What I’d Like To See In The MCU Blade Reboot
With Avengers: Endgame having decimated the box office, and closed a big chapter for Marvel Studios, they’re set to start a brand new one with the films and television series they recently announced at San Diego Comic Con. Films like Eternals, a Dr. Strange sequel, and a Black Widow prequel were touched on, but we also got major announcements like the casting of Canadian actor Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and the return of Natalie Portman, who will be wielding the hammer of Thor in the Taika Waititi-directed follow-up to Thor: Ragnarok, Thor: Love and Monsters. But if there was anything that caught fans totally by surprise, myself included, it was the last minute announcement that Oscar winner Mahershala Ali would be stepping into the iconic role of Blade.
Similar to Simu Liu’s months-long Twitter campaign to be cast as Shang-Chi, Mahershala Ali apparently went to Marvel directly to put his hat in the ring, and while many will remember that he had already played the villainous Cottonmouth on the Marvel/Netflix series Luke Cage, it’s clear that Marvel Studios never wanted to fully acknowledge those shows as part of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (despite numerous references made in each shows’ first seasons). And with Marvel and Netflix parting ways, what with Disney’s own streaming service is on the horizon, it stands to reason that no other reference to all those cancelled Netflix shows will ever be made, freeing Ali up to join the cinematic universe.
To be fair, fans have been eyeing him as a candidate for a Blade reboot for years. The second I first encountered him on the USA series The 4400, I immediately thought to myself, “He’d make a good Blade!”. Granted, most of this was rooted in him bearing a slightly passing resemblance to original Blade actor, Wesley Snipes. In recent years, however, the actor has made a name for himself with roles in television and film, including House of Cards, Hidden Figures, True Detective, and Moonlight. But with him now officially stepping into the role of Blade, I find myself hoping that Marvel Studios doesn’t go the basic route, and put too much focus on trying to emulate what Snipes brought to the character. However there are elements that I feel DO need to be incorporated, while others can be changed.
The question of how Marvel Studios would approach characters who arguably require the R-Rated treatment has been looming for quite some time, especially after Disney’s wholesale acquisition of Marvel. Fans have wondered how they might handle a character like Blade, with the House of Mouse looking over their shoulders. Many have cited Disney’s previous workarounds to distribute more mature cinematic content, as they owned smaller studios like Miramax, Touchstone, and Hollywood Pictures throughout the 90s, allowing them to release films far removed from their family-friendly brand.
All this is to say that . . . Blade is a VAMPIRE HUNTER!!! He hunts beings who feed on blood, and as such, I need this reboot to be bloody. At the end of the day, most of Marvel’s films have been PG movies that want to believe that they’re PG-13, and my concern is that the level of violence and gore in this film won’t go beyond that. The first Wesley Snipes Blade film opened with an unsuspecting human realizing that he had been lured into a vampire club as the sprinkler system showered blood on the entire crowd. It’s one of the most visually stunning scenes ever put to film, in my opinion, and would not have been possible without the R-Rating (nor would that one shot of Donal Logue making out with one chick, while getting his jimmy waxed by another, in full view of everyone in the club). Even Blade 2’s introduction of the villain Nomak proved especially captivating, thanks to its liberal use of gore.
So many of Marvel Studios’ films have the same flat, bland aesthetic, and if nothing else, I hope that they refer to the original Blade films and pay attention to how they developed such distinct looks. There was thought and intent to how the first two films were shot and how they used color, with a focus on making night a character all its own. Combined with some of the most underrated production design seen in film in recent memory, Blade and Blade 2, specifically, breathed life into its night time scenes, informing character and story in a profoundly engaging way. These films feel like two sides of the same coin, with the first film feeling aggressively modern with hints of futurism and hues of blue, green, and silver, while the sequel focused on “old world” gothic architecture bathed in amber and shades of red. All of this helped to elevate the character of Blade and build out the world that he inhabited. Contrast, deep shadows, color saturation; there needs to be a level of vibrance to the look of this new Blade film that sets it apart from the previous Marvel Studios films.
An Unconventional Soundtrack
One thing I loved about the original Blade films was the music. All three soundtracks split time between featuring popular hip-hop and techno/electronica artists, if not songs that featured combinations of the two genres. What would that club scene in the first Blade be without the one-two punch of New Order’s “Confusion” and Junkie XL’s “Dealing With The Roster”. And ironically enough, my favorite track on the first Blade’s soundtrack isn’t even featured on the film; the collaboration from Gangstarr and M.O.P. titled “Half and Half” definitely got rewound repeatedly on my cassette tape copy (Am I showing my age. . . HELL YEAH!). Especially on the techno side of things, the artists may have been fairly obscure to most, but that’s what I liked about it.
I don’t need some ambitious concept album spearheaded by one relatively popular music artist in the vein of the Black Panther album, either. Mix in a few popular faves, but give me all the misfit artists that folks may or may not know about, or just haven’t given enough attention to yet. What I wouldn’t give to hear a Blade soundtrack featuring artists like Danny Brown, Tierra Wack, Flying Lotus, Kaytranada, Miike Snow, Tyler The Creator, RJD2 . . . if I keep naming anymore artists, this section is gonna become its own entire article! Although, Junkie XL has since made quite the name for himself as a film composer! Maybe bring him back into the Blade fold to provide the orchestral score? Hmmmmmmm?!?!
Bring Back Dr. Karen Jenson
With Wesley Snipes publicly showing his support of the casting of Mahershala Ali as Blade, I’ve noticed a fair number of fans suggesting that Snipes be cast as Blade’s cinematic mentor and weapons creator, Abraham Whistler. While definitely an interesting idea, I’d be more inclined to bring back the character of Dr. Karen Jenson, originally played by N’Bushe Wright, and utilize her as a character already allied with Blade. I’ve spoken repeatedly in the past about the idea of Karen being the actual hero of the first Blade film, and I will forever be baffled by David Goyer’s decision to forego the character he created when he wrote the first Blade, for the “blind for the sake of being blind” geneticist character he cast Natasha Lyonne as in Blade Trinity. So much goodwill would have been earned if he had brought her back, even if they had to recast her. In any event, the MCU films have always leaned heavily on the intersection of science and magic, and the idea that the two are not wholly dissimilar. Reimagine Karen as a character who still has a medical/scientific background, but also understands that there are supernatural aspects within the context of the MCU that she is constantly trying to reconcile, while aiding Blade in his vampire hunting exploits.
Switch Up Blade’s Look And Origin
While I suspect this may be unavoidable, I hope that whatever filmmaking team is brought in to work on this new Blade film tries to do something different with Blade’s look and origin. Certain elements will probably be retained, given the fact that Blade’s presence in Marvel Comics since the Blade films has been HEAVILY influenced by those films. Still, I’m hoping they don’t do the tattoos, abstract haircut, or sunglasses. If anything, I’d love to see the green goggles from the comics, which could easily be redesigned as high tech night vision googles without looking as cumbersome as the kinds you find in the military. I wouldn’t even mind if he wasn’t half-vampire, as he was originally only immune to vampirism, and blessed with an unnaturally long lifespan in the comics. Maybe even make Blade British, as the UK was his birthplace in the comics . Tie in more pieces from Tomb of Dracula and Nightstalkers, and push the supernatural elements as much as possible. Introducing Dracula himself as a villain certainly shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. Mahershala Ali’s Blade should be its own thing first and foremost, and going back to the “pre-Wesley movies” comic origins could work in his favor.
Ditch The Humor
Marvel Studios’ use of humor in its films has been a major sticking point for me in the last few years. Not that they use it at all, but that they rarely know when it’s appropriate. Nothing took me out of Spider-Man: Homecoming more than the scene of Happy Hogan trying to commend Peter for defeating the Vulture, only to have that moment interrupted by a literal toilet flushing, for example. This isn’t to say that there can’t be anything remotely funny in a Blade film (Donal Logue’s “I’m gonna be a naughty vampire god!” is one of my favorite lines for the first movie, and it’s hilarious!), but I’m hoping the filmmakers give a little more thought to how it can be incorporated, without diffusing dramatic scenes for the sake of a few chuckles.
Lose David Goyer’s Number
This should be self-explanatory after watching Blade Trinity. . .
Whether any of this happens remains to be seen, of course. Conservative estimates would suggest that this Blade won’t even be going into production for at least another two years, especially if we consider the fact that Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther solo film didn’t see release until four years after his initial casting. The already announced Phase 4 films and television shows are obviously the priority, but I’ll be looking forward to seeing who Marvel hires to direct this new Blade film. Best believe I’ve already got a few choices worth considering, and I’ll be expecting a finder’s fee if Marvel actually goes with any of them . . .