Monday, October 18, 2010

Blade: Trinity: A Surprisingly Fun Superhero Film With A Wonderful Antihero!

The Good: Entertaining dialogue, Decent acting, Great effects, Good DVD bonus features
The Bad: Light on character development, Formulaic plot elements.
The Basics: Despite being a sequel, Blade: Trinity holds up remarkably well on its own as a dark, adult superhero film.

Despite my many reviews of graphic novels, it might surprise some that so far I have so few film reviews based on comic book characters. In fact, outside the Iron Man movies (my Iron Man 2 review is available by clicking here!) the only movie based on a comic book character that I have yet moved into my new blog is The Dark Knight (that review is available here!). While more are certainly coming as part of my move to my blog from the review site, right now there are pathetically few. Ironically, this has not stopped me from watching new movies and when my wife picked up Blade: Trinity, she was eager to share it with me.

It is worth noting at the outset that I saw Blade once upon a time and remembered very little of it, save that it was gory and used a lot of CG special effects for killing vampires. Beyond that, I found the original pretty forgettable and I did not see the first sequel. It is also worth noting that I have not read any of the comic books upon which the Blade story is based. So, I came to Blade: Trinity with no real prejudices or impressions. I finished watching the film wondering why the movie did so poorly in the United States. Blade: Trinity is solidly entertaining, fairly original and has all of the strong points of a healthy franchise. So, why did it do so poorly that the DVD was available on sale for $5.00 for my wife to buy? We watched the Unrated version on DVD and I'm still not sure what set it over "R," but it seemed pretty much like any other R-rated action-adventure story without a lot of the extreme horror elements that get packed into some R-rated films. That said . . .

The vampire population, most notably Danica Talos, is frustrated by the vampire-human hybrid Blade picking them off. So, Talos takes a team to Syria where they uncover a shapeshifting uber-vampire. Returning to the U.S., Danica and her team set Blade up. While hunting vampires, the brood plants a human familiar among his quarry and when Blade kills the human, Danica's contacts in the police department descend upon Blade. In the subsequent battle, Blade's facility is compromised and his human aide, Whistler is irrevocably killed. Blade is captured by the corrupt police who are working for Talos.

But Blade's incarceration is not a lengthy one. When Talos comes to gloat and torture Blade, the vampire is rescued by a pair of humans: Hannibal King and Abigail Whistler, illegitimate daughter of Whistler. The pair informs Blade of just who is he is up against: the original vampire, Dracula. To suss out Drake and his minions, Blade and his new allies begin hunting the familiars with the intent to kill Drake and every vampire in the world!

Blade: Trinity is less original than some action-adventure superhero films, but it is engaging and utilizes many of the best parts of the contemporary antihero superhero film. So, for example, virtually every line Hannibal King delivers is a sarcastic quip. He plays high for comic relief while Abigail Whistler is an archetypal badass superheroine using her brain and brawn to pound the crap out of vampires who see her as easy pickings. The plot is filled with formulaic reversals: the moment King and Abigail's team is shown aboard the boat, most viewers will easily see their slaughter coming. It is, quite simply, that kind of movie.

But where I tend to disagree with some other reviewers on Blade: Trinity is in how the movie defies some of the formulas and conceits. Blade: Trinity is delightfully devoid of the usual romantic subplots which usually come attached to exactly this type hero story. As a result, the film moves with a pretty fast pace that keeps the viewer watching and entertained for the full two hours it is running. Add to that, there is some true originality to David S. Goyer's work (he both wrote and directed the film). Goyer beats this year's Daywalkers to the punch with both the blood bank and vampirism cure ideas. The former idea is expertly illustrated and as one who loathed a similar scene in Alien Resurrection, Blade: Trinity pulls off the scene with quite a bit more class.

When Dracula is first exposed as the villain in Blade: Trinity, it is easy to groan, but the film quickly gets away from the potential camp of a "Blade Vs. Dracula" movie and instead keeps the tension high and the action moving. Instead of focusing on the mythology, Goyer takes the film into the direction that the vampires' greatest asset is also their greatest liability and the biological warfare element of the plot is intriguing and well-executed.

Blade: Trinity might not have much in the way of character development, but it does have interesting characters. While Zoe is a pretty generic girl brought in for plot bait and Sommerfield's blindness makes her being stalked by vampires that much more horrific, Abigail Whistler is an awesome heroine and very easy to watch. Similarly, King's quips become quite a bit more forgivable when one considers he was forced to live as a vampire for a time and, now cured, is still hunted by them. He is entertaining and the villains, Drake and Danica, are appropriately villainous.

Moreover, Blade: Trinity features surprisingly good acting. I'd never seen Parker Posey (Danica) in a genre work before, but she pulls off the cold, calculating nature of a vampire leader wonderfully. As well, Wesley Snipes gives a perfectly wonderful performance as Blade. Blade is supposed to be unflappable and in many ways passionless. During things like the opening car chase where Blade shoots through other cars, is attacked by vampires and is driving at high speeds, he illustrates no emotion and this is actually exceptional acting on the part of Snipes. After all, what does a vampire have to worry about a car crashing for? Snipes succeeds in creating an often-emotionless character more than Leonard Nimoy did with Spock on the original Star Trek. Even his sworn acknowledgment of being framed comes with a delightfully passionless execution.

And while Ryan Reynolds' quip-laden King is fun to watch, it is more Jessica Biel who steals the limelight in her scenes. Reynolds is funny, but he has played that role to death, including after this in X-Men: Evolutions - Wolverine. Jessica Biel, however, makes the transition from meek teenage television star to full-bodied action hero with a striking presence beyond just her obvious physical attractiveness. Instead, Biel is able to emote a clear sense of determination with her eyes and is appropriately vulnerable in the few moments the film allows her to be.

On DVD, Blade: Trinity comes with both the R-rated and unrated versions of the film and two different commentary tracks. There is also a bonus disc which features a third ending to the movie and an extensive documentary on the making of Blade: Trinity. There is also a blooper reel which is as entertaining as such things usually are.

Ultimately, Blade: Trinity might just be a film that takes a bum rap when other, similar, movies are lauded. It is a very entertaining movie and it sets up the franchise to both survive and go in new, interesting directions . . . if only there were an audience that cared for it.

For other works featuring vampires, please check out my reviews of:
True Blood - Season 1
Let The Right One In
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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