Four issues in, and the holdfast movie marathon is now a firm tradition. We have now sat through the four Alien films, the first three Planet of the Ape films, and Noah Wyle's Librarian trilogy. These have at least two things in common: a. they have all numbed our bums to the point where we have practically cried in pain and b. they have all had white leads.
As Issue 4's theme is diversity, we knew we wanted to find a SFF film franchise with a leading person of colour. THIS IS HARD TO FIND. FILM INDUSTRY, STEP UP YOUR GAME. The options are basically Men in Black and Blade. Discounting Men in Black because it's a co-lead between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, and because Blade is completely awesome, we bought a packet of Borders chocolate gingers (we eat a packet of these together at our weekly Holdfast meetings. I approached them once for sponsorship for the magazine but received no reply. We still eat them anyway) and pressed play.
LAS = Lucy-Anne Smee
LJS = Laurel Jo Sills
Blade (1998), dir. Stephen Norrington
LAS: OK. We're five seconds into the film, and Blade's mum is already succumbing to Dead Mum Syndrome.
LJS: You can't have a superhero without a dead mum.
Many years later, and we cut to an unsuspecting man being led into a meat-processing plant with a secret nightclub.
LJS: I don't want to victim-blame here, but… a date in a meat-processing plant and you're not even a little bit weirded out?
LAS: It's ok. It's a nightclub. Vampires LOVE raving. Everyone knows that. Wait, was that Stephen Dorff? I forgot he was in this. Oh, he's the hipster vampire!
LJS: Who's Stephen Dorff again?
LAS: I actually can't remember. He was around a lot in the 90s? Was he in Before Sunrise?
LAS: Oh, that was Ethan Hawke. I think I made that mistake in the 90s as well.
The vampires really rave it up.
LJS: I really wish I had been an extra in this scene.
Blood sprays everywhere from sprinklers and it goes over all the vampires' nice white outfits.
LAS: Wow, they are really loving that blood-spray. I mean, everyone loves getting sprayed with their food, right? So their food is just you know, all over them. Right?
Blade shows up. The vampires crap themselves.
LAS: I feel like if they all just swarmed him he would be dead, but nevermind.
Blade stakes a guy to the wall and fist pumps in celebration because he can take the time to do that.
LJS: Oh my god. Blade is brilliant.
A burnt vampire is taken to the hospital morgue for an autopsy. Here we find Dr Karen, played by N’Bushe Wright.
LAS: She's a haematologist. I bet that skill comes in handy later.
BLADE II (2002), dir. Guillermo del Toro
Strong opening in Prague with the guy from Bros as a vampire-hating something monster with a tentacle tongue.
LAS: That's the guy from Bros.
LJS: Oh, my god. It is. One of the Gosses.
Whistler is not dead like he obviously was in the first film but he's a vampire.
LAS: Wait what? He shot himself in the head!’
No worries though, Blade rescues him, cures him, and takes him to a very roomy warehouse.
LJS: I feel like their lair should be less obvious and smaller. It looks pretty easy to sneak up on someone in there.
Their lair is broken into.
Two vampires, Asad and Nyssa, offer a truce to fight Bros.
LAS: That's Cat, from Red Dwarf!
LJS: Oh, my god. It is! So many rando Brits!
Blade visits the wrinkly vampire overlord, Nyssa's dad, who science-explains how Bros is a virus-carrier that turns vampires into vampire-eating vampires.
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Crispy vamp wasn't dead! He kills Dr Karen's coroner ex and bites her.
LAS: Dr Karen!
Blade rescues her but not in time for her to maybe get infected. He also tells off a policeman for shooting at him: 'Motherfucker, are you out of your damn mind?'
LJS: Oh my god. Blade is brilliant.
LAS: Although, he is being reminded of his mum by Dr Karen, which is maybe odd.
LJS: The police are really, really chasing them. Maybe they're in league with the vampires?!? [they are]
Kris Kristofferson shows up and injects Dr Karen with garlic.
LAS: I really hope that works.
LJS: You know, Blade could maybe carry some of that anti-bite garlic serum around with him.
LAS: No time for helping. Only time for killing vamps.
LAS: Oh, wicked, a vampire council.
LJS: Stephen Dorff is such a teenager! Look at him, lounging around, being snarky to all the older vamps.
LAS: Well, they are being a bit racist to him because he's not 'pure-blooded' and wasn't born a vampire.
LJS: Hang on. If vampires can have babies and also live forever, but also age, then why aren't LOADS of vampires still babies/toddlers/tweens? They'd be kids for decades! And also, the parent vampires would have to nurture their young for bloody ages. Which would make them nicer than they are! Vampires really should be like, super caring, but just love blood.
Stephen Dorff calls Blade an Uncle Tom.
LAS: Blade: the story of a Tragic Mulatto. Actually, as Blade's mum was attacked whilst pregnant, and that resulted in Blade, he is the result of a SFF equivalent of a white slave-owner raping a female slave. By consciously choosing to side with humans, he is standing with the colonised rather than the colonisers. So, not an Uncle Tom, FROST.
LJS: Write a thesis about it, why don't you.
Some sciencing and plot happens. Whistler gets killed by vamps.
LJS: You know, if I was on the vampire council, I'd buy all the silver mines, then fill them in, so no one could have any bloody silver.
Blade's mum turns up! She's a vampire! Stephen Dorff/Frost was the one who attacked her!
LAS: Frost is Blade's rapist vampire dad! God, I hope he kills him loads.
LJS: Also, Blade's name is ERIC. ERIC.
They go to a really ancient temple under a New York warehouse.
LAS: Hang on, how old is this vampire temple? In North America? I guess it was built by Native American vampires? I'd like to read a history of the colonisation of America from the vampire perspective.
Awesome fight scene involving Blade catching his sunglasses mid-air and putting them on. He also fights Frost, who is now a super Blood God, but injects him with loads of anti-coagulant serum that Dr Karen scienced up earlier. He turns into a giant berry and explodes.
LJS: Good job, Doctor! Good sciencing.
LAS: That was all just GREAT.
Blade becomes the leader of a pack of super-hunter-vampires.
LJS: That's the guy from lots of things!
LAS: Ron Perlman. Hmm, he is a racist in this. Blade better watch out! They hate him for so many reasons!
The Blood Gang hunt Bros and his gang.
LJS: They aren't doing a very good job.
LAS: Doesn't matter, whatever happens, all of them will die except Blade, probably. Maybe Nyssa might survive.
LJS: Yeah, but I'm just a bit bored. This fight scene is really, really long and no one's behaving sensibly, including Blade. Now they know that only sunlight kills them, why isn't he using his UV weapons.
Long fight scene finally ends and some sciencing happens. Whistler and Scud, Blade's new weapons buddy, invent a little UV lightbomb.
LAS & LJS: Bwahaha! What! What is he wearing? How much has he aged?
LJS: That is a wardrobe department fail.
Parker Posey’s vampire team have found the original vampire, Dracula. Good for them.
LAS: The media are discussing Blade! His cover is going to be blown!
Some teenager vamps attack Jessica Biel, which is a scene that came out of nowhere.
LJS: Huh she’s a vampire hunter too. I guess that’s cool? Who is she?
Whistler and Blade have some lonely man time.
LAS: Whistler is thinking about his fridged wife.
Their lonely man time is interrupted when police attack their warehouse and Whistler explodes it, dying (probably). The police arrest Blade but shocker, the police are vampire familiars.
LJS: Wow, they know how many vampires Blade has killed, 1182! Where did they get those stats?
LAS: Yeah, the archives got destroyed in the first film, dumbos.
Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds (huh?) have a really long fight scene as they rescue Blade from the police and Parker Posey’s vamps. Blade isn’t even on screen.
LJS: What the eff is going on! Where’s Blade! Why is Ryan Reynolds in it?
LAS: Jesus, why don't you write a thesis about it.
LJS: You'd be a mum for AGES. The only pro to being a vampire mum is that you wouldn't have to breastfeed. Just give the baby the bottle while you go raving.
Blade and Kris Kristofferson explain about vampires etc.
LAS: I like that Dr Karen is being very rational about all this. A sensible lady co-lead!
LJS: The way she is staring at the sun just now is genuinely lovely and poignant.
We see the VAMPIRE COUNCIL ARCHIVES.
LAS [film archivist IRL]: OMG! Vampire archives! What format is that though? 1" tape? What's going on, vampires, don't use that, it's crap. I love this scene. Vampires arguing loudly in an archive.
LJS: Oh wow, basically Stephen Dorff can understand computers because he's a young teenager, but the council don't. That is the plot. Olds can't understand technology. Teens decode things that haven't been decoded for thousands of years very quickly because they are teens who can use computers.
There is a party scene in Stephen Dorff's flat, and it looks super fun.
LJS: THERE'S A TWEEN-AGED VAMPIRE! I was right! They do take ages to age!
Laurel writes some notes for her tough love vampire nurture theory.
That was good fun I suppose, but the fight scenes were deadly dull. I like learning more about Blade, and having snappy fight scenes best.
Blade: Trinity (2004), dir. David S. Goyer
LAS: OMG PARKER POSEY IS IN THIS I LOVE HER.
LJS: Why? She always just plays vampires.
LAS: What? This is like, the only time that she’s played a vampire.
LJS: No, she’s ALWAYS a vampire, in all her films.
LAS: What are you talking about. She’s like, an indie film actress, generally.
LJS: Wait. Wait. No… yeah. I’ve just seen this film before. Sorry.
Incredibly extended, bloated, even, fight scene where Blade does a car chase to kill a bunch of vampires.
LJS: Lord, I’m bored already. Who are these guys?
Blade steps out of the car wearing what can only be described as old man orthopaedic boots.
Back in the archive, we meet the archivist, Pearl.
LAS: Pearl is completely gross and disgusting and I officially resent this representation of archivists.
Blade fights the tween vampire girl in the archives and destroys loads of original artefacts.
Kris Kristofferson explodes the archives.
LAS: Argh! Although, seeing as vampires are bad and we don't want them to re-learn how to take over the world, I'd definitely be up for de-accessioning that shit. I am split! Destroying archives is bad. Destroying vampire archives is good.
Kris Kristofferson explains to Dr Karen about how he became a vampire hunter when his wife and two daughters got fridged.
LJS: You can't become a vampire hunter without a load of dead female family members.
LJS: Wait, they only invented that about five minutes ago. They have instantly manufactured about 200 of them. How did they do that?
Ugh it is an action scene again that is lasting for an insanely long time again.
LAS: Oh man! Danny John-Jules is dead!
A giant pack of UV lightbombs goes off and the blast is so powerful that the light bends around corners.
LJS: I am not impressed with the fantastical science in this film so far.
The vampires and Scud traitor Blade. They want his blood for some vampire science.
LAS: In every film they want his blood! His body is never his own.
Blade catches his sunglasses again. It’s still awesome. Vampire overlord is Bros’ dad. Bros rips his throat out and tongue-stabs Nyssa.
LJS: That is a shame. What will happen to her?
LAS: Blade will take her outside and she will die watching the sun, but they will not make out, despite the fact that clearly they like each other.
After the fight scene, the above happens.
LAS: Hollywood would rather have her die than kiss a Black man.
Ryan Reynolds used to be Parker Posey’s familiar and says she has vampire teeth in her fanjo.
LAS: I can’t tell if that was a terrible joke or a terrible fact that they’re trying to insert into the film.
Ryan Reynolds explains about Dracula: ‘Just like the great white shark he’s never had to evolve’
LAS: What? Does Ryan Reynolds think that the great white shark just magically appeared?
Ryan Reynolds explains that they found Dracula in Iraq. THE OPENING CREDITS EXPLAINED IT WAS THE SYRIAN DESERT THE FILM ITSELF IS GETTING CONFUSED ABOUT ITS MIDDLE EASTERN LOCATIONS OMG.
LAS: Wow. I am getting super fed up of this. Why is Ryan Reynolds doing so much inaccurate talking?
We meet the rest of Jessica Biel’s vampire hunter gang, including Natasha Lyonne!
LAS: Hey, Nichols!
Much pointless scenes happen including the world’s worst montage, an unnecessary Jessica Biel shower scene and a fight with Dracula, who they’re calling Drake, for no reason.
LJS: Seriously, what’s going on. Blade is barely in this film.
Ryan Reynolds calls Parker Posey a ‘cock-juggling thunder-cunt’.
LAS: Good grief. Seriously? This script is unbelievable.
There is a vampire dog, a pomeranian.
LJS: Ha! I quite like that idea.
Blade enters the vampire fortress through a SKYLIGHT.
LAS: Yes, if I was a vampire, I’d definitely have one of those in my fortress, for sure.
Everyone dies after such a long fight scene.
LAS: Bye, Parker Posey. I enjoyed how camp you were.
Ryan Reynolds does the end-of-film voiceover instead of Wesley Snipes.
LJS: UGH UGH UGH! What the hell. What was that. Who decided to take the film in this stupid direction with less Blade and more friggin Ryan Reynolds?! Everyone thinks Blade is awesome. No one doesn’t think that. Just have him be the lead.
Well. This all started well but by the end was just a descent into the stench of fear that is the Hollywood machine, paying lip service only to the idea of having a Black male lead. What a shame, as the first film was good, funny, exciting and interesting.