Blade Trinity (2004) Review
Originally posted to Justice Bulletin, August 2012
The first two Blade films are incredibly sure of themselves. They reek of coolness in a way that’s almost effortless. They had stunning action scenes backed by tight narratives and cool concepts. It’s especially disappointing that the third and final entry Blade Trinity is such a slog to get through. Its plot is dull and meandering, the characters are obnoxious or just plain flat, and the villains are flimsy and stale. It’s the shortest of the three (by just a few minutes), but it feels far longer. It has the feel of a direct-to-video downgrade rather than a theatrical release, which seems oddly fitting given the state of Wesley Snipes’ career by this point.
After the first Blade paved the way for the superhero genre and the second upped the ante in the monster and action department, one would think that David Goyer, here promoted to the director’s chair after scripting the first two, would be the right man to see the series through to an effective denouement. Instead the epic conclusion to Blade’s journey is pushed to the background in favor of a new team of sidekicks and an obsession with its own unearned coolness.
Things start out promising enough. The vampires dig up Dracula in the desert and Blade gets framed for murder. Both of those ideas can lead to some great payoffs. But once the Nightstalkers show up, everything goes in the toilet, never to rise again. This isn’t because the Nightstalkers are a terrible concept, mind you. In the comics they were indeed brought together to hunt down Dracula. But take one look at the team in the film and then try to picture this group of gun-toting dweebs going up against the Blood Pack from Blade II. Go ahead, I dare you.
Apparently this was Goyer’s big idea to make this one stand out, introduce a team of young heroes for a possible spin-off that Blade can take under his wing, in the form of Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel. Sure, they’re called “Hannibal King” and “Abigail Whistler”, but there’s so little in the script for them to work with they might as well be playing themselves after a rigorous workout regimen. The idea of Whistler’s daughter Abigail could be interesting as a potential love interest or a surrogate sibling for Blade after the death of their father figure (oh, did I forget to mention? Whistler gets a heroic death in the first act. Again.) But the script doesn’t explore those at all. She and Blade don’t have a single real conversation about Whistler that isn’t exposition.
All of the villains act bored, especially Dominic Purcell as Dracula, now going simply by Drake because...he wants to be hip and modern? Dracula should be the ultimate nemesis for Blade, the forerunner of all the bloodsuckers who make the previous villains look like schoolgirls. Instead he lacks the sneering charm of Deacon Frost or the creeping menace of Nomak; he’s just another stale, generic video game boss with no personality who struts about dressed like a bouncer in Miami.
Now I should say it’s not all bad. Goyer has a good handle of special effects, the action scenes have plenty of visual flair, and there’s no shortage of creative kills. However there’s not an ounce of tension to the many gratuitous fight scenes. Even without Blade’s vampire powers, Biel and Reynolds have no trouble punching and kicking their way through swarms of fanged henchmen without breaking a sweat. The vampires have no advantage anymore. It really started in Blade II, around the time Whistler was able to punch out Ron Perlman even while handcuffed. In the first film we got the clear sense that Blade could stand up to the bloodsuckers because he was special, but apparently all you need are a couple of guns and some fancy moves. In fact, forget the guns; towards the end, Ryan Reynolds goes hand-to-hand against a vampire twice his size (played by wrestler Triple-H) and it’s an even match.
The script is much more interested in gadgets and f-bombs than with crafting an effective story and sticking to it. The first two movies had those elements too, but they didn’t use creative cursing just to spruce up boring dialogue (Drake: “Ready to die, motherf***er?”), and the gadgets existed to advance the story rather than for their own sake. Now they have UV light bullets (because apparently silver wasn’t good enough) and a UV-laser device that burns “half as hot as the sun” (actual line from the movie). What I would give for a scene where our upstart hunters find that all of their cool new gear is completely ineffective against the film’s main villain. Remember when the last two films gave us that? Those were the days.
After Blade II, Goyer and Guillermo Del Toro originally conceived of a far more ambitious follow-up involving a post-apocalyptic future where the vampires have taken over the world (only one hour of sunlight a day!), and Blade is the last hope to save the world. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that that would’ve been a far grander way to cap off the trilogy. And I can’t imagine it was for lack of budget that we didn’t see it, since the conceptually similar Daybreakers was made for less than half the pricetag of this film.
There’s no secret about the behind-the-scenes drama. Snipes clashed with Goyer throughout filming, reportedly over script decisions, and Snipes even sued New Line Cinema and Goyer in 2005 over financial and artistic issues. Snipes is absent from most of the behind-the-scenes extras (which are still more entertaining than the movie) and recorded no ADR during post-production. Whatever issues Goyer might’ve had with stoking Snipes’ ego, it’s hard to blame the star for feeling the series had lost its former glory. There are some good ideas but far more missed opportunities.
Final Score: 4.5/10