New Line // 1998 // 120 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // June 27th, 1999
Against an army of immortals, one warrior must draw first blood.
New Line delivers an outstanding DVD for one of the best action films created in recent years
I won't mince words: this is my absolute favorite DVD. The film is great, the transfer is great, and the extra content is absolutely outstanding. Last summer a little film called Blade opened with little fanfare. There were some ads on TV for it (which horribly mismarketed the film) but the film did not receive the critical praise it truly deserved. I ignored Blade in the theaters because it looked like some gothic vampire film and I really am not a big fan of vampires. Upon purchasing the DVD I almost wet my pants. Yes, this is a vampire film, but it's a different kind of vampire film. Blade is really a Hong Kong action film in disguise. Once the opening sequence ended I could hardly believe my eyes. Wesley Snipes (who I am certain is a genius) wisely saw the attraction of Hong Kong action style films (the works of Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, and Jet Li) and brought them to a big budget Hollywood film.
Blade is the story of a man (half human, half vampire) named Blade (Wesley Snipes) who protects the unsuspecting human race from a group of vampires, now on the rise and looking to take over the human race. The ambitious vampire looking to summon La Magra, the blood god, and turn the entire human race into vampires is named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff). In order to summon La Magra, Frost must first deal with those vampires who oppose him, and feel that the vampires should remain in the shadows of human society. Later, Frost learns that his arch rival, Blade, "the daywalker" is needed in order to summon La Magra. And the chaos ensues...
Granted, while the story is not entirely original or that captivating, it gives the action a nice backdrop. Whereas the story behind most action films is completely moronic, the story behind Blade is well thought out and even interesting at times. David Goyer, who wrote the screenplay for Dark City, is the man responsible for bringing the story element to Blade. Thankfully, Goyer has written a sequel to be filmed later this year. Nevertheless, the real star of Blade is the action sequences. These sequences brilliantly directed by Stephen Norrington present a mix of martial arts, gun play, and plain old street brawling. Since Blade also deals with vampires, there are some well placed, over-the-top effects, that would otherwise look goofy, but somehow work well in the Blade universe.
I can't tell you what it is about Blade, but somehow the film captures all the elements you could possibly want, has tons of extremely well placed humor, and just plain works as a cohesive whole. In other words, if you're a fan of action films, forget Blade is even about vampires, and see this film right now!
I'm so incredibly happy that Blade was brought to DVD in such spectacular form. I missed the film in the theaters but this DVD is definitely the next best thing (if not even better). Lets start with the transfer, which is superb. The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and looks beautiful. Since Blade is a very dark film (the entire film plays over a black filter), the black level must be dead on for the DVD to look good, and it is. There was actually only one problem I could spot in the transfer (and I'll go into that later on). Then there is the audio, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The track has some great surround effects and is extremely clean, heard best towards the sword fights at the end of the film. Also, when the film begins in a vampire night club, the bass elements of a techno-song being played just pulse through the first five minutes of the film and literally shake the ground.
Then there are the extras...forget Columbia TriStar, New Line is my favorite DVD company, hands down. First and foremost there is the commentary track which is one of the best I have heard. Instead of one person talking for two hours, the track is mixed up with input from Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, David Goyer, and three producers. Then, if you want to watch the film yet again, you can watch with an isolated score and commentary by composer Mark Isham. To give even more insights to the film, there are several featurettes available on the disc. The "La Magra" featurette features deleted scenes from the film, an alternate ending, and the evolution of the film's storyline. "Designing Blade" shows pre-production art for the film and details some of the special effects and make-up work done on the film. "The Origins of Blade" investigates dark comic books and how the character of Blade first came about. Finally, "The Blood Tide" gives background on vampires in general from various historical perspectives and how these beliefs work into the Blade mythology.
But wait, there's more! A section called "Pencil to Post" shows the evolution of production designs to its final appearance in the film. "House of Erebus" details information about the 12 "tribes" of vampires found in vampire-lore as well as in Blade. Then, naturally, there are some production notes and a theatrical trailer for the film. Those who have a DVD-ROM drive (unfortunately I do not) can access the original screenplay for Blade and follow links on that screenplay to their correlating position in the film.
For $20, what more could you possibly ask for?
The single problem I found in the Blade video transfer was some noticeable bleeding during the opening credits for the film (which are blood red).
Some may find the acting in Blade a little over-the-top or cheesy, but I found all the performances right on target. The world of Blade is a little bit off the deep end, so the characters of Blade's world are very extreme by design. It's not Greek Theater, but the performances are suiting for the film, and if the actors took their roles more seriously much of the effect of the film would be lost.
Blade might be too extreme for some viewers, but anyone with an open mind, love for action films, and a willingness to suspend their disbelief, will enjoy Blade immensely. The disc is one of the best available on DVD; so stop reading this, and go out to buy Blade right now! Blade has enough appeal to watch over and over again and enough extras to keep you entertained for a long time...hopefully until Blade 2 hits the theaters!
Acquitted on all counts and awarded the DVD Verdict Medal of Honor for superior DVD and film quality.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* Isolated Score with Commentary by Composer
* Commentary by Actor Wesley Snipes, Actor Stephen Dorff, Writer David S. Goyer, Cinematographer Theo Van De Sande, Production Designer Kirk M. Petruccelli, and Producer Peter Frankfurt
* La Magra Featurette
* Designing Blade Featurette
* The Origins of Blade
* The Blood Tide
* Pencil to Post
* House of Erebus
* Cast and Crew Bios and Filmographies
* DVD-ROM Materials