Updated: Feb 13
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Wesley Snipes gives an all-out performance as half-human/half-vampire Daywalker Blade.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1998; R for strong, pervasive vampire violence and gore, profanity, and brief sexuality; Streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple (4K) FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Audio Commentary by Cast and Crew
CURSE those new, upstart vampires up to their old tricks eradicating true bloods in a plan to enslave humans and take over the world.
Afterall, warm-blooded humans are only cattle designed to feed the new masters, right? We’ve seen it before, but the 1997 story from Marvel Comics created by writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan gets its pizzazz on film from Wesley Snipes in the 1998 film directed by Stephen Norrington (“League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” 2003).
No one saw it coming. Snipes, known as much for his comedy in “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” (1995) and “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992), as well as a host of action films such as “Demolition Man” (1993), “New Jack City” (1991) and “U.S. Marshals” (1998), turned in an all-out performance as half-human/half-vampire Daywalker Blade. He should have been human, but Blade’s mother, Vanessa (Sanaa Lathan), due to deliver her child, is attacked by a Big Bad (Stephen Dorff). The baby is delivered as his mother dies, growing up to become a deadly and efficient vampire hunter. He is aided by Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), a man whose family was killed by vampires, so he’s more than happy to become Blade’s guardian and mentor. Blade and Whistler became iconic roles for Snipes and Kristofferson.
(1) Vanessa (Sanaa Lathan) is hospitalized after being bitten by, “Some kind of wild animal,” says a doctor. She gives birth to a baby boy and dies. (2) Fast forward to the present, where blood pours from the sprinkler system at a vampire nightclub. (3) Daywalker Blade appears to save one of the victims, and put an end to as many bloodsuckers as possible. (3&4) Blade nails Quinn (Donal Logue), the new chief vampire’s lieutenant.
A lot of plot business unfolds during the two-hour film, with a cast that also includes N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue and Udo Kier. Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige announced a “Blade” reboot in July 2019 starring Oscar winner Mahershala Ali of “Moonlight” (2016), “Green Book” (2018) and Netflix’s “True Detective” (2019) in the lead role. There’s no release date yet due to the pandemic restrictions, and it seems as though it won’t be out until 2022.
Meanwhile, for those who love action-adventure with outstanding stunts and a touch of the supernatural, you can’t miss with Snipe’s “Blade.” In 4K UHD, it’s even better!
Shot in 35mm, “Blade” gets its 4K UHD with HDR10 upgrade (2.39:1 aspect ratio) from Warner Brothers, and it is a winner! It looks like a brand new, digitally filmed movie, with a fine wash of cinematic film grain. Depth and contrast are outstanding throughout. Colors are lush and vibrant, exhibiting sharp detail even in night scenes, including a vampire-fry at dawn on a beach.
Excellent black levels sing out among black-clad vampires and their arsenals, which are frequently set against fiery red and orange, or bold, bright lights. Facial complexions are true and natural, even among supernatural beings. CGI effects are polished. Shadows are creepy, but events happen so quickly, we don’t get the slow-build menace usually found in horror. This is a modern vampire story – leader of an oncoming pack, actually – and action is king.
Sound also receives a notable upgrade with a Dolby Atmos TrueHD 7.1 channel track. Default is a good 5.1 Dolby Digital. Dialogue comes through very clearly, front and center. Even so, subtitles are available in English SDH, and a variety of languages such as French, Spanish, Italian and German.
Effects are plentiful, and they soar around the room, as well as up above on the Atmos track. Bass delivers perfect thunder, while the overall sound itself is blissfully balanced. There’s no need to keep the remote nearby.
Music is by Mark Isham, who also composed an Oscar-nominated score for “The River Runs Through It” (1993). He was also the composer for “The Accountant” (2016) and Epix’s “Godfather of Harlem” (2019).
(1) Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) is bitten by Quinn, who is not quite dead yet! (2) Kris Kristofferson plays Abraham Whistler, Blade’s guardian. (3) A meeting of The House of Erebus, a vampire Shadow Council, where old traditions clash with new ideas. (4) Dr. Jenson returns home, where Blade warns there is a possibility she, too, may become a vampire. (5) Blade is injected with Whistler's serum, created to prevent his need to drink blood.
Bonus features are carryovers from earlier presentations, and Warner has ported a good bunch. Audio commentaries are engaging, fun and informative. There are two; one with Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, David Goyer (writer), Theo Van De Sande (cinematographer), Kirk M. Petrucelli (production designer) and Peter Frankfurt (producer), and a second isolated score commentary with Mark Isham. These are found on the 4K disc and digital.
The Blu-ray includes “La Magra” with then-New Line Cinema President of Production Michael de Luca and others providing the development of the “Blade” movie. It features an alternate ending. “Designing Blade” looks at concept art for characters, sets and weapons. “Origins of Blade: A Look at Dark Comics” features Stan Lee in a discussion of how 1970’s superheroes became the antiheroes of the ‘80s and ‘90s. “The Blood Tide” explores blood’s role in medicine, history and fiction. Fascinating.
I’ve always enjoyed “The Underworld” film series by Len Wiseman, Kevin Grevious and Danny McBride, most starring Kate Beckinsale, but always felt it was an offspring of “Blade” and its sequels: “Blade II” (2002) and “Blade: Trinity” (2004). Snipe’s Daywalker is so not the parents’ bloodsucker in an opera cape. (Don’t get defensive. Both species have their place in the fandom of horror. My pref: Frank Langella's "Dracula" (1979.)
Snipe turned the creature on its ear and changed the game. Great to see how well he holds up!
— Kay Reynolds
(1) Blade saves Dr. Jenson from an assault by a policeman revealed as a “familiar”; a person serving vampires hoping to become one himself. (2) Vampire Deacon Frost (Stephen Doff) kidnaps Dr. Jenson. (3) Quinn returns to staple Blade to a wall. (4) Frost forces Elder Dragonetti (Udo Kier) to his doom.
(1&2) At the Temple of Eternal Night, Blade discovers his mother is still alive and a vampire. (3) Mercury (Arly Jover) attempts to kill Dr. Jenson. (4) Frost calls for the resurrection of La Magra. (5) The final battle between Blade and Frost.