The Blade Trilogy Gave Us Marvel Movies, The Vampire Boom, And Ryan Reynolds
When it comes to honoring the projects that helped put Marvel Comics on Hollywood’s map, it’s tough to pin down a single film. Some might say Spider-Man by Sam Raimi is the movie, because it was the biggest film in the world. Others might point to the first X-Men, as they were the first big-name Marvel characters to prove that comic book goofs worked in Serious Cinema™. However, one character and movie deserves more credit than it gets. The first Blade film and subsequent trilogy is responsible not just for giving Marvel movies a future but also the early 2000s vampire boom. Also, Blade: Trinity marked the first time we saw Ryan Reynolds, known best for Van Wilder at this time, his shot at being an action star. Let’s celebrate Blade and the actor who made him real: Wesley Snipes.
Even today, Blade is an outlier amongst comic book movies. It’s rated R, first and foremost. It would take almost 20 years for another R-rated Marvel movie to make an impact. While there were other Marvel projects for TV and unreleased films, it was Blade that made studios pick up their heads and take notice of Marvel Characters. In fact, only real comic book heads knew that Blade was a Marvel character who got his start in The Tomb of Dracula and later encountered Morbius, becoming a vampire himself. Wesley Snipes, at the time a mega-star known for his ability to perform martial arts stunts, seemed like the perfect actor for the role.
Yet, Blade had a rough road getting to the big screen. LL Cool J almost played the vampire hunter. The movie was almost a farce. And, of course, the studios wanted the hero to be white.
Blade Is the Grandfather of Marvel Movies
Image via New Line Cinema
The first Marvel movie to be released on the big screen was, in fact, Howard the Duck. Not only was the film a flop for Marvel it was also a flop for Lucasfilm, who produced it. It took 12 years for another Hollywood studio to take a Marvel character seriously in the movies, and that character was Blade. In fact, the dark, blood-soaked feature is still completely alien when compared to other Marvel films, save for maybe Logan. David S. Goyer, the writer, is himself now a genre legend. He wrote for Nolan’s Batman films and Zack Snyder’s nascent DCEU. He’s written on video game series like Call of Duty and Vader: Immortal. And he was Blade’s biggest advocate in the pre-production process.
At one point, according to Goyer, the studio executives wanted them to whitewash the character of Blade so they could cast a big-name, white actor. Eventually, the studio offered them $40 million if they got Denzel Washington, $35 million for Snipes, and $20 million if they got the once-and-future Morpheus, Laurence Fishburne. They went with the Snipes as their first choice, and ultimately made the film for a little over $40 million. (It went on to nearly triple its budget at the box office.)
The other key thing the filmmakers did was move vampires away from the Dracula and Interview with the Vampire motif. These vampires were not quiet, romantic characters. They were sick blood fiends who reveled in death and depravity. One change from the comics was casting noted Marvel Studios critic Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost. The story used the conflict between the vampires and Snipes’ Daywalker to tell a more subtextual racial story that most folks miss in this bloody popcorn flick. Yet, comic stories always blend the ridiculous and the profound.
How the Blade Trilogy of Movies Kicked Off a Vampire Boom and Ryan Reynolds’ Action Career
Image via New Line Cinema
The first Blade film was a triumph. Four years later, they made Blade II and Blade: Trinity followed two years after that. Say what you will about those sequels (and the live-action TV series that starred Kirk ‘Stick Fingaz’ Jones of Onyx fame), but it was the first bonafide Marvel franchise to be both on the big and small screens at a time when the separation between those two media was a giant chasm. Blade is the grandfather of Marvel movies not just because it was a cinematic success and franchise, but also because it helped influence the coming Vampire boom as well.
While it may not have been the first story to do so, Blade was the first time mainstream audiences were introduced to the idea of Vampires as a massive underground culture. The Vampires in Blade had power, influence, money, and a culture. They weren’t recluses living in shacks surviving on rat’s blood nor luring humans into their truck stop, strip club in Mexico. This take on bloodsuckers would carry over from Blade influencing the coming Vampire boom leading directly to Underworld, True Blood, and even Twilight. Wesley Snipes’ Blade didn’t just influence Marvel movies of the future but the entire vampire genre as well.
Also, it’s worth noting the connection between Blade and Deadpool. For the early 2000s, Ryan Reynolds was a comedic TV star who had a hit with the National Lampoon film Van Wilder. In Blade: Trinity, he showed that not only is he good comic relief, but he also has the chops to make it as an action star. In fact, you can more Deadpool in Hannibal King than the Wade Wilson from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It wasn’t until Deadpool that another Marvel Comics character had a successful R-rated film.
The Blade Trilogy is available to own wherever you get movies.
What do you think? Do you agree that Blade is the grandfather of the modern Marvel Movies and the vampire boom that followed? What’s your favorite movie of the Blade trilogy? Did you watch the Spike TV series? Share your Blade memories and tributes in the comments below.
Featured image via New Line Cinema
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book of superhero short stories, Tales of Adventure & Fantasy: Book One is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.