Blade (Wesley Snipes) looks tired. I mean, weary. He’s been fighting vampires for three films now, and it shows. The fangs and ink are still tight, the outfits change slightly show to show. This time, he goes into his last battle with a formfitting red turtleneck, especially visible when he drops the swirling black leather coat. He still rides a speedy motorcycle, he’s still cranky with terminally stupid humans, and he’s still way zen.
For this third, supposedly final installment of the Blade series, directed by loyal screenwriter David Guyer, the franchise undergoes some changes, most of the crass commercial sort. For one thing, Blade falls for a bad trick, one that he should have seen (or smelled) his way through ahead of time. All his vampirish instincts apparently fail him one evening when the bloodsuckers fool him into killing a human (one of those scurvy familiars: Blade hates ’em, as he reminds you here) and catching the crime on tape. This turns the mythic Blade into just another victim of paparazzi-tv, humiliated and pursued by the cops and tipsters.
Blade thinks worrying about human reactions is silly, that he can continue to slay vampires with impunity, without having to acknowledge the offense he’s done to the human population that believes in law and order. (Apparently, he’s never watched Buffy, which laid out such inter-realm rules weekly.) By contrast, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) warns Blade that the cost for the infraction will be dear, which means, of course, that he will be that cost. Whistler — the Daywalker’s ideal buddy-foil-mentor, for years offsetting Blade’s surliness and inattention to all things humanly social with his own gritty vulnerability — is offed by a crew of explosives-happy urban-swat cops. This is worse than it sounds. The loss of Whistler sets up Blade for one of those horrible wailing-in-the-night bits, the camera pulling out and up just like the goofy parody version in Team America. Ah well.
It’s true that Blade has always taken himself a little seriously. But that’s his job — he’s a comic book character made huge on screen, and he carries a heavy burden as well, always saving the human race that treats him so badly, that fears him, that thinks he’s evil. Blade’s got it rough, as he’s committed to murdering the race that half-defines him. He’s unique, the Daywalker, but he’s also connected and reconnected to his past, never free of his guilt, his endless struggle, his agony. And now he’s lost Whistler, which makes him so depressed that for a minute, dosed with horse tranquilizer, he looks like he’s going to succumb to the detective (James Remar) and smug shrink (John Michael Higgins), who think he’s just a psycho “aroused” by drinking blood.
Whomp-whoosh-whizh — here comes the new Team Blade, currently calling themselves the Nightstalkers, a disappointingly unoriginal assortment of kids with attitude. The rescue team consists of the bow-and-arrow-slinging Abigail (Jessica “Don’t Call Me Mary Camden” Biel) and wisecrack-lobbing Hannibal King (Ryan “Van Wilder Forever” Reynolds), who assault the police station, which turns out to be filled with familiars and vampires, so it’s okay to massacre the lot. Though Blade comes to as soon as he spots the familiars (you recall, he hates ’em), and hardly needs rescue, he goes along with the kiddies to their secret hideout. Here Blade meets the blind single-mom and super-geneticist Sommerfield (Natasha Lyonne), her perky daughter Zoe (Haili Page), a gadget guy, and a black guy. At this point, the film looks close to hopeless, a sort of dark and bloody Scooby Doo, without the reefer jokes.
Slightly less pathetic is the resident vampire, ghastly Danica (Parker Posey), who has a grand time with the feeble dialogue, her incestuously inclined brother (Callum Keith Rennie), and a multi-jawed, blood-sucking Pomeranian (and yes, bad dogs might remind you of Resident Evil), not to mention her exceedingly spiked heels. Like Deacon Frost before her, Danica’s got a hellish plot to kill the world, this one involving the resurrection of the original, shapeshifting, utterly horrible vampire, Dracula (Dominic Purcell), whom the kids take to calling Drake.
While Drake’s appearance recalls an episode of Buffy as well as Underworld, it also leads to an utterly strange moment when, rising up to combat Blade, he dons gladiator gear. This means that the movie includes wirework, martial arts, swordfighting, car chasing, bows and arrows, torture (Danica likes to kick and abuse her ex-vampire/over Hannibal, who spits back, “Your hair is ridiculous!”), Triple H as a throwdown-vampire, as well as the usual explosions and gunfire — that is, just about every sort of violence and implement known to action movies. While Drake and his minions spend some time underlining that he is perfect and unique and scary, he mostly just looks like the guy Blade will have to finish to get out of this darn franchise.
Blade: Trinity is surely damned in various ways, which makes it a sorry note on which to close the series (especially as the second film, directed by Guillermo del Toro, was so thrilling on visceral and aesthetic levels). Its one point of interest lies in the theme that Goyer has pursued throughout his tenure as writer, having to do with vampirism as a virus, visited upon a hapless human population via malevolent, aggressive, very grumpy carriers. As in all good horror, the fear is premised in current events, most obviously the spread of disease, hunger, and poverty that engenders addiction, crime, and violence, and more specifically, social and military policies that ordain conformity and anxiety.
Even as Sommerfield is concocting a devastating airborne virus lethal to vampires (and yes, she needs the blood of the pure vampire, Drake, just like before the vampires needed the blood of the hybrid vampire in the first film), the virus carriers have their own scheme. They’re manufacturing their own blood supply, cycling blood through bodies hung up and preserved after brain-death, a computerized, and completely easily sabotaged “blood farming facility” that consists of homeless corpses, unmissed.
The battling viruses suggest that science will be the end of everyone, good, bad, and otherwise. The blood farm — at least until Blade shuts it down in an instant — intimates that Frost’s fevered dream of domination needn’t come to its logical conclusion, the flat-out decimation of the food supply. But Drake and Danica don’t quite think this one through either, as they’re preoccupied by selecting their outfits for their showdowns — with Blade and Van Wilder, respectively. In other words, though Blade: Trinity is sitting on some real ideas, it’s not precisely an eco-agitating or socially progressive film, or even a very smart one.