In the 21st century, comic book related movies and tv shows have become arguably the most commercially successful forms of entertainment media. Year after year, comic book movies are released and outgross majoritiy of films from other genres. Graphic novels are no longer considered something that unpopular geeks and outcasts indulged in; they’ve become an integral part of pop culture. Ten years ago, most people who had never visited a comic book store and had no idea who Iron man was. Now, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic, Tony Stark is one of the most easily recognizable heroes from Marvel.
Many people attribute the growth of comic book media to two franchises. The first being Sam Raimi’s Spider-man trilogy of the early and mid 2000’s. The next is Bryan Singer’s X-men trilogy of the early 2000’s. Many critics consider them to be the point which superhero films really started to get the public attention. They are wrong. It is understandable that one might consider either one of these franchises to be growing point of the genre’s influence. Both movies laid down the formula which most comic book films and tv shows still use today. Nonetheless, even they would not be around today if it was not for the Blade trilogy.
The first Blade movie was released on August 21st, 1998. Directed by Stephen Norrington, the film stars Wesley Snipes as Blade, a half vampire and half human, vampire hunter bent on the destruction of vampires around the world. The film pulled in 132 million dollars in the box office, and was well received by critics as well. Following its success, it was given 2 more movies and made into a trilogy. The second movie did even better than the first one while the third one flopped both commercially and with critics.
If not for this trilogy, there would be no Batman Begins or Winter Soldier. Before the release of Blade, comic book movies were on the brink of extinction. During the 70’s and 80’s, they were campy, goofy, and cringe worthy but still fun for the audience. This changed when Superman IV: The Quest for Peace came out. It was first comic book movie that had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The film was just bad. From there, the genre went downhill. Over the next decade, horrible movie after horrible movie was produced. Then Batman and Robin came along, which is perhaps one of the worst movies ever created, and incited fans to give up on the genre. Comic book movies were pretty much dead at that point. Then Blade came and breathed life back into them. No one expected the film to be as good as it was.
This was an era that comic book movies had no respect. So, when people heard about a comic book movie about a vampire hunter, they brushed it off. It sounded too ridiculous to be any good. Blade presented itself differently than its predecessors. Instead of a kid friendly and a goofy tone, Blade gave us an R rating with violence, cursing, and a dark sense of humor. The movie also owned the silliness of its source material and did not take itself too seriously. It was the first good movie in the comic genre in a decade. It’s success caused fans to gain interest in the genre again and inspired studios to invest money in it.
Many people take for granted just how important the Blade franchise is to modern comics. This was the most risky comic book movie ever made. It was the first dark and gritty comic book movie ever made, during a time that goofiness was the status quo and comic book movies were not taken serious. That was a more than likely chance that the film was going to flop. Yet, it did not. It changed the tone of comic book movies. When Blade came out, it showed studios that serious comic book movies were marketable. Then, we got more serious comic book movies, which have steamrolled into the multi-million dollar genre we have today. Blade is the root of all the comic book movies we have today.
Another thing that is important to note is that Blade had a black man as its leading role. People of color, especially black people, have very few roles in modern comic book movies and tv shows. The few roles we do have are usually as sidekicks or characters that only exist in the background. Roles that should not have gone to white leads, such as the Ancient One and Iron Fist, have gone to them anyway. Many people have claimed that people of color are not marketable to general audiences. The importance of Blade is that it proves that this is completely false. If it was true, then we would not have Deadpool ,Man of Steel, or Civil War.
Blade is the movie where the modern comic book genre spawns from. It should be given credit as such.
Author: Jaylen Pearson
Editor: Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi