The Marvel Movies: Blade Trinity (2004)
The third film in the “Blade” trilogy was marred by squabbles, foibles and missteps right out of the gate. Studio honchos looking to make the franchise a little shorter in the tooth hoped to piggyback hot young stars Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel on the back of the 40-something Wesley Snipes.
Snipes, in turn, didn’t take too kindly to having the spotlight taken from his signature character and ended up suing the studio, claiming that he wasn’t paid his full salary for the film and that as producer he was intentionally cut out of creative decisions in the film.
Not quite an auspicious start, and these issues proved to hamper the third film, which saw Blade battle the Big Man himself — the king of the vampires, Dracula (Dominic Purcell). Along for the ride is wisecracking Hannibal King (Reynolds), a former vampire who was turned back (don’t ask), and Abigail Whistler (Biel), part of a team known as the Nightstalkers, humans who fight vampires with high-tech weaponry.
And if that Whistler name sounds strangely familiar, why it is: Abigail is, coincidentally enough, Blade’s pal Whistler’s daughter, evoking some unintentional humor, since we have met Whistler’s mother in the art world, then Whistler and his long-lost daughter in Blade’s world. Guess vampire killing runs in the family, even when that family is illegitimate and estranged.
Resurrecting the Lord of the Undead is an eclectic group of trashy vamps played by Parker Posey and professional wrestler Triple H, the former playing the whiniest vampire this side of “Buffy,” and the latter wearing steel fangs, an array of increasingly ridiculous-looking outfits (including a puffy blue vest that makes him look like an MTA worker) and a yappy lapdog (yes, literally: It’s a Pomeranian).
They hope Dracula will kill Blade, but just to be sure, they’ve also set up Blade by tricking him into kill a human, sending humans after him as well, forcing Blade to fight a battle of two fronts. (Oh, and just to even the odds, Dracula is also a daywalker, which is mythic heresy if you ask me).
The military makes its move, leading to a battle where Blade and Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) come across like gun-hoarding cult members, and the fight leaves Whistler dead. (After going down like a champ in the first film, Whistler’s second death leaves much to be desired).
The Nightstalkers crew includes Patton Oswalt and an ungodly terrible Natasha Lyonne (yes, of “American Pie”) as the weapons people. Lyonne’s character is blind and has a young daughter. Consider that for your big, bad, fearless vampire killers.
And they also manage to get Reynolds to run around without a shirt and a rather gratuitous shot or two of Biel in an ungodly large shower.
Too much of this muddled story revolves around developing the Nightstalkers, and Blade does indeed get the short end of the stake, leading to a fractured, disjointed narrative.
Poorly directed by superhero screenwriting maestro David S. Goyer (“Blade,” “Blade II” and “Batman Begins”), even the action sequences — among the most hard-hitting and exciting of any Marvel property in previous Blade films — feel cursory and forced at times. The fight scenes are sluggish and poorly filmed and are easily the weakest of the series.
Purcell makes for one of the least convincing Draculas in cinematic history, playing him as a monstrous, animalistic being and nothing like the suave taskmaster we’ve seen in previous incarnations. His final battle with Blade is unfulfilling and anticlimactic. What good is a dream match like that if the characters are nothing like we remember?
There is a funny scene, though, where Dracula (who is called “Drake” here because, you know, it’s clever and modern), goes into a store and sees Dracula merchandise for sale, including boxes of Count Chocula, and angrily tears apart the goth-wannabe employees.
Blade, too, is a mere shell of the character he used to be, and by this film, he at times resembles Sidney Deane on steroids as much as he does the character he played in the first two films. It is here that Snipes’ ego was at its height, infusing Blade with wisecracks that were merely irritating sideshows in the first two movies.
Reynolds, beginning his superhero triple-dip of disappointment (he would of course later star as a villain version of the hero Deadpool in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and the title character in “Green Lantern”), is arguably at his smarmy worst here, with virtually every line being some kind of pun or cynical comment. He’s so busy playing footsie with the fourth wall that he undermines the integrity of the film, virtually winking at the audience after every line.
But all told, “Blade Trinity” was a trailblazer in its own way. It was the first of the Marvel threequels to fail to live up to its predecessors, paving the way for disappointments like “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Spider-Man 3” years later.
Next time: Elektra tries to spark the Daredevil franchise!
Previous Marvel Movie Entries
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Red Sonja (1985)
Howard the Duck (1986)
The Punisher (1989)
Captain America (1990)
The Fantastic Four (1994)
Blade II (2002)
X2: X-Men United (2003)
The Punisher (2004)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)