Director : David S. Goyer
Screenplay : David S. Goyer (based on characters created by Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2004
Stars : Wesley Snipes (Blade), Kris Kristofferson (Abraham Whistler), Ryan Reynolds (Hannibal King), Jessica Biel (Abigail Whistler), Parker Posey (Danica Talos), Cascy Beddow (Flick), Dominic Purcell (Dracula)
The award for most egregious product placement in a movie this year surely goes to the ridiculous inclusion of the Apple iPod in Blade: Trinity, the third installment of the dwindling Blade franchise. As if the iPod were not ubiquitous enough in American culture right now, we find out that a vampire killer in the movie played by Jessica Biel likes to make new song mixes of techno and hip-hop music and download them to her iPod right before going out to waste some bloodsuckers. The concept in and of itself is ridiculous, but passable, but what is not passable is writer/director David S. Goyer giving us fetishistic slow motion shots of Biel putting in her ear buds right before going into battle, which would be ludicrously campy if it weren't so annoyingly opportunistic.
Goyer, who wrote the first two Blade films and also penned this one, steps into the director's chair this time around, and while his work is certainly competent, his primary aesthetic aim seems to be outdoing the music-video-inspired visual excesses of the previous films. Blade II, which is the best in the series, was directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy), a gifted visualist and genre specialist who infused the film with added doses of grisly-funny horror. Goyer wants to continue in that vein, but he never manages to fuse the two together the way del Toro did.
This time around, Blade (Wesley Snipes), the half-human, half-vampire who has made it his life's work to eradicate the world of vampires, is forced to team up with another underground vampire-killing group called the Night Stalkers. They are led by Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel), the daughter of Blade's longtime partner and weapons creator Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). Abigail's partner is Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds, bearded and extremely buff), a former vampire who's been turned.
Since the first movie featured the rise of a blood god and the second featured a race of supervampires that were so wicked that they fed on other vampires, Goyer had to dig deep to find a suitable villain for the third installment. So, he went back to the basics and resurrected Dracula, who must be literally awoken from his slumber deep beneath the Syrian Desert. This is not the Dracula of Bram Stoker's legend, though, but rather a godlike, shape-shifting monstrosity who is the perfectly created progenitor of the vampire race. In human form, he is embodied by hulking British actor Dominic Purcell, who is unfortunately devoid of any personality beyond scowling anger.
There are isolated moments in Blade: Trinity that really work, including a creepy sequence where Blade and Abigail discover a warehouse that is part of the vampire's "Final Solution," which involves keeping thousands of people in comas in what look like giant plastic bags while being drained of their blood. The idea of a "Final Solution" and the vampires' need to resurrect Dracula in order to purify their bloodline gives the film a queasy connection to issues of race and, more disturbingly, racial genocide, ideas that snaked through the earlier films, as well. In horror films, vampirism has always worked best as a metaphor for something else, which Goyer seems to be keenly aware of and wary about. This is particularly evident in a scene in which Blade has been captured by the police and a psychiatrist questions whether his belief in vampires may really be a sexual fetish connected to his relationship with his mother.
Wesley Snipes doesn't expand much on his characterization of Blade from the previous two films, and if anything has stepped back a bit from the more human Blade featured in Blade II. He does get to deadpan a few one-liners here and there, but most of the comic relief is left up to Ryan Reynolds--yes, Van Wilder himself--who brings a sometimes misplaced, but always wicked sarcasm to the film. His best moments are when he is being interrogated by a stiletto-heeled lead vampire played with relish by indie favorite Parker Posey, who appears to be channeling Sandra Berhnard. Jessica Biel, on the other hand, doesn't have nearly as much to do as we might have liked, especially since she's Whistler's daughter, but she does establish a great propensity for being an iPod spokesmodel if her movie career doesn't pan out.
Copyright 2004 James Kendrick
All images copyright 2004 New Line Cinema