Blade: The Series
Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 558 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo Surround Sound
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. The series had a reasonably successful reaction to the pilot, but interest faded quickly and as a result, only 13 episodes were ever produced before the sun was allowed to rise on the vampire tale
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, the pilot spends little time giving us details on the characters, instead choosing to allot its running time to setting up the plot thread that was 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. The series succeeded in identifying plot threads that intrigued and were complicated enough to be able to sustain an hour long television drama, something vital for a transition to the small screen.
So just how successful is the transition of Blade from the big screen to the small screen? Well,ultimately not very.
There are three major problems that start in the pilot and carry on into the series episodes. The first is the impatience with which the story and various plots. The pleasure to be derived from great story telling, especially on TV (LOST, X-FILES, Battlestar Galactica), comes from slow revelations, an appreciation of the tension, drama and twisted plotting that comes from the right pacing. But, in what appears to be an attempt to match the kinetic energy of its theatrical counterpart, the barrage of faces, stories and plot ideas are rushed into and out of. It doesn’t work well and does immeasurable disservice to the flow of the brief series.
The second major issue facing this TV incarnation is the script. Admittedly, the ideas are interesting, but the clunky dialogue, from Blade and various background characters (such as Krista’s mother), are 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 producers, and a so-called attempt to make this Blade a little more rugged, but Sticky’s clear lack of experience in the show detracts from the style and skill of the Blade that has been established in the trilogy of cinematic adventures.
While the series improves on the mostly lackluster Pilot produced, introducing a number of intriguing plot threads built on good ideas, the frequent script weakness and serviceable direction hold it back.
Blade: The Series on DVD present most of the episodes in an ‘unrated and revamped’ form, with partial nudity and cussing. It helps the show become a little edgier but beyond cheap thrills, adds little to the show.
Look for Bokeem Woodbine's appearance in the series in yet another ‘crazy and scary’ character role and another X-Files alumnus, Robert Wisden (Pusher) in the series.
1: Pilot Part One
2: Pilot Part Two
3: Death Goes On
6: The Evil Within
9: Turn of the Screw
10: Angels and Demons
The Blade series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV. The show has some good moments, but generally the image isn’t that great. The darks are indistinct and muddy at times, which for a show that takes place predominantly at night presents a real issue There are a few nice shots here and there, especially the flashback scenes to Iraq that the Krista character has, 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. The pilot was especially poor but the season does improve.
New Line Home Entertainment has provided Blade: The Series 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, during the action sequences that get pumped up with some heavy rock and energetic hip-hop and the explosions during the last episode in particular, but there is a persistent hollowness to it all that smacks of cable TV programming. 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.
All the special features available on this set are ported over from last years Blade: House of Chthon DVD release.
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 really quite thorough.
Blade TV Promos : - Eight promo spots created for the series.
Despite some promise in the storyline, there are simply too many flaws in the extended pilot and too many clunky script turns through the series for Blade's life on the small screen to have a real chance.
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. The improvement in the shows quality may have been too slow in coming or perhaps audiences were not patient enough to see the show grow beyond its heavy growing pains – but Blade is a property whose return to the big screen with Wesley taking over the role would be the best option.