Blade stands the test of time after 22 years to arrive on 4K UHD as he battles blood-thirsty vampires and Deacon Frost in the comic book movie that started it all back in 1998. Warner Bros.' new 4K transfer with HDR10 along with the new Dolby Atmos audio track are both terrific. All of the previous bonus features are ported over as well. Highly Recommended!
It was only some ten years ago when the cult of superheroes became the biggest money-making phenomenon in Hollywood with the start of the MCU in Iron Man. Of course, there are exceptions to this with the original Superman film, Tim Burton's Batman, and of course Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy. Besides those five films, the comic book universe was looked down upon and only reserved for the true die-hard comic fans. In fact, most of Marvel and DC's product was campy, family-friendly, and usually involved a formulaic storyline where a pleasant superhero would always save the day. But then a couple of independent comic book companies burst onto the scene and started making gritty, violent, adult only graphic novels that resulted in major popularity in the comic culture. Marvel and DC soon followed suit, where Marvel ditched the spandex and put over vampires, bullets, and swords in Blade, which was later made into a feature film in 1998 starring Wesley Snipes.
It's argued that the first X-Men film paved the way for superhero movies that eventually led to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but X-Men wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Blade in 1998, which was the first time a major studio put a ton of money and talent into a comic book universe that more or less took itself seriously. The result was a huge financial success, more than tripling its budget in ticket sales along with some fairly glowing reviews from top critics, including a good review from Roger Ebert. From here, Hollywood invested heavily into X-Men, Spider-Man, and then into a strange idea for the MCU that became the biggest most beloved film franchise in history, while putting the comic book culture into the mainstream - but it all started with a little vampire hunter named Blade.
Some twenty-two years later, the original Blade film still has that power and kick that it had when it flew onto the big screen in the late 1990s, sans some of the cheesy dialogue and the extremely outdated CGI effects. Blade starts out in the 1960s where a pregnant woman is attacked by a vampire, causing her to give birth. The baby survives, but the mother dies, and the film cuts to thirty years later where that baby has become Blade, (Wesley Snipes), who is half-vampire, half-human, and retains all of the vampire strengths, but none of their weaknesses, besides the thirst for blood.
Blade in his pitch-black gear, guns, and duo swords spend the day killing vampires and protecting the human race with the help of his mentor Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who has helped create a serum that will keep Blade's vampire thirst at bay. This is where Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) enters the picture as the poster boy for the ultimate 1990's villain of all time. Deacon is ousted from his vampire community for trying to start a global vampire vs human war, but in retaliation, he kills the elder vampires and takes control in order to bring back an ancient vampire blood god to murder the planet. Only Blade can stop this maniacal man through the use of some excellent martial arts and swordplay.
Director Stephen Norrington used a highly-stylized camera movement for most of the film with fast, quick cuts in and around the action and tons of blood in certain sequences that were caked in red. Instead of the camera standing back from the action, sitting and watching carefully every move, Blade's camera got knee-deep into the chaos itself, which at the time was a more immersive experience for fans and some two decades later still plays out at a quick pace. Unfortunately, Norrington went on to make The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which led Sean Connery to leave the acting business whereas Norrington was never heard from again.
David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) penned the screenplay and added equal amounts of serious dramatic horror and cheesy one-liners and actions. For every scary vampiric moment with Blade that had him showcase his kung-fu skills in an amazing way, it was meant with him slowly putting on his sunglasses and spouting a ridiculous one-liner that is horrifically cringe-worthy and laugh-out-loud funny, as Snipes delivers these lines in the most stoic of ways, similar to how the teacher says "Bueller" repeatedly in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Luckily, Stephen Dorff plays Deacon Frost completely opposite as an insanely angry, over-the-top villain who steals every scene he's in. It's a perfect, brutal match up, that is until the final anti-climatic battle where the truly laughable CGI takes pace and travels to some nonsense place where the film is sucked dry of all anything coherent. But it sure was a fun ride to get to this point and that's what it's about.
The ending doesn't matter either, since the film spawned two sequels with an upcoming reboot set in the MCU. This original Blade film is still an amazing piece of film history, one that definitely set the path for all future comic book adaptations to the big screen, where Wesley Snipes was allowed to showcase his martial arts training and own forever that role of the vampire hunter.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Blade stalks its way to 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital Copy from Warner Bros. The two discs are housed in a hard, black plastic case inside a cardboard sleeve featuring new artwork of Blade's profile and sword. The insert for the digital copy is good on Movies Anywhere.
Blade hunts its way to 4K UHD with HDR10 from Warner Bros. that breathes a bit of life into this 22-year old film. The previous Blu-ray release certainly had some video issues, but this 4K Disc seems to have really cleaned things up.
There wasn't a lot said about a new transfer or new master, video-wise for this release, which means this may in fact be the same master from the previous Blu-ray release that was used to upscale into 4K UHD. That's unfortunate if that's the case, but in reality, there are some major upgrades in the detail and color palette here. The colors are bolder and richer in most sequences, including the club massacre at the beginning of the film where everything has a red tint to it. The HDR gives an uptick to the black levels in Blade's uniform, sunglasses, and hair that contrasts nicely in the darker sequences. The orange, yellow, and red fire that bursts onto the screen when vampires bite the dust or meet their sunny maker is exquisite and dazzling. Other than these few scenes, most of the film is bland with cooler looking color tones with the exception of some vampiric characters towards the end.
The detail is sharper and more vivid this time around, almost to a detriment when the heavy CGI climax takes place at the end of the film where almost everything looks fake and silly. Despite this one big moment, the detail shows excellent facial features in the actor's faces, the practical effects makeup, gory wounds, textures in the swords, leather jackets, and shiny metallic swords. Additionally, Blade was originally shot in 35mm, where this new 4K presentation takes some of that nostalgic film grain and uses it wisely with its black levels and shadows where the film doesn't look like a cheap digitally shot horror movie. It still retains its filmic quality, which is nice. Lastly, the normal skin tones are organic and there were no major video problems to speak of here.
This 4K release comes with a new impressive Dolby Atmos mix, which trumps the already excellent 5.1 audio track it came with on the Blu-ray version. The sound effects are highly robust and dynamic on all accounts. each gun blast, sword swipe, and marital arts kick packs a big punch and sounds off nicely through the speakers. There is a more fluid transition from speaker to speaker as bats fly across the screen, Blade quickly moves to hone in on his next kill, and other civilians scream in terror as they are about to meet their untimely fate. It can all. be heard perfectly on this new Dolby Atmos track that is quite amazing.
From the chaotic blood massacre at the beginning of the film to Blade's boomerang knife that flies around the room, each speaker picks up the most nuanced sound effects flawlessly. The low end of bass kicks into high gear with a great rumble during the techno/metal music that pulsates the nightclub, as well as in the bigger action sequences. The height speakers give way to some boisterous moments inside the club, the climactic battle, and gunshots that ring all over the place. Dialogue is clean and clear and free of any other problems.
There are no new extras on this new 4K release. There are two vintage commentary tracks included with the 4K Disc, where the rest of the older bonus features are located on the Blu-ray Disc that total about 70 minutes of material.
Blade is still an influential, poignant, and important film in the comic book movie realm as it started it all for the most part in this modern age. Additionally, it honed in on the major stylized version of filmmaking and made Wesley Snipes an international star. Despite its flaws, Blade still stands the test of time to remain one of the greats, especially with its villain in Deacon Frost. The new 4K transfer with HDR10 and Dolby Atmos sound mix are both fantastic and all of the previous bonus features are imported over. Highly Recommended!