The Region Free US Blu-ray release of Blade comes complete with a 1080p/AVC encoded video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Although not exactly an old movie, the original DVD release was one of the first on the format, and this Blu-ray makes for a startling upgrade, demo quality all the way and just shy of a perfect-10 in terms of scoring. Blade fans should be very relieved, despite being a catalogue title that’s nearly 15 years old, a surprising amount of care and attention have gone into this film’s presentation.
Detail is often impressive, from the fine object detail and facial nuances – sweat, pores, hair – to the broader shots, with all of the sets looking richly authentic and often suitably grimy. DNR is almost non-existent – there’s certainly nothing excessive enough to frustrate viewers – and the image is devoid of digital defects and damage. Edges are well defined and whilst there’s grain evident, it’s a healthy natural level that only further indicates the lack of excessive DNR tinkering. The highly stylised cinematography stands up to close observation – blue, green and orange-dominated sequences; strobe lighting; slo-mo, over- and under-cranking – with only an acceptable amount of softness creeping into a few shots. Blacks are deep and satisfying, allowing for excellent shadow detail and great night sequences. Blade has arguably never looked better, and likely never will. Impressive.
Wow, what a soundtrack. And this release’s stomping DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track truly does it justice, matching up to the excellent video with its impressive presentation. Dialogue comes through clearly and coherently, largely dominating the fronts and centre channels whenever appropriate. Effects are myriad, normally driven by the incessant powerdrill spat of Blade’s machine-pistol, the thundering boom of his shotgun or the whipping slice of his sword, the spontaneously combusting vampires making a suitably flaming exit across the soundstage too. Dynamics are spot on, and there’s plenty of directionality on offer, as well as some truly immersive moments – with murmuring crowds all around; bustling streets; and traffic noises (including the growl of Blade’s ’68 Dodge Charger) all working well to built up a heady atmosphere. The instrumental side of the score works well too, infusing heartbeat-like beats into the quieter moments before the highlight of the mix – the music tracks themselves – kick in. From the opening techno tracks which provide for a stomping opening sequence, to the later battles, your system simply won’t have time to take a breath. Well, maybe one. All in all, it’s a fantastic mix that provides a hefty amount of demo material in another near-perfect presentation.
As one of the first DVD releases, Blade excelled in the extras department, showing off the early potential of the format. Whilst we don’t get anything new here, there was arguably more than enough to begin with, and at least almost everything has been ported over (we’re missing the isolated score and commentary by Composer Mark Isham, some pencil sketches and some trivia options), albeit only in SD.
Featuring no less than 7 different participants, this commentary track is a comprehensive, information-packed affair that simply never lets up. Although recorded separately, the contributors are blended well, with offerings from star and producer Wesley Snipes, co-star Steven Dorff, writer David S. Goyer, director of photography Theo Van De Sande, production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli and producer Peter Frankfurt. Well worth checking out.
La Magra takes a quarter of an hour to look at the story’s evolution, incorporating Deleted Scenes, the unfinished Alternate Ending and on-camera interviews with Goyer, Frankfurt and New Line Cinema President of Production, Michael De Luca. Whilst it’s interesting to hear about their ideas for a film starring L.L. Cool J, the development of the story and the final casting, the real highlight here is the alternate ending (as described in the main review), which completely changed not only the closing battle but also the aftermath. Probably the best of the Featurettes.
Designing Blade spends 22 minutes with production designer Kirk Petruccelli, who allows us insight into the development of the production designs, make-up and special effects; explaining how the specific set and costume designs were all in-line with the mood and tone of the piece as Goyer wanted, and how the meticulous attention to weapons detail set Blade apart from his counterparts.
Origins of Blade: A Look at Dark Comics is 12 minutes long and has contributions from Stan Lee, Goyer, and a number of other comic writers, who discuss the transition from the colourful superheroes of old to the darker comic book characters and tales of more recent times.
The Blood Tide spends 20 minutes looking at vampire mythology and real-life blood rituals, with contributions from a number of experts – from haematologists to priests. It’s a surprisingly rewarding little extra which boasts plenty of historical background detail into the real rituals that arguably formed vampire lore, and the more scientific aspects of the whole vampire mythology.
The disc is rounded off by a Theatrical Trailer.
No Blade = No Avengers. Got your attention now? Overshadowed by 1998’s The Matrix, the success of this little underappreciated and underacknowledged 1998 superhero flick was what started the comic book renaissance in the first place, leading to projects like Spiderman and X-Men getting off the ground, and thus leading to the founding of Marvel Studios and the creation of the massive project that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Looking back, Wesley Snipes’s Blade is still one of the best adaptations of a comic book character, and with this first outing we get a kick-ass action-fantasy-thriller which paints vampires the way they should be, and doesn’t hold back in the action-for-adults stakes because of PG-13 restrictions. Violent, bloody, and packed to the hilt with well-staged shootouts, martial arts face-offs and swift swordplay, Blade is 2 hours of hyper-stylised fun. Sure, it has its flaws, but it was still an against-the-odds astounding success; a milestone in cinema history. An admittedly imperfect movie, but perfect entertainment.
Kick-starting my retrospective look at the Blade Trilogy – to tie-in with the belated UK release of the sequels and, eventual, release of the first movie next month – we take a look at the Region Free US release from earlier this year, which comes complete with excellent, demo quality video and audio, and all of the most important extras ported over from the original feature-packed DVD. Fans would have likely already picked this up – its Region Free status means there’s no reason not to – but it will be interesting to see whether next month’s UK release is any different. Either way, this movie warrants a place in any action-film-lover’s collection. Recommended.
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