By admin | December 9, 2004

I enjoyed the first two Blade films, for decidedly different reasons. The original was a vampire movie goosed with glossy production values and mindless carnage. Directed by Stephen Norrington, it possessed a fairly cold style that wasn’t exactly horror, but was entertaining nonetheless. More importantly, the principals all seemed to be having a good time.

“Blade II,” headed up by “Hellboy’s” Guillermo Del Toro, put a good deal of menace back into the franchise. Under Del Toro’s direction, the movie took on a perverse, Gothic aura that invigorated the characters and kept the energy going.

Unfortunately, “Blade: Trinity” – the latest film in the series – offers neither horror nor style. That old sinking feeling starts right around the time you realize the villain this time around is none other than Dracula (actually a Syrian demon who goes by the name of Drake and looks like he could play halfback for the All-Blacks). He’s been resurrected by a team of vampires, with names like Danica Talos (Parker Posey, channeling Darla from “Dazed and Confused”) and…*snicker* “Jarko Grimwood” (Triple H), who want Drake to help the vampires Rule the World.

But what about Blade (Wesley Snipes)? Good question, for it seems the bloodsuckers have succeeded in framing him for murder. After the authorities blow up the Daywalker’s wharfside Fortress of Vampirism and Whistler (Kris Kristofferson, dying for what one assumes is the last time), he gets locked up in federal custody. Talos and company infiltrate the holding facility and are preparing to do our hero in, when an unlikely rescue takes place.

Now, when I say “unlikely” I don’t mean, “What? A mysterious pair of vampire hunters (played by Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel) gets the drop on the bad guys and spring Blade from right under their noses? What are the odds?” No, I mean, “Wow, that is one of the most horribly shot action sequences I’ve ever seen.” Any way you slice it, from the scattershot camera angles and inexplicable timing, to the fact that a van drives right into a police cordon and plucks our protagonists out of harm’s way with hardly a shot fired, this is bad. And it doesn’t get much better.

Blade’s rescuers, Hannibal King (Reynolds) and Abigail Whistler (Biel), are two of the Nightstalkers: a group of 20-somethings following in Blade’s vampire killing footsteps (and yes, Abigail is Whistler’s long lost daughter), and they want Blade to join them. The fit would seem to be perfect, since the Nightstalkers are fairly inexperienced and Blade needs backup now that the human authorities as well as the vamps are on his trail.

Except they’re not, really. After Blade’s messy escape, in which dozens of law enforcement agents are killed, we don’t see the cops again until literally the last minute of the film. Every FBI agent and police officer in the country not hunting up Muslims must be looking for him, and Blade doesn’t even bother to disguise himself, walking around in broad daylight dressed, well, like Blade (with a freaking sword strapped to his back no less).

As for the Nightstalkers themselves, Biel looks fetching enough as she doles out justice with a compound bow and a sort of modified lightsaber(!), but is otherwise a throwaway character. Except as a spokesperson for iPod, that is. See, she wears one while fighting, which – besides being tactically stupefying – at least gives us an excuse for the bitchin’ soundtrack. Let’s hope Apple got their money’s worth. There’s also Natasha Lyonne as a geneticist (a role which makes Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in The World is Not Enough suddenly seem fathomable), and a completely underused Patton Oswalt as the Nightstalkers’ obligatory gadget guy.

If there is a bright spot to be had here, it’s Reynolds, whose Hannibal King has the best lines in the film. King is one of the better characters in recent memory, and one of the best in the “Blade” movies, period. He brings some desperately needed levity to the proceedings (and “c**k-juggling thunder c**t” is now one of my new favorite insults). And with 20 pounds of extra muscle, he’s scarcely recognizable from his Van Wilder days. I need to get the number of his personal trainer.

As for Snipes, I didn’t bother to keep count, but I’d be surprised if he has 30 lines of dialogue in the whole film. He still fights as well as ever, but there’s something inherently wrong with a “Blade” movie where the title character stands around waiting for everyone else to make decisions. Worse, he looks bored, and after sitting through this mess for 100 minutes, I was right there with him.

When ideas for the third “Blade” movie were being bandied about, one of the original concepts was for Blade to be a sort of Omegaman, doing battle in a world taken over by bloodsuckers. This “Planet of the Vampires” idea never got off the ground, due either to the bleakness of its tone or the fact that New Line didn’t want to pay for ripping off “I Am Legend.” In retrospect, they should have risked the lawsuit. Blade already took care of La Magra in the first film, so why revisit the stale “über-vampire” angle with Dracula as the baddie?

And while I’ve long accepted the fact that one of the side effects of vampirism is how it confers black belts in aikido upon all who become undead, do they also have to come back as Eurotrash? Don’t any vampires wear flannel? And why bring in the Nightstalkers when “Blade II” already handled the idea much better with the Bloodpack?

I could go on, but all you really need to know is that writer-director David S. Goyer has dropped the ball in a big way. “Blade: Trinity” is a poorly edited, laughably scripted, and lifelessly acted disappointment that kills any sense of fun or dread we may have been expecting. With the exception of a few memorable fight scenes and Reynolds’ performance, there’s no reason to subject yourself to this. And short of a spin-off featuring Hannibal King in his own movie, I can’t imagine any reason why this once moderately enjoyable franchise should continue.

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