Blade: House of Chthon
Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
US Rating: Unrated
Film Length: 88 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Optional Spanish and English SDH
The Film - out of
In 1998, the Marvel Comic’s character, Blade, found success on the big screen with Wesley Snipes, a self professed martial arts fanatic, as the title character. Written by David Goyer and directed by Stephen Norrington, the trials of the vampire/human hero fighting to rid the world of ‘suck heads’ was a dark, brooding and action fueled hit, popular enough to guarantee a sequel. Guillermo Tel Toro was tapped to bring Blade II alive and did so by moving away from the gothic tones of the first outing, and infusing the film with an overload of spectacular effects and dynamic action. Again written by David Goyer, it came with a more exciting story, deeper plotlines and provided us with a far more complex and interesting foe for our hero Blade to face.
Lightning, however, did not strike for a third time when David Goyer sat in the director’s chair for Blade: Trinity. The franchise seemed to veer off from its successful path by adding too many characters into the story and breaching the bubble of the underworld, where the existence of Blade and his vampire prey foes battle under the cover of night. With Blade coming under the scrutiny of the FBI, the mood was spoiled, turning the Blade universe into something far less spectacular and not nearly as interesting to visit.
According to Goyer, creating a Blade television series was discussed as early as the first film, but the right moment did not present itself until after Blade: Trinity. And so, the adventures of the vampire hunting anti-hero would continue on the small screen with Spike TV as its home. This new serialized television outing would feature Kirk ‘Sticky’ Jones (Sticky Fingaz of Onyx) as Blade, replacing Wesley Snipes. Blade: The House of Chthon is the unrated and extended version of the pilot for this new series.
The story finds Blade in the midst of relocating his base of operations, with his new sidekick Shen (Nelson Lee) and introduces us to a new villain, Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson). We are also introduced to Krista Starr (Jill Wagner), an ex-soldier seeking to find the truth behind her brother’s murder who finds herself in the seedy and bloody underworld of vampires, eventually partnering up with Blade. Surprisingly, for a pilot, little time is spent giving us details on the characters, instead choosing to allot its running time to setting up the plot thread that was intended to be explored during its first season. A sub-plot involving medical and scientific experiments, pure David Goyer, was also established and left deliberately mysterious, allowing it to be explored more thoroughly in future episodes.
So just how successful is the transition of Blade from the big screen to the small screen? Well, not very.
There are three major problems with this extended pilot episode. The first is the impatience with which the story unfolds as a slew of characters are introduced in the first ten minutes alone. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if we got to know enough about them through the remainder of the running time (at least enough to like or dislike them). But, in what appears to be an attempt to match the kinetic energy of its theatrical counterpart, a barrage of faces and stories are inter-cut, poorly piecing together the various elements that would eventually collide in the final act. It doesn’t work well at all and does immeasurable disservice to the flow.
The second major issue facing this TV incarnation is the script. Admittedly, the story is interesting and has a great deal of promise that could be explored through a season of episodes, but the clunky dialogue, from Blade and various background characters (such as Krista’s mother), is cringe worthy at times.
The final problem is with the Blade character himself. Sticky may look the part, but he lacks both the presence and grace of Wesley Snipes. Where Snipes captured a brooding and tortured anti-hero, Sticky simply manages to be taciturn; where Snipes used his knowledge and skills in martial arts to fluidly perform the combat action sequences, Sticky lumbers clumsily through those scenes. Part of that is the fault of the director, and a so-called attempt to make this Blade a little more rugged, but Sticky’s clear lack of experience in this Pilot detracts from the style and skill of the Blade we have all come to know, that has been established in the trilogy of cinematic adventures.
There are a few good moments, and Neil Jackson is quite capable as the nemesis established in the pilot, but this TV version of Blade lacks the style and tone of the films. The direction is unfocused and labeling this an unrated version simply because it has a couple of cuss words and one shot of a topless woman doesn’t help matters.
The Blade series pilot is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV. This is not a good image. The darks are indistinct and muddy, which for a show that takes place predominantly at night presents a real issue. It is mentioned that this pilot was filmed using an HD cam, a camera that captures details even with low or natural lighting. This may be why quite a few scenes come across a murky. There are a few nice shots here and there, and the ‘burning ash’ death of the vampire’s lights up the screen as colorfully as ever, but the image never escapes the overall rough quality. There is simply no reason that this show should look this bad.
New Line Home Entertainment has provided Blade: House of Chthon with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. There is some good depth to the surround sound and some nice bass from the engines of Blades rides, but there is a persistent hollowness to it all that smacks of cable TV programming at its worst. The martial arts combat gives the show some opportunity to do something interesting with the front and surround channels, but honestly, it barely breaks average.
Audio Commentary by Director Peter O’Fallon : – Director O’Fallon, responsible for over 13 pilots (including the fun Eureka Pilot and American Gothic) provides a technically thorough commentary and it is clear he had a passion for the project.
Audio Commentary by writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns: – A far more lively commentary track is provided here by longtime Blade guru, David Goyer and writing partner on this project, Geoff Johns. A casual conversation in which they discuss freely what they felt worked and what did not. They reveal a number of plot details from the episodes that were completed on the show before its cancellation, even discussing some of the plot thread ideas they toyed with for a second season should they have been granted one.
Turning Blade Documentary : - (101:46) – A surprisingly good documentary that runs just over an hour. Divided into seven chapters, this look behind the scenes at the making of the pilot and a little of the Blade universe, covers the selection of the new Blade, his weapons arsenal, stunt work and the wardrobe. Nicely produced and quite thorough.
Blade TV Promos : - Eight promo spots created for the series.
Sneak Peaks : - Sneak peaks of New Line product:
Butterfly Effect 2
Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny
The Number 23
Despite some promise in the storyline, there are simply too many flaws in this extended pilot that create too much gravity for the shows plusses to escape and flourish. An interesting villain aside, the questionable casting of the characters only added to the uphill challenge of creating the Blade universe, one that was energetically and slickly produced in theaters, on the small screen.
This pilot never really gave Blade much of a chance of becoming something unique in the television landscape.