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Stephen Norrington
Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N'Bushe Wright, Donal Logue
David S. Goyer

The power of an immortal. The soul of a human. The heart of a hero.
Box Office:
Budget $45 million.
Opening weekend $17.073 million on 2322 screens.
Domestic gross $70.001 million.
Rated R for strong, pervasive vampire violence and gore, language, and brief sexuality.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 12/22/1998

• Commentary by actor Wesley Snipes, actor Stephen Dorff, writer David S. Goyer, cinematographer Theo Van de Sande, production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli, and producer Peter Frankfurt
• Isolated musical score with commentary by composer Mark Isham
• Theatrical trailer
• Featurette "La Magra", including the original ending
• Featurette "Designing Blade"
• Featurette "The Origins of Blade"
• Featurette "The Blood Tide"
• "House of Erebus", information about the different vampire houses
• Pencil sketches through production designs

Score soundtrack

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Blade (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

In a way, Blade suffered from “Raiders of the Lost Ark Syndrome”. Like that classic, Blade started out with an overwhelmingly fantastic opening sequence. Following a brief prologue, we encounter the premise and main characters through a dizzying fight sequence that takes place in a meatpacking plant transformed into a makeshift disco.

When I saw the movie theatrically in 1998, I found that opening bit to be absolutely dazzling; it presented one of the most exciting and visceral action scenes I'd ever viewed. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie couldn't keep pace. While it was interesting and enjoyable, I'd been taken to such heights by that first sequence that the rest of the film seemed like a disappointment.

Despite some misgivings about the flick, I decided to give it another shot on DVD. Now that I've seen the film a few times, I must amend my earlier impression. While the opening scene still stuns, most of the rest of the movie delivers the goods as well.

The first half of Blade provides some of the highest quality, most compelling action I've seen in a long time. I was wrong to think that just the opening packed a hard punch; really, the whole first hour takes the viewer on a terrific thrill-ride. The story sags a bit during the second half. Basically, Blade (Wesley Snipes) spends most of the initial hour kicking ass. We occasionally pick up some plot points, but the first half really is dedicated to learning that Blade's a bad mutha (shut your mouth!).

During the last hour of the film, the plot really takes over. Most of that time works toward the climactic fight. It's kind of an odd mix. Most films set up the story during the first half and worry more about action during the second, but while Blade provides rudimentary expository material at the start, the plot doesn't really take hold until the second part.

I don't necessarily think that this is a bad thing. The alternative seems to have been a film with no plot at all, and I think it's good that they at least tried to provide a story more compelling than just random vampire hunting. The problem stems from the fact that after we've spent an hour with wall-to-wall action, it's hard to come down off of that sugar high. This means that the film sort of plods towards its ending, which nonetheless works very well; when Blade goes on his "final attack" during the final 15 minutes, those scenes seem as good as almost any during the opening hour. They help compensate for the less-scintillating nature of the previous 45 minutes.

Overall, I enjoyed Blade more the second - and third - time around and it seems to be a film that should hold up well to even more re-viewings. Director Stephen Norrington creates a terrific comic book atmosphere. Few can capture that tone, but he makes Blade a thrill ride that succeeds well as a whole.

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio A- / Bonus A-

Blade appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture presented some minor flaws, overall it offered a very satisfying visual experience.

Sharpness appeared solid. The movie always looked nicely crisp and distinct. At no time did I discern any concerns related to softness during this detailed picture. Jagged edges presented no problems, but I did see a little shimmering on a couple of occasions. I discerned no signs of edge enhancement, and print flaws seemed absent.

The only problem I saw related to colors occurred during the opening credits; the red writing looked a little runny. Otherwise, the DVD handled the movie’s stylized palette with aplomb. From the cool and moody blues seen during some night scenes to the vivid daylight of the park, the hues appeared clean and vibrant throughout the film. Black levels were deep and rich, while shadow detail seemed appropriately thick but not overly dense. In the end, Blade offered a terrific image that often appeared lifelike and three-dimensional.

Blade also featured a very strong Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield created an active and engaging piece. The lively score showed excellent stereo presence, while all five channels provided a natural and realistic environment. Blade used the different speakers well, as elements moved cleanly across channels and blended together effectively. The surround included a lot of unique information and played a strong role in the mix.

Audio quality seemed terrific for the most part. Dialogue appeared natural and warm, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and vibrant. The score and songs showed strong fidelity and offered tight and taut bass response. Effects also seemed accurate and dynamic, and low-end sounded deep and rich. Some gunfire showed a little distortion, but otherwise Blade provided an exemplary soundtrack.

New Line’s “Platinum Series” release of Blade includes a nice selection of supplements. We start with an audio commentary from actor and producer Wesley Snipes, actor Stephen Dorff, writer David S. Goyer, director of photography Theo Van De Sande, production designer Kirk M. Petrocelli, and producer Peter Frankfurt. All were recorded separately for this edited track. Many dislike that format, but I think it works well, especially when handled as well as it is here. The commentary covers a nice mix of topics, from different technical elements to plot points to bringing the comic to the screen to acting concerns. The absence of director Stephen Norrington seems like a negative on paper, but really, I don’t miss him, as the commentary provides a lot of terrific information without him.

The second track offers an isolated score with commentary from composer Mark Isham. Presented in Dolby Surround 2.0 sound, this works well as a commentary. Isham provides lots of information about his work on Blade, his general thoughts about film scores, and many other topics. Unfortunately, the piece doesn’t work as well as an isolated score. Isham often talks over the music, and during empty spaces, we hear dialogue and effects. This becomes distracting, especially when those elements abruptly drop out when the score resumes. As a commentary fan, I’m happy with this track, but isolated score buffs may feel less satisfied.

After these two commentaries, we find a slew of video materials. La Magra offers an alternate ending for Blade as well as additional information. During the 14-minute and seven-second piece, we hear from New Line President of Production Michael De Luca, producer Peter Frankfurt, production designer Kirk M. Petrocelli, screenwriter David Goyer as they discuss the project’s genesis and various story elements that disappeared along the way. This allows us to see some deleted scenes, including that alternate ending. It’s a nice little piece, and it’s fun to see the unused footage, even though the unfinished special effects make the ending seem even sillier than it otherwise would have been.

Next we get Designing Blade. At 22 minutes and 30 seconds, this program offers the longest of the video materials as it discusses different aspects of the visual production. We hear from production designer Kirk M. Petrocelli, makeup effects creator Greg Cannom, stunt coordinator Jeff Ward, and special effects producer Richard “Dr.” Baily as each discusses his specialty. This leads us through the movie’s visual design, the practical effects, fight choreography, and computer effects. The nicely low-key program includes a few good shots from the set and offers an informative and entertaining piece.

During Origins of Blade, we find a 12-minute and 10-second “look at dark comics”. The program consists solely of comments from screenwriter David Goyer, comics legend Stan Lee, and Wizard Magazine publisher and president Gareb Shamus. Despite the show’s title, they don’t really discuss how Blade came to be. Instead, we hear about issues related to darker comics. Lee chats about the creation of the Comics Code, and we learn about various trends during this engaging little discussion.

For information about the history of vampires, look no further than The Blood Tide, a solid 20-minute and one-second program. It includes comments from Father Gregory Coiro, UCLA Associate Professor of Medicine Dr. Gary Schiller, author Dr. J. Gordon Melton, author Nina Auerbach, screenwriter David Goyer, filmmaker Brian Clemens, and author Mick Farren. The show offers a nice primer about the history of the vampire myth, and for the record, many vampire historians look exactly the way you'd expect vampire historians to look.

Now we move to a series of stillframe materials. In the House of Erebus, we can learn about 12 vampire houses through text. Pencil to Post offers a discussion of the stages through which comic book art goes (pencil, ink, color guide, color separation). We also see 17 pieces of art created for the film, as well as interviews with artist Patrick Janicke and with comics legend Stan Lee.

Cast and Crew presents decent biographies for actors Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright, and Donal Logue plus director Stephen Norrington, writer David S. Goyer, producer Peter Frankfurt, director of photography Theo Van De Sande, production designer Kirk M. Petrocelli, and composer Mark Isham. Lastly, we see the film’s theatrical trailer, presented anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

Back in 1998, Blade came out of nowhere and managed to become a modest hit. It deserved its success, as the wild vampire flick offered one of the best comic book adaptations ever produced. While the film has its flaws, it works well as a whole and seems generally exciting and lively. The DVD possesses very few concerns. It presents excellent picture and sound along with a terrific collection of extras. Blade comes with a strong recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2941 Stars Number of Votes: 34
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