Reducing its star to a supporting player, the third film runs the series into the ground.
This is an unfortunate sequel that contains all of the weaknesses and few of the strengths of its predecessors. The vampire mythology in the BLADE films (relying on science instead of superstition) has never been particularly interesting, and it seems to have straight-jacketed the screenplays into telling the same basic story again and again. What helped to overcome this storytelling deficiency in BLADE and BLADE II was the presence of Wesley Snipes in the title roll: his deadpan, lethal poise and bad-ass attitude made us want to watch Blade, even if the scripts were not particularly interesting.
Sadly, Snipes is reduced to mostly a supporting role in this film. In a move that reeks of market manipulation, a couple of young sidekicks are introduced in a lame attempt to stire the usual formual into something new. The result feels like a bad TV pilot: add some younger (white) faces to the cast to draw a bigger slice of the coveted youth market. Which might not be so bad if the faces were interesting, but in this case the two newcomers, Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel, look as if they wandered in from a sitcom by mistake.
Yet again, the story deals with vampires hoping to become uber-vampires. This is what Deacon Frost wanted to become in BLADE? And this is what the artificial virus was supposed to accomplish in BLADE II? This time, the “suckheads” resurrect the father of all vampires — Dracula himself — in the hope that he will improve the bloodline and lead them to world domination. This makes three BLADE films running off the same lame plot device. Why couldn’t writer-director David Goyer (who scripted the previous films) come up with something different this time?
As if this were not enough, the script includes other plot threads that never weave together. The opening scenes involve a plot to frame Blade for murder (he is fooled into killing a human disguised as a vampire), but after he is arrested, his new colleagues bust him out of jail and the murder rap is conveniently forgotten. Too much of the remaining screen time is then given over to introducing the new vampire hunters and letting them take center stage, instead of focusing on the conflict between Dracula and Blade.
Not that this element of the film would have worked on its own. Clearly, the film wanted to introduce a character who would present Blade with a truly worthy antagonist. To this end, we are told that “Dracula” is only the most recent name used by the ancient immortal (here called “Drake”), who is supposed to be something far more powerful and awesome than the familiar figure we know from Bram Stoker’s novel and the various film adaptations. In effect, the film wants to recreate Dracula in a way that will overturn the tired cliches and create a new version that will replace our collective memory of Lugosi, Lee, and Langella.
Almost inevitbly, this overreach ambition fails. The film needed an actor who cuts an impressive figure on screen, but the role was badly miscast, with Dominc Purcell speaking in an accent that is meant to convey the character’s ancient origins but which instead suggests the two “wild and crazy guys” played by Steve Marin and Dan Akroyd on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE back in the 1970s. We end up with a muscle-bound weightlifter-looking type who walks around with his shirt opened to his waist, showing off his muscles and the chains he wears hanging around his neck.
Other casting decisions also leave much to be desired. Reynolds looks buff as Hannibal King, but he is required to deliver a steady stream of ridiculous quips that are supposed to be funny; instead, they just undermine any semblance of believability and tension.
Jessica Biel looks pretty, but she’s not impressive as a vampire hunter. Her character’s habit of wearing earphones during the battles (so that she can rock to her own internal soundtrack) is no doubt supposed to appeal to the target teen audience (one imagines the filmmakers thinking that viewers would murmur, “Cool — vampire hunting is fun, like playing Grand Theft Auto”), but the effect succeeds to well, turning the fights into a videogame, without drama or suspense.
In the end, BLADE is a disappointing and mostly pointless sequel. It’s fun to see Wesley Snipes back in character, but it’s not so much fun to see him partly sidelined by the co-stars. If they make any more BLADE movies, let’s hope they imagine a more interesting story and put the lead character back squarely in the spotlight.
BLADE: TRINITY (2004). Directed by David Goyer. Screenplay by David Goyer, based on the Marvel Comic Books character. Cast: Wesley Snipes, Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Biel, Kris Kristofferson
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