Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Blade: Trinity

Posted By on Wed, Dec 8, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Confession time: I liked the first two Blade movies. A lot. When they pop up on late-night cable or blast from a video store monitor, I can’t help but watch with slack-jawed adolescent delight. The films appeal to my inner 14-year-old geek. Unabashed in their depictions of estrogen-free, mano a mano, alpha-male posturing, they are violently giddy displays of style over content. Who needs character development when you’ve got spooky atmosphere, blazing guns and disintegrating bloodsuckers?

There’s a place for B-movies like these, especially if they know how to celebrate their comic book origins. Blade and Blade II, though a bit long, understand the audience and deliver an adrenaline-fueled blood stew of action and attitude. It helps that video director Stephen Norrington and Spanish filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Cronos), respectively, helmed these pictures. Both directors injected the feverish nonsensical violence of the films with a breathless pace and lush visual panache.

For the uninitiated: Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a minor league Marvel Comics superhero dedicated to wiping out a global conspiracy of vampires. A half-breed vampire himself, Blade is humorless, clad in black leather body armor and wielding a gleaming samurai sword. You don’t go to a Blade film in search of a great script or rich character development — you go for the carnage and mayhem.

Which brings us to why Blade: Trinity fails. In previous chapters, it was easy to overlook the repetitive action sequences, stilted dialogue and predictable plot twists because the visual pyrotechnics and impeccable pacing carried us along. Unfortunately, series screenwriter (and Ann Arbor native) David Goyer’s directorial debut struggles to find a consistent tone or visual theme. The film lacks the cold industrial style of Norrington or the gothic melodrama of del Toro and leaves us with too much time to contemplate the shortcomings of the script.

The first 10 minutes are exciting enough; appropriately flashy and driven by the requisite pulsing techno/industrial sound track, but the film quickly derails with half-developed ideas, sloppy plotting and action scenes that get less exciting as the movie goes along. It’s clear that Goyer has some interesting ideas; he just doesn’t know how to bring them all together.

The story, as it stands, involves a plot by the vampires — led by the criminally wasted Parker Posey — to unearth übervampire, Dracula (inexplicably referred to as Drake), and kill off their arch-nemesis, Blade. At first a big, bad hideous monster, Drake soon morphs into yet another version of “Euro-trash Dracula.”

Good thing our monosyllabic hero has some sexy, well-armed friends. After disposing of his grizzled partner, Whistler (an embarrassed Kris Kristofferson), Goyer introduces Blade to younger, more fashionable allies. Enter Whistler’s daughter, Abigail (Jessica Biel) and former vampire Hannibal King (Van Wilder’s Ryan Reynolds). Biel is a kick-ass chick with a very cute bellybutton, while Reynolds is the buffed-out comic relief; neither registers as anything even remotely human. Still, Hollywood must be licking its chops in anticipation of a hot new action star; Reynolds, whose one-liners hit as often as they miss, has got decent comic timing and the requisite set of six-pack abs to fit the bill.

What Blade: Trinity ultimately reveals is how far Wesley Snipes’ star has fallen. When matched to the right material, Snipes can be a very good actor. One has only to look at his work in Waterdance or White Men Can’t Jump to see the depths of his talent. As an action star, he has demonstrated the uncanny ability to strike a convincing comic book pose, but he’s clearly capable of much more. This installment of Blade, unfortunately, will cement his reputation as this generation’s version of Rambo.

Jeff Meyers writes about film for MetroTimes. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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