, producer Peter Frankfurt, production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli, and cinematographer Theo van de Sande give a disjointed but informative commentary track. The conversations are pieced together so that each person gives a little bit of information from story decisions to special effects like the blood sprinkler to anecdotes about fight sequences. Wesley Snipes has the most energy when discussing the film, so you always perk up a bit when he is the focus of the track.
- Audio Commentary #2: Composer Mark Isham guides you through the isolated score track cue by cue. This is a really interesting look at the motivations behind certain music choices in the film that should be of interest to hardcore fans.
- La Magra: A fourteen-minute conversation with New Line Cinema President of Production Michael de Luca, Frankfurt, Goyer and other key members of the crew who give an overview of how the film came to be including a story about LL Cool J originally wanting to be involved, a look at how the comic panels transferred to screen, discussions of early concept art, casting the film, alternate endings and more. The rough look at the unused ending is the best part of this particular featurette.
- Designing Blade: A nearly 23-minute featurette with production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli and his team in which they discuss and display various aspects of the film including set and costume designs, vehicles, weapons, tattoos and other special and practical effects. Many of these concepts have advanced dramatically since this was released, and it is fascinating to see what they were able to accomplish at the time.
- Origins of Blade – A Look at Dark Comics: A 12-minute featurette with Goyer, Stan Lee and Wizard magazine’s Gareb Shamus in which they discuss the Comic Book Code and the shift into darker antiheroes post-1970s. We have been living outside of this Code for so long that it is interesting to hear about the limitations from that time. The best part of this one is hearing Lee tell stories about problems he had with the Code Office.
- The Blood Tide: A 20-minute featurette which takes a clinical look at blood from the base medical understanding to its role in folklore, theology, literature and more. Even if you didn’t like this film for some reason, this is an interesting video that stands on its own.
- Theatrical Trailer: The two-minute trailer is presented in standard definition which offers an exciting glimpse at the film.
Blade is both an important and incredibly fun comic book film that more than holds up in most respects. The forthcoming version of Blade from Disney should be quite interesting, but Wesley Snipes will likely be the definitive version of the character to most people. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has graced this one with a stellar new 4K UHD Blu-Ray with an upgraded A/V presentation and some cool special features. If you are a fan of the film, you are going to be blown away by this new presentation. Highly Recommended
Blade is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.