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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. 19 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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  7. Comics film ‘Blade: Trinity’ ended the once-promising ‘Blade’ series on a low note and, in a way, closed the first chapter of the Marvel film boom.

    https://www.popmatters.com/blade-trinity-2526923318.html

    In the months following the release of Sam Raimi’s 2004 film, Spider-Man 2, three other comic book/superhero films were released. Although they represented a growing diversity in these types of films, they were certainly a mixed bag. First was Warner Bros. and DC’s solo Catwoman (Pitof), starring Halle Berry. The film is pretty terrible across the board, with poor writing, directing and acting combined with a severe misunderstanding of the character. Although largely forgotten except when listing worst films of all time, the larger negative impact of Catwoman was to set back comic book films with non-white and/or female leads. Film studios tend to be very conservative, preferring to greenlight safe, tested ideas rather than take chances. Despite the popularity of Berry and the character of Catwoman, Catwoman was a risky proposition. Its failure offered an example studios could point to when approving another white male superhero film rather than something with more diversity. This way of thinking is short-sighted and misguided, but it still happens.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, late-2004 also saw the release of Brad Bird’s The Incredibles from Pixar Animation. Although not based on any pre-existing comic book property, The Incredibles remains one of the best superhero films made thus far. It honours the genre while questioning and subverting the tropes. It’s thrilling, funny, and has a lot of heart. Plus, the jazzy score and ’60s mod, retro-future production design are absolutely fabulous. The field of comic book films was widening at this time. Filmmakers were creating some of the very best of the genre — but also some of the worst.

    Marvel’s next film and the final comic book film of 2004, David S. Goyer’s Blade: Trinity, unfortunately represents the worst of the genre. The series began with so much promise, kicking off the modern comic book film craze with Stephen Norrington Blade (1998). Although very flawed, Guillermo del Toro’s Blade II (2002) was the first Marvel sequel to be produced, and it got quite a few things right in terms of inventiveness and world-building. Blade: Trinity was the first Marvel threequel and, unfortunately, forebode the troubles Marvel would have in the coming years with its attempts to close out trilogies. The film is scattered, offers very little depth to its characters, seems to contract the world rather than expand it, wastes its new characters and, worst of all — it’s boring. Blade: Trinity ended the once-promising Blade series on a low note and, in a way, closed the first chapter of the Marvel film boom. And so, I will delve into the world of Blade.

    In my articles, I tend not to dwell on the backstage drama behind films. I prefer to judge them on their merits alone and the intentions of the filmmakers. With Blade: Trinity, however, the on-set issues have almost surpassed the film itself for notoriety, and I think they are relevant to how the film turned out. I first learned of the drama in Patton Oswalt’s 2012 interview with Nathan Rabin for the A.V. Club.

    Most sources allege that the behind the scenes problems stemmed from star Wesley Snipes’ behaviour. He would be aggressive to people on set, mainly Goyer, who wrote all three Blade films and directed Blade: Trinity. Snipes apparently would refuse to report to set, preferring to smoke in his trailer instead. As a result, many of his scenes were completed with the use of a body double, and Snipes was only used on close-up shots. Much of the dialogue in scenes between Snipes’ Blade and Ryan Reynolds’ Hannibal King was improvised by Reynolds, who apparently tried to come up with the funniest non-sequiturs possible to be paired with the stone-faced close-ups of Snipes. This is most apparent in several group scenes featuring Blade and King’s team, the Nightstalkers. These scenes feature a lot of dialogue from the Nightstalkers describing their approach and intentions cut with very non-specific responses from Blade that sort of match. The film also seems to lose the focus on Blade as it progresses, adding to the scattered feeling of the plot. It also means that Blade does not receive a satisfying end to his three-film story, which is unfortunate. The next year, Snipes sued Goyer and New Line Cinema, claiming he was shut out of the creative process during production. Regardless of people’s intentions, the production of Blade: Trinity was troubled and strained, and it shows on screen.

    Snipes was not the only source of trouble on the production, however. Goyer originally envisioned the film to be a post-apocalyptic tale, set after the vampires had taken over the world. This would have expanded the world of the film tremendously and raised the stakes, but the studio rejected the idea. Another major idea was to focus on vampires creating massive blood banks of captured humans as a type of final solution, but this was deemed too grim. So instead, they just threw something together with Dracula.

    The conceit of Dracula being a real villain in the Marvel Universe exists in comics. In the early ’70s, comic publishers began to push back against the restrictive Comics Code Authority that was established in the ’50s. As a result, publishers were free to start producing horror comics again. Akinori Nagaoka and Minoru Okazaki’s Tomb of Dracula (starting April 1972) introduced Dracula as a new Marvel Comics villain, and the series followed him as he was confronted by various vampire hunters and other monsters. The 70-issue series is notable for introducing such characters as Blade (Snipes’ character) in issue #10, Hannibal King (Reynolds’ character) in issue #25, Rachel van Helsing (the basis for Jessica Biel’s character Abby Whistler) in issue #3 and Frank Drake (a descendant of Dracula not featured in Blade: Trinity) in issue #1. In the Ghost Rider #28 comic (August 1992), Blade, Hannibal King and Frank Drake were reintroduced as a group of vampire hunters called the Nightstalkers. Thus, Goyer drew much of the inspiration for Blade: Trinity from the comics, but many of the ideas were not implemented very well.

    The plot threads of Blade: Trinity are numerous and very disconnected, but I will attempt to summarize them. The film opens with a team of vampires, led by Parker Posey’s Danica Talos, awakening the first vampire, Dracula aka Drake, from his tomb in Syria. They hope Drake will kill Blade and make the vampire race more pure. Drake, however, ends up being a surprisingly minor presence in the film. He appears in a few scenes, mostly to menace people, and is pretty ineffectual until the climax. In his first encounter with Blade, for example, he runs away and endangers a baby in order to escape. Why would he not fight Blade right away?

    In fact, none of the vampires in Blade: Trinity make much of an impact. Besides high-tech, windowless lairs and goth chic there is little of the vibrant, hedonistic culture that was nicely presented in the first two films. Both previous Blade films featured ruling vampire hierarchies and underground vampire nightclubs. The relatively few vampires in Blade: Trinity mostly sit around and scheme. Goyer seems to take for granted that audiences understand the culture and villainy of the vampires from the previous films, and does not need to show it in this film. The lack of strong villains is a serious problem and contributes to the overall sense of boredom throughout the proceedings.

    Another plot thread introduced early in the film, and one rife with potential, is exposing Blade’s existence and mission to the world. I suppose the vampires were not content with unleashing Dracula on Blade, so they also manipulate him into publicly killing a human who he believes to be a vampire. As a result, police, FBI and criminal psychologists begin to publicly decry Blade and his clearly deluded mission to kill vampires. Blade becomes hunted by not just vampires, but also legitimate authorities composed of the humans Blade is meant to protect. One showdown with police ends with the death of Whistler, Blade’s longtime ally played by Kris Kristofferson. The fact that Whistler previously died in Blade, only to be found alive in Blade II, blunts the impact of his death here, but it is still effective. Once Blade is captured, he realizes the situation is being manipulated by the vampires and their human servants (“familiars”).

    This is the second plan to deal with Blade by the same group of vampires, which gives the impression that two different Blade scripts were combined, taking the best ideas from each. This makes the film feel disjointed. Despite that, exposing and discrediting Blade in the media is an interesting idea. That is why it is so frustrating that the plot thread is essentially discarded once Blade escapes custody. So, the Dracula plan is underplayed and the publicity plan is discarded, leaving the film without a strong plot for its villains.

    What takes the place of these plots for the majority of the film is the introduction of the Nightstalkers. Led by Hannibal King and Abigail Whistler, a previously unmentioned daughter conceived after Whistler’s other family was killed by vampires, the Nightstalkers are one cell of a larger, unseen guerrilla army bent on killing vampires. Scenes set at the Nightstalker base consist mostly of long stretches of exposition about their pasts, Drake’s history, and the various weapons they have developed. So many weapons. There are endless scenes either describing weaponry or showing the hunters suiting up for battle. The Nightstalkers’ major plan is a viral attack to kill the vampires. If they can successfully infuse it with Drake’s blood, it could become a plague (named Daystar) that kills all vampires around the world.

    The Nightstalkers have a lot of screen time in Blade: Trinity. This seems like an attempt to generate a spin-off film, but it may have been necessitated by Snipes’ reluctance to be on set. Despite the time devoted to them, however, the Nightstalkers are incredibly shallow as characters. King has the clearest backstory, as a former vampire slave of Danica Talos who was cured and wants revenge. Reynolds spends most of the film spouting endless, seemingly off-the-cuff one-liners. Had I written this article before the release of Deadpool (2016), I would have judged his performance very differently and more negatively. As it stands, Reynolds brings the same affable energy to Blade: Trinity as he does to Deadpool, but to far lesser effect. Maybe Reynolds’ motormouth schtick only works when the film and world are built around it. In Blade: Trinity, it feels out-of-place and becomes grating. Abigail seems to have deep emotion, breaking down in the shower after a day of hunting familiars and screaming after the other Nightstalkers are killed, but the character is extremely thin. Biel clearly got in excellent shape for the role and seems proficient with her character’s chosen bow and arrow, but the script gives her nothing to work with dramatically. The other Nightstalkers are, as I just mentioned, killed, wasting talents such as Natasha Lyonne and Patton Oswalt with very small roles.

    It is hard to determine how Blade: Trinity fills the time. Believe me, it feels less like entertainment and more like filling time. There is so little happening. We are treated to a montage of Blade, King and Abigail hunting familiars, only to be led to a prominent psychologist who Blade discovered to be a familiar earlier in the film. Why did they not confront him immediately? The human blood bank idea from an earlier draft of the film is presented in one scene as an example of the vampires’ cruel efficiency, but the scene is totally disconnected from the rest of the plot. Even the action in the film is dull. A climactic fight between King and Jarko, an imposing vampire played by wrestler Triple H, plays out like a practice run at half-speed. Much of the action is sloppy, with quick cameras moves, quick cuts, poor CGI effects and unnecessary slow motion used to mask the lackadaisical execution. Much of this can be explained by Goyer’s relative inexperience as a director (his second film), and his lack of clear style relative to predecessors Stephen Norrington and Guillermo del Toro. Despite all of the quick editing, Blade: Trinity meanders through most of its running time.

    The film ends with Blade and Abigail invading the vampire headquarters to save King from captivity. Dull fights ensue, including a sword fight between Blade and Drake. That fight is particularly generic, a disappointment considering a duel between Blade and Dracula could have been a real showstopper. Ultimately, Drake is stabbed with the Daystar virus, releasing the plague for all vampires. As he dies, Drake tells Blade he will succumb to the vampiric hunger and be the next step of vampire-kind. This threat is perhaps meant to set up a sequel, finally introducing an interesting character idea for Blade as the film is about to end. Then Blade apparently parts ways with the Nightstalkers. The only piece of character development Blade: Trinity offers for its central character occurs when Whistler cautions that Blade may end up fighting alone. Whistler says this is his worst fear, and implores Blade not to let it come to pass. Goyer seemingly ignores this thread, like so many others, and has Blade ride out into the night alone as the film closes. Both the opening and closing narrations are spoken by Hannibal King, again diminishing Blade’s role in the film.

    And so, the final Blade film loses its focus on Blade, and every plot thread. It seems comprised of half-baked ideas, endless exposition and unnecessary montages. The film is overlong, and yet not much seems to happen. The best sequels delve deeper into the characters and expand the world, but Blade: Trinity seems to do the opposite of of that. In 2006, Goyer developed a Blade television series with DC Comics mainstay Geoff Johns. The series ran for 13 episodes before its cancellation. Sometime before August 2012, the film rights to Blade reverted back to Marvel, allowing them to make the character a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel also reacquired the rights to Daredevil, the Punisher and Ghost Rider around the same time. But while Daredevil and the Punisher have received Netflix series and Ghost Rider appeared in season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Blade has not yet appeared. On the one hand, this should not be surprising as, despite repeated attempts, the character has never really caught on in the comics. On the other hand, I believe that Blade’s unique and surprising success early in the comic book film boom means the character deserves better. I hope we will see the Daywalker on-screen again sometime.

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