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Franchise Killers: Blade: Trinity

Wesley Snipes - Blade: Trinity - 2004

Wesley Snipes – Blade: Trinity – 2004

The original Blade came along at a time when comic book movies were deemed “too risky”.  The year before, a hat trick of comic-based failure consisting of Batman and Robin, Steel and Spawn all struck out at the box office.  Marvel movies weren’t cool yet, so the first Blade was sold as a low-budget vampire movie rather than the adaptation of a comic book.  Blade was a decent enough hit to generate two sequels and a TV series.  Writer-director David Goyer clearly had plans to carry on the Blade franchise.  In fact he seemed to be using the third Blade movie to set up a series of spin-offs.  But instead, Blade: Trinity killed the series and ended up with everyone embroiled in a bitter lawsuit.

The story of Blade: Trinity and in many ways the entire Blade series starts with Goyer.  Goyer is a comic book geek through and through.  After the Blade movies, he went on to write most of the movies based on DC Comics characters Batman and Superman.  But he started off writing action movies like the Jean-Claude Van Damme flick, Death Warrant and the Van Damme-less sequel to a Van Damme flick, Kickboxer 2.  At the time, a Blade movie had been in development for a while.  New Line didn’t really know what to do with it, so they were thinking of doing a spoof.  It was Goyer who convinced them to take the material seriously.

blade

Wesley Snipes – Blade – 1998

Goyer’s horror-action hybrid attracted Wesley Snipes to star and Stephen Norrington to direct.  While Blade didn’t break any box office records, it did well enough that a sequel was released four years later.  Norrington declined the opportunity to direct the sequel, so Guillermo del Toro was brought on board.  Like the first film, Blade II was a modest hit despite mixed reviews.  It performed well enough for New Line to greenlight a third film in the series.

When neither Norrington nor del Toro would agree to direct the third film, the door was opened for Goyer to step into the director’s chair.  Goyer had made his directorial debut two years earlier with the drama Zig Zag which costarred Snipes.  So it would seem that going into Blade: Trinity, Snipes and Goyer had a decent working relationship.  But whatever relationship they had worked out on their previous collaborations would come crashing down while making the final Blade movie.

What caused their relationship to sour was a power struggle.  Snipes was a producer on all three Blade movies and as far as he was concerned, that made him the boss.  Or at least a boss.  He was used to calling the shots on the Blade films.  Goyer, on the other hand, was just the screenwriter on the previous films.  He had less influence over the final product than the star or the directors.  But for Blade: Trinity, he was the writer and the director not to mention getting a producer credit.

Consolidating the power of multiple positions, Goyer was in the driver’s seat this time.  Originally, Goyer wanted to use his authority to set Blade III in a vampire apocalypse.  He had tried to sell New Line on this premise for Blade II as well.  But for budgetary reasons, New Line passed.  Instead, Goyer came up with the idea of having Blade fight the most famous vampire of them all, Dracula.  That may sound cheesy, but it does stay true to the character’s comic book roots.  Blade made his first appearance in The Tomb of Dracula in 1973.

In the comic books, Blade was not a vampire.  Not even a half vampire.  He was a vampire slayer who worked with a group called the Nightstalkers.  Hannibal King, a private detective who worked with the Nightstalkers, was actually the one with vampiric tendencies.  Goyer decided to include a version of the Nightstalkers in Blade: Trinity much to Snipes’ dismay.

The movie version of Hannibal King was played by box office poison, Ryan Reynolds.  The Hannibal King of Blade: Trinity is a former vampire so as not to step on Blade’s toes too much.  Goyer also introduced the character of Abigail Whistler who was played by box office poison, Jessica Biel.  The movie’s casting director was really tempting fate casting those two in the same movie!  Talk about a movie that was doomed to fail right from the start.

When Snipes realized he would be sharing the screen with sidekicks, he did not take the news well.  Kris Kristofferson, who played Balde’s sidekick in the first two movies wasn’t happy about it either.  But, Snipes was really pissed.  He began acting erratically on the set.  Snipes spent as much time as possible in his trailer and reportedly would only answer to the name “Blade”.  Eventually, he had a showdown with Goyer and the director told his star that if he was unhappy, he should quit.  That didn’t go over well.

Blade Trinity

“You think Wesley will come out of his trailer today?”

On the director’s commentary for the movie, Goyer says that in one scene, they had to use CGI to make it look like Snipes opened his eyes because the actor refused to follow direction and do it himself.  It’s the Hollywood equivalent of taking your ball and going home without breaking your contract.

But before we come down too hard on Snipes, let’s not forget that Goyer wrote and directed this turd of a movie.  With Snipes marginalized, Blade: Trinity was Goyer’s baby.  And it was not something to be proud of.  The previous Blade movies, were far from critical darlings.  But if you enjoyed action-horror hybrids, they were a cut above other movies in the genre.  Blade: Trinity, was several cuts below that.  Unless you are one of the two people who thinks Ryan Reynolds is the funniest man alive (Ryan Reynolds being the other one), then Blade III is almost unwatchable.

When the movie flopped, it killed interest in future Blade movies.  Snipes sued New Line and Goyer claiming that he wasn’t paid the full amount of his salary and that his involvement in the movie had been reduced to accommodate Reynolds and Biel.  There was speculation that Goyer was interested in spinning off a Nightstalkers series that would free him from having to continue working with Snipes.  But the failure of Blade: Trinity killed that possibility as well.

It turns out Snipes had bigger worries than the future of his franchise.  Two year later, the actor was charged with tax evasion.  He ended up serving a three year prison sentence.  Goyer went on to write every non-Marvel superhero movie, but his directing career took a major hit.  Biel and Reynolds continued to struggle with their status as box office poison.  Reynolds seemed like he might break out a couple of times, but nothing came of it.  There was a short-lived Blade TV show on Spike TV, but the franchise has remained mostly dormant since then.

Of course with the Marvel resurgence, there has been talk of resurrecting Blade.  Snipes very publically announced that he had been in talks with Marvel.  Marvel seems content to go in a different direction if and when they chose to revisit the character.

Let’s break this down:

How many movies in the series? 3

How many of them were good? Critics will disagree with me, but I say 2

Health of the franchise before it died? Never a massive franchise, but healthy in relation to budget

Likelihood of a reboot? If Marvel can make a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, you have to think they will find a place for Blade somewhere.  Maybe Netflix.

Any redeeming value? Patton Oswald has some great stories about Snipes’ dickish behavior.

More Franchise Killers

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Posted on October 18, 2015, in Franchise Killers, Movies, sequels and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Unless you are one of the two people who thinks Ryan Reynolds is the funniest man alive (Ryan Reynolds being the other one), then Blade III is almost unwatchable.

    I do know that there are a small number of people who will watch it for the Jessica Biel fanservice. 🙂

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  2. Why is Jessica Biel considered box office poison? I have seen a few of her films and enjoyed them. Nice write up. Enjoy the website.

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    • Glad you enjoyed the article and the site.

      When I say Biel is box office poison, I’m really not making a quality judgement on her or the movies she has appeared in. I’m half-joking. But Biel has been undeniably unlucky at the box office. She has starred in quite a few movies that could have been hits. But almost none of them were. The remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did very well. But how much credit can you give Biel for that? Same with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Valentine’s Day. Most of her movies, for whatever reason, fail at the box office. And the ones that have succeeded, succeeded largely due to other factors.

      But you never know. The right movie could come along and make Biel a star. Ryan Reynolds is also considered to be box office poison and Deadpool could potentially change that.

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  3. “You think Wesley will come out of his trailer today?”. Short Round says “ha ha, funny funny”.

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  4. 9 Terrible Franchise Killing Movies

    http://whatculture.com/film-tv/9-terrible-franchise-killing-movies?page=2

    Blade: Trinity

    Blade kick-started the revival of the comic book film and was a fun, fresh action movie that had perfect casting with Wesley Snipes. The sequel was even better and saw Guillermo Del Toro unleash his freakish imagination on the series.

    The third movie should have been more of the same, but it somehow went hideously wrong during production. Wesley Snipes wasn’t happy with the story or the choice of director – or the fact Blade wasn’t going to get a long-promised sex scene – so he spent most of the movie ignoring direction, being a jerk to the cast or smoking weed in his trailer.

    His visible lack of effort kills the movie outright, and there’s only so many quips a young Ryan Reynolds can give to mask it. Had the movie been a hit there were plans to spin The Nightstalkers off for their own movie – which was another bone of contention for Snipes – but the muted response to Trinity killed that movie too.

    The movie was a weak ending for the series, and at this stage, a blood-soaked big screen revival is far from confirmed, despite some pretty pertinent rumors.

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    • Disappointing movie sequels that killed franchises

      http://www.looper.com/13443/disappointing-movie-sequels-killed-franchises/

      Blade: Trinity

      The Blade franchise had years of comic stories to draw from, Wesley Snipes in his prime, and plenty of kung fu vampire action. All the ingredients were there to keep the sequels coming after 2004’s Blade: Trinity, in other words. But this third installment’s middling reviews and disappointing grosses were only part of an epic collapse that started unraveling while the cameras were still rolling. Snipes—who in addition to starring in the lead role was also a Blade producer—reportedly engaged in all sorts of eccentric behavior behind the scenes, like trying to strangle the director, among other things. He was so unhappy after Trinity’s release that he ended up suing the studio. In the years since Trinity flopped, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped make superheros big business, but Blade, a Marvel character, has remained on the sidelines.

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  5. 10 Awesome Movies With Disappointing Sequels

    http://whatculture.com/film-tv/10-awesome-movies-with-disappointing-sequels?page=7

    Blade

    Let’s not underestimate the significance of the first Blade movie: after years of comic book duds (Steel, Barb Wire, Batman & Robin) here was a movie that did everything right and more importantly was incredibly successful. It knocked Saving Private Ryan off the #1 slot on its opening weekend, which was enough to convince to convince Fox to pull the trigger on an X-Men movie, and the rest is history.

    Guillermo Del Toro’s Blade II isn’t as impressive and lacks the freshness of the original, with villains that start behaving in familiar ways when they begin draining Blade’s blood. Rather than attempt to expand the universe, the movie brings throws in more gunfights and explosions.

    Then there’s Blade: Trinity, and talk about going from a scream to a whimper. It’s difficult to say which is more half-hearted: the script, the performances or David Goyer’s direction. It’s basically a trailer for the short-lived Blade: The Series, but as an attempt at “franchicide”, it works just fine.

    In fact, the movie was so lame that not long after its release, Wesley Snipes went to jail. They said it was for tax evasion, but we know better.

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  6. 9 Abandoned Sequel Plots That Sound Better Than The Movies We Got

    http://whatculture.com/film/9-abandoned-sequel-plots-that-sound-better-than-the-movies-we-got?page=7

    The Post Apocalyptic Blade: Trinity

    Blade – alongside the original X-Men – kicked off the comic book movie renaissance. The idea was fresh, the action scenes great and Wesley Snipes was born to play the character. Blade II by Guillermo Del Toro was even better, so Blade: Trinity should be the best of the lot, right?

    Wrong. So very wrong.

    Blade screenwriter David Goyer took over directing duties and bless his heart he’s just no good. He wasn’t helped by Snipes, who was a massive pain in the a** during production; he even strangled Goyer during an argument. Snipes was apparently furious the original concept was abandoned, which would have been a Mad Max style adventure.

    In this version, vampires had taken over and essentially turned the human race into cattle, with Blade being the lone warrior still trying to save it. New Line thought the concept was too pricey and bleak, so they offered Goyer the director’s chair on condition he made something cheaper.

    So he tossed together a script with Blade fighting Dracula and made a movie no one liked; especially the fanbase.

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