Director: David S. Goyer
Superheroes come in all shapes, all sizes, and with all kinds of special abilities. But none are quite like Blade. Instead of fighting megalomaniacs, aliens, insane clowns, or green goblins, Blade's enemies are those classic villains, vampires. Himself a half-vampire, it's Blade's job to eliminate every supernatural bloodsucker he comes across. Though Blade is a relatively obscure character in the Marvel Comics pantheon, New Line Cinema bought the movie rights to the character and released a live-action adaptation in 1998. Though the movie was only a moderate financial success, its impact is still being felt ten years later. I spoke of this in my review of it, but the first Blade movie revolutionized the entire superhero movies. Bryan Singer's X-Men might get the lion's share of the glory due to both Blade's lack of notoriety and X-Men's genre-revolutionizing special effects, but Blade truly got the ball rolling. A sequel was released in 2002, which turned out to be even more popular than its predecessor. So reasoning that they should probably ride this money train as long as they could, New Line released a third movie, Blade: Trinity, in 2004. It might not be as good as Blade II, but it's not so bad.
Our story naturally picks up sometime after the events of Blade II, and the tireless vampire slayer Blade (Wesley Snipes) is continuing his seemingly unending war against the vampire race. Realizing that they're on the losing side of this war, a group of vampires have concocted a plan to turn the tables on their foe. As he tears through a vampire hideout, Blade is tricked into killing a normal human being used as bait. News footage of this is used to spin Blade as a psychotic serial killer, shooting him to the top of the FBI's most wanted list. The FBI manages to track Blade to his hidden compound, and although his sidekick Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) sacrifices himself in the ensuing fracas, Blade is defeated and taken into police custody.
But as certain vampire-sympathetic police officers prepare to hand Blade over to the vampire sect who set him up, they're interrupted by Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) and Whistler's long-lost daughter Abigail (Jessica Biel). The duo breaks Blade out, rushing him back to their own hideout. There, they introduce him to their own ragtag group of vampire slayers, dubbed "the Nightstalkers." Though initially reluctant to join the Nightstalkers due to their relative inexperience, Blade agrees to partner with them after Hannibal reveals himself to be a former vampire who had been cured. During the following grand tour of the Nightstalker facility, they tell Blade of their discovery that Danica Talos (Parker Posey) and her posse of bloodsuckers have found and awakened the ancient and the very first vampire known as Dracula (Dominic Purcell), who now answers to the name "Drake." With Drake on their side, Danica hopes that they can finally eliminate Blade and instigate the vampire version of the "final solution."
To combat this newfound threat, the Nightstalkers have developed a biological weapon they've named the Daystar. The Daystar is designed to kill any and every vampire in the nearby area, but there's two catches. The first is that they need to add some of Drake's blood to the Daystar recipe. Because he is the progenitor of the entire vampire race, his pure blood could maximize the Daystar's potency. The second catch: Because of Blade's unique situation as a half-vampire, the Daystar could possibly kill him too. But that is a risk Blade is willing to take if it means another step towards winning his fight against vampires.
Snce its release in 2004, Blade: Trinity has often been referred to as the weakest chapter in the Blade trilogy. And I can't really argue with that, because it's the truth. From both a critical and a financial standpoint, Blade: Trinity was the least successful of the entire trilogy. But I don't think it's the truly bad movie that critics like Roger Ebert and the like might have you believe. Sure, it isn't as great as it could have been. But I still thought it was a fun, enjoyable movie in spite of the flaws it may have. I liked it, and I'll make an attempt tell you why.
Let's start with the direction from David S. Goyer. Goyer steps into the director's chair after Blade II director Guillermo Del Toro passed on the job so he could make Hellboy, and I have to applaud him for taking a shot. He'd only helmed one other movie prior to this, and his inexperience shows. However, Goyer also shows signs of competence as a director too. He gets some fine camerawork from cinematographer Gabriel Beristain, and he succeeds in maintaining a relatively quick pace so that the movie never lulls for too long at any given time. There are a few scenes that could have stood being trimmed or cut entirely, like the revelation of the "vampire final solution" and the scene where Drake kills two unassuming Goth kids just because they were selling crappy Dracula merchandise. But outside of that, I didn't think Goyer did that bad of a job as director. I also liked the music composed by Ramin Djwadi and The RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan. Their hip hop and techno-oriented score suits the movie well. Their music fits the tone that Goyer was aiming for, and really backs up the visuals.
Meanwhile, Goyer's script isn't too bad, but it isn't really as strong as it could have been. Could it be that after writing the first two movies in the trilogy, Goyer simply ran out of steam? It just seems that the jokes are way too plentiful (and in some cases, way too lame), some scenes don't contribute as much to the overall narrative as they could, and Drake doesn't really come across as the end-all, be-all of enemies. He just doesn't feel all that threatening. And why do they say he changed his name from "Dracula" to "Drake"? What's so wrong with just calling him Dracula? Was there some kind of copyright problem where they were only allowed to call him Dracula once or twice? If Buffy the Vampire Slayer can fight a vampire that's actually named Dracula, then why can't Blade? Sigh.
Lastly is the cast, most of whom do as fine a job as they can. Wesley Snipes is once again engaging as the titular vampire hunter. The character's evolution from stoic, emotionless badass to snarky tough guy an evolution that began in Blade II seems complete here, and Snipes handles the role with a certain enthusiasm. I know in retrospect that Snipes was less than thrilled with Blade: Trinity for reasons that include his screen time being cut in order to place more emphasis on the Nightstalkers, but that doesn't change the fact that they couldn't have asked for a better person to play Blade.
I also enjoyed Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds as Blade's new backup. Biel is credible as Abigail Whistler, giving the character a tough courageousness that makes her thoroughly likeable. And Reynolds... well, if you've seen practically any of Ryan Reynolds's movies, you know what to expect from him. The role was supposedly specifically written with his comedic talents in mind, so he's able to comfortably assume the role of Hannibal King and make it his own. The only really bad part is that virtually every word he says and every move he makes is some kind of wisecrack. After a while, you begin to think that the character is just a cheap one-trick pony, and you just want him to shut up for two seconds and be serious.
The rest of the cast is something of a mixed bag. Parker Posey and pro wrestler Triple H are both effective in their roles as members of the vampire clan trying to vanquish Blade, and Patton Oswalt is funny is what is essentially an extended cameo as the armorer for the Nightstalkers. And once again, I enjoyed Kris Kristofferson's performance, despite his glaring lack of screen time. I'm disappointed that Goyer felt the need to kill his character off, especially so early in the movie, but Kristofferson still plays the role like a champ. But the only member of the extended cast who I wasn't really impressed by was Dominic Purcell as Drake. If his performance was a dog, they'd have taken him out behind the shed and shot him. Drake is perhaps the least frightening depiction of Dracula that I've personally ever seen, thanks to a combination of poor writing and Purcell's poor acting. Seriously, Leslie Nielson made a better Dracula in Dracula: Dead and Loving It than Purcell did in Blade: Trinity. And that's terrible.
David Goyer handles Blade: Trinity differently than the directors of the prior Blade movies. It isn't the gritty, no-nonsense action movie that Stephen Norrington made, or the would-be Brothers Grimm tale that Guillermo Del Toro crafted. Instead, Goyer gives us something that is style over substance, an odd amalgamation of elements of the first two movies with a glossier, mainstream sheen and a silly sense of humor. That's why Blade: Trinity is often looked at as the trilogy's redheaded stepchild. (But that's still better than the television series, which could be viewed as the franchise's answer to Cousin Oliver.) I still thought it was an amusing movie in spite of its flaws, so I'll give it three stars on my Five Star Sutton Scale. Now if only Wesley Snipes would stay out of legal trouble for them to make Blade 4...
Final Rating: ***