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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Female-Led Blade Reboot Coming?

Edited by Robert Beach

So the rumor mill has begun cranking once more over the future plans of Marvel studios. The latest word on the comic company turned studio juggernaut is that they’re currently in plans for a new Blade film that will apparently revolve around the vampire hunter’s daughter. This would be in line with the new upcoming Blade comic slatted for release as part of the All-New Marvel branding initiative this fall. 

The initiative is part of the company’s first major universe reboot in the wake of the ongoing Secret Wars comic and is very much a continuation of the current Marvel ethos of increased diversity and representation. Film wise, this rumor says a lot about Marvel’s priorities going forward and how far in advance they’re willing to try and plan things out. If Marvel is starting work on a new Blade movie, it’d have to be slotted for release in 2019 as part of the so far unrevealed phase 4. 

Blade Origins 

In case you’ve never heard of the daywalker before, Blade is a Marvel quasi-superhero originating in the mid-70s, my favorite era of comic books.  Initially, Blade had appeared as a minor character in Marvel’s major success Tomb of Dracula. He was a black vampire slayer involved in hunting down Dracula. Blade proved popular in his appearance, which prompted Marvel to bring him back for future installments. Since then, the character has evolved a lot. Originally, he wore a dopey orange and green outfit complete with belts of stakes and a massive afro. In modern times, Blade adopted a black tactical outfit complete with an awesome leather trench coat and samurai sword. 

Additionally, the idea was introduced that Blade was half vampire inheriting vampires' amazing powers and none of their weaknesses. Eventually, Marvel decided to make a Blade film in the late ‘90s. This was meant to capitalize on the vampire trend of the ‘90s that had spun out of the Anne Rice revival. Given Rice’s emphasis on mature, adult vampire stories, Blade became the 2nd R-rated superhero film of all time and kicked off Marvel’s media ascension at the turn of the millennium.  After the success of Blade, Marvel followed up the film with the decently successful X-Men and the monster hit of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. 

Of those three films, Blade has aged the best by a wide margin. The movie really isn’t that technically good: the dialogue is dopey; the plot is more than a little shiftless, and the effects have not aged at all well. However, those flaws ultimately end up part of what makes the movie so endearing. What it really comes down to is sincerity and genuine naïveté. Both X-Men and Spider-Man have similar issues; it’s just that those films have always felt somewhat self-conscious. 

X-Men was incredibly concerned with people taking it seriously and not being a comic book movie; meanwhile, Spider-Man was concerned about making its antiquated affectations relatable to a modern audience. Blade genuinely thinks its dialogue and stunt work are the coolest things ever, so even when they’re ridiculous, we still love and engage with them. The best example of this is the film’s amazing closing one liner from Blade “Some mother fucker’s always trying to ice skate uphill.” That’s a terrible one liner, but the film executes it with such gusto and straight-faced belief you can’t help but get swept up in it. 

The film was a big hit and marks the first major breakout
hit for a black superhero. 2 sequels were made, and the first was a strange (yet enjoyable) flick by Guillermo Del Toro as the 3rd film, Blade Trinity was abysmal. Since then, Blade has languished in comic book limbo, intermittently appearing in various Marvel comics with no real regularity. 

Vampire Horror 

If there was a ever a time to resurrect the character, now seems to be it. With the conclusion of True Blood and the Twilight recession, vampires are poised to re-enter their place as legitimate horror monsters given the success of vampire horror like The Strain and the upcoming Nosferatu remake. What’s more, Marvel has clearly placed a premium on representation, and Blade is one of the few remaining film worthy black characters they haven’t adapted yet. 
It’s also not really surprising Marvel might lean towards a female lead for the Blade sequel/reboot.  For anyone who still likes Blade, it’d be impossible to separate Wesley Snipes from the role. Refocusing the film on the character’s daughter would be a nice way to keep Snipes as Blade without really needing to deal Snipes' age and troublesome working habits. 

It’d help Marvel overcome the fact that Fox currently owns the most awesome black hero in their stable.  I’m of course referring to Storm, the premiere female superhero of Marvel comics and hands down their best black character.  Reimagining Blade as a powerful black woman would help Marvel fill the Storm-shaped hole in their roster. At least until they introduce Misty Knight on the Luke Cage show. 

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