Blade: Trinity: Unrated Version (2004)

The movies are just a comforting fairy tale compared to the real deal.
— Hannibal (Ryan Reynolds), Blade: Trinity: Unrated Version

I’m such a goombah, or whatever.
— Ryan Reynolds, commentary, Blade: Trinity: Unrated Version

Just as Spike TV has signed up for a weekly series based on Blade, the third film in the franchise is released to DVD, replete with extras and explanations. Much like the film per se, the DVD is geared for viewers who know too much about the character and attendant lore, which is fine, because the story is essentially simple: half-human, half-vampire, Blade (Wesley Snipes) kills vampires to save hapless humans, quenching his own plaguing thirst for blood by dosing himself with potions designed by his sidekick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson).

In Blade: Trinity, he does look a little weary, and so the franchise gurus have brought on board young blood, namely the Nightstalkers, a disappointingly unoriginal assortment of kids with attitude. They consist of the bow-and-arrow-slinging Abigail (Jessica Biel) and wisecracking Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds), both sounding off on the first commentary track, with writer-director David Goyer “We’re just a couple of punks,” speed-talker Reynolds begins). This in addition to another such track, with Goyer, editor Howard Smith, production designer Chris Gorak, cinematographer Gabriel Berstain, and producers Peter Frankfurt and Lynn Harris, as well as a making-of documentary on a second disc, “Daywalkers, Nightstalkers, and Familiars: Inside the World of Blade: Trinity” (detailing the performers’ diets and workout regimens). Also on a second disc, an alternate ending in which Hannibal and Abigail raid a casino in Shanghai in pursuit of a werewolf), blooper reel (it’s good to see Snipes smile), and an interview, “Goyer on Goyer: The Writer Interviews the Director.”

All this stuff only emphasizes that the film is a mighty endeavor, that the kids trained long and hard, enduring Snipes’ demanding perfectionism and Parker Posey’s unnerving brilliance, and appreciating Goyer’s good humor, resilience, and generosity. “You took every obstacle,” says Reynolds, “And turned it into something good.”

Part what’s always good in the Blade flicks is, of course, Blade, here again superbly outfitted (for the last showdown, he dons a formfitting red turtleneck, especially visible when he drops the swirling black leather coat). He still rides a big black bike, he’s still cranky with terminally stupid humans, and he’s still zen. “I love watching Wesley move,” gushes Reynolds. “Oh my god,” adds Goyer, “He’s amazing. He understands the character of Blade so well and just all the little innate gestures he does are perfect.” But he undergoes some losses here too. For one thing, he must fall for an insipid plot — that is, rescued by Hannibal and Abigail — For one thing, Blade falls for a bad trick. All his vampirish instincts apparently fail him one evening when the bloodsuckers fool him into killing a human, so they can catch the crime on tape and make Blade look all kinds of guilty for the benefit of media consumers. This turns the mythic Blade into just another victim of paparazzi, humiliated and pursued by the cops and tipsters.

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. He’s unique, the Daywalker, connected to his past, never free of his sense of guilt for being a vampire. For this film, he also loses Whistler (tired of the gig at last), which makes him so depressed that for a minute and in need of saving from those kids. Escorted to Team Blade’s hideout, 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.

Posey isn’t just flashing her fangs here. As ghastly Danica, she has a grand time with the feeble dialogue, her incestuously inclined brother (Callum Keith Rennie), and a multi-jawed, blood-sucking Pomeranian (observing the dog as the guys describe how much they disliked it, Biel sighs, “I was never there with the farting Pomeranian. I missed it”). Like Deacon Frost before her, Danica’s got a hellish plot to kill the world, this one involving the resurrection of the original, shape-shifting, utterly horrible vampire, Dracula (Dominic Purcell), whom the kids take to calling Drake.

Drake’s appearance 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, sword-fighting, car chasing, bows and arrows, torture (Danica abuses her ex-lover Hannibal, who spits back, “Your hair is ridiculous!”), Triple H as a throw-down-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 returns to the series’ most effective metaphor, vampirism as a virus. It makes for a fear 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. So, even as Sommerfield concocts a devastating airborne virus lethal to vampires, 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.