Editorial: Could Marvel’s “Blade” Reboot Go Full Horror?

bladeIt’s almost bizarre to think of the well-known Wesley Snipes BLADE trilogy as part of the Marvel cinematic canon. Dark, action-packed, and filled alternately with martial arts and supernatural abilities, the franchise has always felt more in line with the likes of THE MATRIX trilogy or the UNDERWORLD movies than, say, Tobey Maguire’s SPIDER-MAN saga or the X-MEN movies.

In part this is because BLADE and its two follow-ups, while based on Marvel comics, were not actually produced by Marvel Studios. In fact, no Marvel comics films were produced by Marvel Studios until 2008’s IRON MAN, which effectively kicked off the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” as we know it today. Late-’90s and early-’00s movies like X-MEN, HULK, and the like were created by other studios with licensing rights to comic characters. BLADE was no exception, having been made in 1998 by New Line Cinema, which also controlled the two sequels.

But another reason that the BLADE trilogy doesn’t quite seem to fit in with what we’ve come to expect from Marvel is that it simply presented a more twisted and violent story than we’re used to seeing from comic book adaptations. Sure, the whole thing was pretty campy at times, often more VAN HELSING than, say, FRIGHT NIGHT or LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. However, it combined traditional superhero elements with the blood-sucking creepiness inherent in any vampire saga. I’ll put it this way: this review cited BLADE for “gratuitous violence” and makes note of villain Deacon Frost’s desire to summon a Blood God to “subjugate humanity once and for all.” That sounds a little more horror-infused than any description we’ve seen of an AVENGERS movie lately, doesn’t it?

It’s also fair to point out that the actual look of the films, both in cinematography and in the lasting images of BLADE, is more appropriate for the horror genre than the superhero realm. The prevailing symbol of the series is Wesley Snipes decked out in black, flashing vaguely pointed choppers, wearing sunglasses at night, and wielding a sword that shines like the only light in town. Looking a little closer at the images that define the series, this gaming site hosts a Blade game that’s built entirely on the idea of attracting fans by presenting reminders of the film. And what are those reminders? Various blades, guns, and knives, the pointed fangs of Snipes, and a blood-spattered background. Similar games exist for other Marvel characters, but icons like Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield look more like action figure props than tools for bloodshed. Bottom line: there’s just a creepier look to BLADE than any other Marvel movie to date.

With all this said, there are plenty of horror fans who would laugh at the idea of including BLADE and its sequels in the genre. As mentioned, the movies are pretty campy at times, though I’d argue that just about every horror movie is, and this is part of the beauty of the genre. Also, amidst the darkness and violence, there are some pretty classic superhero tropes that cheapen the overall quality a little bit. But there’s really no arguing that in the context of films based on Marvel heroes, this is the closest we’ve come to a genuine scare flick.

And that begs the question: will Marvel go all the way with the coming reboot of the series? According to one report, Snipes has already held discussions with Marvel about reviving the character. And this time, the movie would be done by Marvel Studios, which as of 2014 owns the rights to the character on screen.

At this stage, there’s really no telling what a return to the big screen would look like for Blade, as no film has quite been confirmed, and thus details are few and far between. However, I’d say that the idea of Marvel Studios being behind the effort (as opposed to New Line Cinema again) is actually a step in the right direction for those who would like to see a pure horror movie added to Marvel’s empire. I say this because the last year or so has demonstrated that Marvel isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty.

One example of this is the announcement of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, in which the beloved Avengers will be split in two due to a major rift between Captain America and Iron Man. I’m not suggesting that’s a recipe for a horror film, but it is a clear sign that Marvel doesn’t mind shaking things up; an internal struggle between the Avengers will undoubtedly make for a less cheesy, happy-go-lucky production.

But more than the news surrounding CIVIL WAR, I’d point to the DAREDEVIL television series that was released earlier this year as a combined effort between Marvel Studios and Netflix. For any who haven’t yet watched this series, it was almost shockingly violent and twisted for Marvel. Ultimately, it was more crime drama than horror, but with no shortage of blood, shock value, or jarring noises in the dark, it wasn’t too far off. And really, it’s not hard to imagine a BLADE reboot (or sequel) taking on a similar atmosphere, infused with vampire elements to create a true horror movie.

At this point, we’re still at a speculative stage. While it does appear very likely that Snipes will be back as Blade, it’s unknown just what that will look like. But given some of the recent trends, don’t be surprised if Marvel takes the opportunity to open the door to an entirely new genre.

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