Movie Review – Blade: Trinity (2004)
by JAMES BRIGHAM
My time spent watching Blade: Trinity was the definitive average moviegoing experience. I was not compelled to leave the theater in disgust, shaking my head sadly at its banality; yet neither was I driven to pump my fist in excitement and grin madly at the spectacle unfolding onscreen. Could my time have been spent better doing other things? Probably. But I’d be hard pressed to think of what. Films like this are what Saturday matinees were made for.
Blade: Trinity should have been a no-holds-barred, action extravaganza with Blade dispensing justice in spades to hordes of undead. Instead the audience gets a healthy serving of warmed up leftovers: scenes that look like they were left on the cutting room floor from previous movies in the series. This flick seemed to prove to me that blaring techno music + slow motion shots does not always = utter coolness. Director David Goyer does a competent job in the assemblage of these sequences; it’s just that he didn’t knock any one scene out of the ballpark and into the archives of my memory. Stephen Norrington was able to do this with the superb opening to the original Blade with our titular hero arriving in the middle of a blood drenched, vampire nightclub. And Guillermo del Toro did it with a grand Wrestlemaniaesque showdown between Snipes’ character and the tough-as-nails reaper mutant.
The reason I focus on the action sequences over the story in this review is because Goyer apparently chose the same path in the development of the film. I find this highly ironic for two reasons: (a.) because the action is never 100% thrilling and (b.) David Goyer was the screenwriter for the previous two films in the franchise. It would appear as if, given this opportunity to pull double duty as director and writer on Blade: Trinity, Goyer dropped the ball in both areas. The plot is not as tightly constructed as it should have been.
At best this creates manipulative scenes that are blatantly there to move things along and serve as action “beats” (villainous Dracula appears at one point to pointlessly kill a minor henchman and then allow Blade to pursue him in an elaborate rooftop chase scene). At worst this negligence by Goyer causes several plot holes to emerge during the course of the narrative (the heroes’ hideout gets discovered without explanation as to how; an elaborate sting operation on the part of the vampires seemingly rests on a certain character being in a very specific spot after a crazy car chase). In my opinion, Blade: Trinity would have benefited from Goyer focusing entirely on the screenplay and allowing another director to helm the project, possibly a Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) or even a Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-tep). Alternatively, the studio could have gotten somebody to come on-board and help Goyer with the writing so he could have focused more on delivering a Blade adventure fit to rival its predecessors.
Despite the plot breaking down at several points, Blade: Trinity moves briskly along thanks to several enjoyable performances by the supporting cast members. Ryan Reynolds shines as the caustic Hannibal King, a former vampire turned monster hunter. His near constant barrage of witticisms kept me smirking through a large portion of the film. In particular, he played very well against the stoic (perhaps too stoic considering some of the stuff that happens to him) Blade and the trashy villainess played by Parker Posey. Her snooty bitchiness and far-out fashion gave Reynolds so many chances to let loose. And while I have my doubts about whether this Van Wilder persona is true to the original King character – I must say that it greatly added to the film for me. Kris Kristofferson, Patton Oswalt, and wrestler Triple H also add to the proceedings with characters whose small parts are offset by either memorable lines or exciting actions.
Now we move onto the major players in Blade: Trinity. Firstly, Jessica Biel is a beautiful girl playing a largely uninteresting character. As Abigail, the daughter to Blade’s mentor, Whistler, she is asked to mainly slay vampires, stride purposefully, and glare a lot. Biel does these actions well but there’s not much pizzazz in her performance. On the plus side, her archery and fighting skills are impressive and there are few moments where you’re left thinking, “obvious stuntwoman shot.” Considering how prominently Biel is displayed on the advertisements for this film, I just felt like her character would have “wowed” me a bit more. (Although, I could simply be harboring spite towards the filmmakers for not delivering on an obvious opportunity for a nude scene. Damn you, Hollywood! Indulge my chauvinism!)
Then there’s the nemesis to our hero: a little guy you might know who goes by the name of Drake (Dominic Purcell). Drake is, obviously, Dracula, a man in an unfamiliar time with blood on his mind and an axe to grind with Blade. Here again we come to Goyer’s underwhelming delivery of an imaginative concept. The character of Dracula brings to mind a certain majesty and an all-encompassing air of evil that should prove a suitable threat level to the forces of good. Instead, Blade: Trinity gives us a bad guy who’s content to play second fiddle to a bunch of relative nobodies on the undead corporate ladder. For all the filmmakers cared, Drake might as well have been any nameless, extra tough vampire. End lesson: if you’re going to use a classical antagonist who has had countless incarnations in novels, on stage, and on screen, give him more to do than walk around without his shirt off, beat up goth kids, and hide in the dark.
The glue holding this entire production together is Wesley Snipes’ performance as Blade. As always, the guy walks a fine line between humor, action, and drama. Snipes can deliver an impressive sweep kick as well as he utters a funny quip. What can I say? The guy’s good at punching AND punch lines. I only wish they’d have given him more to work with in terms of real dramatic involvement. Say what you will about these movies being escapist, adolescent power fantasies – the last two had some emotionally resonant moments for the title character. In Blade: Trinity, Snipes is asked to do little more than dress the part and go through the motions. It’s all the more vexing considering the turmoil Blade goes through in the beginning of the film. Yet later on, the loss is barely touched upon.
Perhaps Spider-Man 2 has created unfair expectations in my mind for this genre. Now I want all my comic book films to deliver the gloss and glamor along with the heartache and ascendance. Blade: Trinity might have satisfied me completely when I was a high school era youth. Today it leaves me with a thirst for more.