Blade: Wesley Snipes’ Daywalker Is Still One of the Coolest Marvel Characters Ever To Appear Onscreen

”Comic book movie” used to be a phrase that rolled eyes back en masse. Granted, that’s not too different from now now — just for entirely different reasons. Critical flops and commercial embarrassments… this was the legacy of all cape flicks not called “Batman” or “Superman.”

”Comic book movie” used to be a phrase that rolled eyes back en masse. Granted, that’s not too different from now now — just for entirely different reasons. Critical flops and commercial embarrassments… this was the legacy of all cape flicks not called “Batman” or “Superman.”

Until, that is, Wesley Snipes took a bite out of the box office.

By the time Stephen Norrington’s Blade came out in 1998, the most notable comic book movie franchises were DC-based. Both had signed off (for now) with fourth entries that were widely reviled. (Understandable with Superman IV, but Batman & Robin would at least appreciate in camp value as time went on.) The only place comics succeeded to any degree was in small-screen animated shows, which varied wildly in quality.

The late ’90s had a very specific, yet familiar, vibe for teen boys. Lots of leather, loud thumping music, martial arts, and bloody violence. Guess what movie ticked all those boxes in the late ’90s?

(Okay, sure, The Matrix — but that came later!)

Blade took the Marvel comics character of the same name (who recently marked 50 years since his introduction) and gave him a never-cooler Wesley Snipes as an avatar. Blade is a human/vampire crossbreed who hunts undead bloodsuckers. He can walk in the daylight without a severe case of ash dandruff, but he’s still weak for the need to feed.

In the movie, Blade tries to foil a particularly edgy vamp named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) from unleashing the Blood God. It also follows Blade protecting a bitten doctor named Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) and his relationship with surrogate father Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). The dynamic means we get to see the more human side of Blade as well as the ass-kicker.

Snipes Isn’t Ice-Skating Uphill

Credit: New Line

Anyone who grew up watching this movie will tell you is that the club scene put them through puberty. It was everything cool for the Axe Body Spray set at the time. The underground vampire club has blood sprinklers and a thumping track orchestrating it. I can’t hear Public Domain’s Operation Blade (Bass in the Place) to this day without thinking of that scene. It’s a product of its era, sure — but that was a cool era, wasn’t it?

Then in comes Blade and all the beautiful carnage he brings. Wesley Snipes has probably never been quite as comfortable in a role as this since. He exudes charisma, with one-liners that don’t feel like they’ve been workshopped to death. Everything that follows is Snipes at his punchy, quip-y, badass best. His performance is why you watch this movie now. (Well, that and the sword fights.)

Perhaps the only part of Blade that’s aged horribly in the last 25 years is the CGI. The use of it was already awkward at this point, and when it’s bad, it’s very bad. Unfortunately, Blade gets that end of the stick in its otherwise ace finale. Never have I wanted someone to go back and fix dated CG in a movie more than I do with Blade.

At the time, very few people watching and enjoying Blade who even knew he was a Marvel character… but that actually helped! More than most from Marvel at this time, Blade had the benefit of creative freedom and artistic license to shape a story how it wanted.

X-Men and Spider-Man would get a more mainstream ball rolling in the next few years. But Blade? Well, he got some guy named Guillermo Del Toro directing his next film, which featured a young Boondock Saints-era Norman Reedus and the grizzled Ron Perlman. The third and final movie happened in 2004. A troubled production for many reasons, but notable for Ryan Reynolds’s first draft of what would eventually be his Deadpool character. (For better or worse.)

The character has been due to come back with an MCU film. It’s planned to star a Wesley Snipes-approved Mahershala Ali as the titular vampire slayer and Mia Goth in the villain role — reportedly as the daughter of Dracula, Lillith Drake. Unfortunately, the production has been beset with issues; it’s been pushed back to 2025.