Wesley Snipes gets upstaged in his own film in this misfiring comic book sequel.
Who made it?: David S. Goyer (Director/Writer/Co-Producer), Peter Frankfurt, Wesley Snipes, Lynn Harris (Co-Producers), New Line Cinema.
Who’s in it?: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Dominic Purcell, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Parker Posey.
Tagline: “The final hunt begins.”
IMDb rating: 5.9/10.
It’s hard to fathom now, with The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel under his belt, but comic book-loving screenwriter David S. Goyer pretty much destroyed the Blade series. Just as director Christopher Nolan (arguably) torpedoed his Batman universe with the ridiculous Rises (“duck – nuclear bomb!”), Goyer dropped the ball with his trilogy closer, going from scribe to helmsman with only one directorial credit to his name. The man who once penned the David Hasslehoff-starring Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. simply wasn’t up to the task.
Let’s get one thing clear – I love the first two Blade pictures. Stephen Norrington’s original was a total blast in 1998 and remains that way. It was also Marvel’s first battering ram at the international box office and criminally overlooked for that fact. Released four years later, Blade II was even more successful, this time helmed by the wonderful Guillermo del Toro who needs no introduction. He took the series in a different direction, with plenty of standard-issue gore but an appreciated emphasis on Gothic imagery. It was also pumped-up and difficult to dislike. Which brings us to Blade: Trinity. This time, studio New Line Cinema was getting complacent. They decided against hiring a seasoned pro for the director’s chair, offering the task to Goyer – writer of all three films and the modern classic Dark City. It might have seemed like a good idea on paper, but Goyer was a disastrous choice. Trinity maintains the stigma most “final” chapters are burdened with – it’s tired, strewn together, and lacking what made its forerunners so enjoyable. It must be said, though, that it wasn’t entirely his fault… but we’ll get to that.
As the film begins, we’re whisked away to the Syrian desert where a troupe of sun-guarded vampires unearth something sinister in a tomb. Its pissed and clearly craving the beating heart of a virgin. Meanwhile, ol’ Blade (Wesley Snipes) is having fun using his latest batch of toys, taking out vampires left, right and centre. But tragedy strikes – walking into their trap, Blade kills a human by mistake, an act which is caught on camera. Now he’s got the United States government after him, too! To help him survive, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) has assembled a team to watch his back. They’re called the “Nightstalkers,” headed by Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds), a wise-cracking former vampire-come-hunter, and the sexy Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel), long-lost daughter of the Old Man himself. The Trinity must work together to defeat friggin’ Dracula (Prison Break‘s Dominic Purcell), awakened by secondary villain Danica Talos (Parker Posey) in a bid to accomplish a vampire “Final Solution.” Don’t worry… it’s nowhere near as on-the-nose as that sounds. That would have been interesting.
Trinity is simply wretched and deserves a spot on the shelf next to X-Men: Origins – Wolverine (which also featured Green Lantern Reynolds). That’s pretty clear from the first fifteen minutes alone, but it has some good points, occurring every now and again like a blip on a radar. Let’s talk about those Nightstalkers. The entire promotional campaign for the film seemed to centre on the picture-perfect Biel and Reynolds, restricting “star” Snipes to the background like a chump who hasn’t been invited to his own birthday party. He may have above-the-title-billing but the newbies dominate proceedings. They add a fresh angle to the series, creating a contrast to Blade’s stoic persona (a lot like the Blood Pack from II). They also possess a serious amount of weaponry that put Papa Whistler’s efforts to shame, such as Abigail’s prized bow and arrow which has the incomprehensible ability to fire around corners, or Hannibal’s impulse handgun which records streaming video of its targets on an in-built CD-ROM. Why? For the post-battle exposition, of course.
After what must have been a daunting training regime, Biel and Reynolds certainly look the part. They match Snipes during the frequent set-pieces and are convincing as action heroes. Red-blooded men won’t complain about the athletic Biel, while everyone else should admire the improbably buff Reynolds, who gets to flex his muscles during the final reel in a skirmish with gargantuan wrestler Triple H. That said, the former is mostly underused, deployed by Goyer as mere eye candy whilst Reynolds is there purely for comedic effect – which is a good portion of the run-time. Goyer complained that most of his humour was deleted from previous scripts, and he was clearly making up for lost time. 90% of Hannibal’s dialogue is laced with juvenile jokes, even during the important story beats. His Deadpool-esque chatter is over-used and not suited here, but Reynolds is frequently hilarious and the only one genuinely having a ball.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is decidedly poor and don’t allow us to connect to the story. As Dracula, the most famous vampire of them all, Purcell is pathetic. He doesn’t have an ounce of menace, and even his kill sequences lack any tension. The script doesn’t give us a reason to fear him either, with Goyer resorting to well-trodden clichés and hoping for a response. He’s supposed to be the most feared vamp in existence and the progenitor of his race, yet Blade seems to be his equal – a sure way to kill any suspense stone-dead. He even appears to fear the “Daywalker,” especially during a foot chase through LA in which Dracula (or “Drake” as he’s known here) tries furiously to get away like a little bitch. The other villains face a similar fate. Dispensing with whatever indie cred she had, Posey is the opposite of threatening as Danica. In fact, she seems to be recalling her bitchy character from Dazed and Confused with better dental work (have you ever seen a vampire with bad teeth?).
This film, however, was intended by New Line to deliver explosions and technical razzle-dazzle, so how does that fare? The action is also hit-and-miss. Goyer lines the flick with wall-to-wall stunts in the hope of a classic sequence to beat that club bloodbath from the original, and there are some enjoyable trailer bits to punctuate the rote narrative twists. The opening car chase is a first for the Blade series and is relentlessly OTT. He runs over motorcycle blood-suckers, kills another with his UV headlights (neat), and even has an in-car scuffle with a foe that has a wonderful pay-off. But my favourite scene is the rescue of Blade from FBI headquarters. Introducing the Nightstalkers organically, it could possibly be Trinity’s one true highlight. Even the conclusion has some worth, with the trio frenetically destroying the vampire’s hideout (which is, would you believe it, made almost entirely of glass).
But its all lensed by a director who obviously has no fucking clue what he’s doing. The fun is hindered by choppy editing, loathsome hip-hop tracks, and digitally-altered colours that destroy the cinematography. Goyer should have studied his predecessors who handled everything with a degree of conceptual panache. By the time you get to a vampire Pomeranian or Abigail’s persistent use of an iPod, you’ll be wondering if everyone was medically sound while making this drivel. And I don’t care what Goyer says to defend such flagrant product placement – no hunter would ever block one of her senses during a fight! Although I certainly wanted to block mine.
If all this wasn’t horrendous enough, there’s still the matter of Snipes. The actor was famously unhappy with the choice of Goyer and the decision to bring in fresh faces to share the poster. Although he was ultimately right on both counts, he still should have been a professional about it. His bad behaviour on the set of Trinity has slipped into legend, with him barely leaving his marijuana-scented trailer and calling everyone around him racists. Comedian Patton Oswalt (who has a small role) would later spill the beans rather dramatically and it only makes you realise why this film failed so spectacularly. Our lead hero just didn’t give a shit. If you don’t see Snipes deliver an on-camera line in Trinity, then the shot was performed by his stunt double! That’s the final stake to the heart of a sequel so foul we’re still waiting for the reboot.
How about we review the TV series next?
Here’s a big Hollywood fight scene re-cut and re-scored to near perfection by a complete novice. That’s how atrocious Blade: Trinity is.
- An early idea by Goyer for the film was to be set many years after the events of Blade II, where vampires finally had achieved world domination and enslaved all humans, with Blade being the last hope for humanity. Blade’s slower ageing could be explained by his vampire blood. The storyline was deemed too dark and was later dropped.
- Biel inadvertently destroyed a camera, costing more than $300,000, when she fired an arrow directly into the camera’s lens. She was directed to “aim for the camera”, which had a Plexiglas shield in front of it to protect it, except for a small opening in front of the lens. Biel had perfected her archery skills while training for this role to such a degree that when she fired the arrow – at a distance of approximately fifty feet – at the camera, as she was directed, it went directly through the lens and into the camera itself, destroying it. The footage of the incident is included in the DVD extras.
- When Hannibal King is telling Blade about the return of Dracula, he shows Blade a copy of Tomb of Dracula #55. Marvel’s comic was the early-1970s title which included the first appearances of Blade (#10) and Hannibal King (#25), both written by Marv Wolfman.
- Snipes has less than a hundred sentences in this movie, including one-word sentences (which make up a majority of Blade’s lines) and even onomatopoeic sentences, like Blade’s “goochie goo” to the baby he saves.
- Even though it’s the third movie in the Blade series, this was the first movie to have the Marvel Studios logo at the beginning of the movie. After this film, the live action film rights went back to Marvel Studios.