Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Blade the Series – review

Directed by: various

First aired: 2006

Contains spoilers

The Blade series saw an entirely new cast and/or characters from those we met in the movies. It ran as a two episode length pilot and then a further eleven episodes. It did change some of the established rules from the movies as well – which might not have been so unusual except that Goyer was the producer of the series and wrote a couple of the episodes so I would have expected more continuity.

The basic story centred on Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) an Iraq veteran who returns home from the army to discover that her brother Zach (David Kopp) has been murdered. The Detective in charge, Boone (Bill Mondy), seems to be doing very little but as she investigates she discovers the shadowy world of vampirism and, subsequently, Blade (Sticky Fingaz).

Blade, and his new weapon smith Shen (Nelson Lee), use Krista to try and get to vampire Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson) – the vampire who shot her brother for being an overly nosey familiar. Krista is caught and turned but Blade manages to get her on his serum, controlling her thirst, and uses her as an insider in the House of Chthon – just as her brother was.

Marcus, at first, seems to be developing a vaccine, Aurora, that will remove vampire weaknesses – but that is not his real goal. The structure of purebloods and turned vampires (in the series referred to as turnbloods) is more highly defined than it was in the movies and the turnbloods are kept as second rate members of the Houses. Indeed it is a crime for a turnblood to attack or kill a pureblood, of any House, and if the purebloods had such a stranglehold of vampire society in Blade then Frost would have been unceremoniously killed by Dragonetti at the head of the film. Marcus is developing an agent that will kill only the purebloods and allow him to take control of his House.

I mentioned the changes and the first thing we should note is that the cure for vampirism, developed by Karen Jenson in Blade, used on Whistler in Blade 2 and used by King in Blade Trinity is completely ignored in the series. It has been suggested that Blade was unable to cure Krista as Marcus turned her by injecting her with his blood and then throwing her off a building (thus she is truly dead) but this is conjecture – plus it would have also killed a major plot aspect. It is also noteworthy that Daystar, the vampire killing virus released at the end of Blade Trinity, has been forgotten also.

We discover that there are twelve major Houses who make up the vampires’ ruling council, plus outcast Houses (the House of Armaya are outcasts) and independent groups. Killing a vampire is now referred to as ashing and we discover that vampire ash can be used as a, highly addictive, narcotic that gives the users (known as ashers) vampire powers for a short time but also the thirst during the come-down – ashers are known to gnaw their own fingers to get to blood. This places a further peril on the vampires, though the plotline seems to be ignored after a few episodes. I should also mention a death by mirror – given that mirrors play a big part in the general genre if not the Blade mythology. A vampire has a mirror smashed across her, shards sticking in her and ashes – due to the silver backing; nice.

Blade seems to have lost his serum nebulizer, introduced in Trinity, relying on injections and the Nightstalkers are never mentioned – although we do discover that there is a well organised international underground opposing the vampires. One would have thought that King or Abigail Whistler, from Trinity, might have made an appearance at some point.

We discover more about Blade’s past, and some basic premise changes come in this. We see Blade as a child, in flashback, with a father unable to cope with the blood lust – remember Blade’s bloodlust developed at puberty according to the films - and so brings in a young Whistler to help. Though Blade runs away, and is found by Whistler again later, this is at odds with Whistler’s story of how he met Blade in the films.

We also discover how Blade got his tattoos, ish. The tattoos are gang markings given to him by a gang called the Bad Bloods, all of whom he turned. Two things come to mind here. Firstly the fact that he turned them (and they are hated in vampire society because of who turned them) seems at odds with something Drake says in Trinity, when he suggested that Blade was a new form of vampire and gave the impression that those he turned would be daywalkers also – this isn’t the case. The other thing is that I did want to know how he got his tattoos but more specifically, as a tattoo is a scar, I wanted to know why they didn’t simply heal due to his vampire nature. This isn’t answered, and things like garlic in the ink wouldn’t have worked as Blade is not allergic to those things that damage standard vampires.

Sticky Fingaz isn’t bad as Blade. I preferred Wesley Snipes generally – though I believe Fingaz’ performance is much better than that given by Snipes in Trinity. The character is taken back to the unemotional, stoic character of the first film and the humour developed in Blade 2 is more or less lost. Blade does seem to be, given some dream sequences we see, a lot less comfortable with his inner struggles in this – this comes out in sequences more than performance, however. That said Fingaz performance definitely improved as the series developed and it is a shame that it is unlikely that he will be able to grow into the character even more.

Sometimes the changes are aesthetic, in the opening of the pilot Blade kills a Russian vampire in military garb. There is a massive splash of blood, rather than the standard ash, in order that the blood might melt into the titles – it looked cool, so can be forgiven.

The series’ main arc is concluded quite nicely, with a minor cliff hanger added to keep us interested for a second season (that is unlikely to happen at this point in time). However there are forgotten plot lines and poorly used plot lines within the minor plots of the series.

Many of these come out of Boone’s storyline. Boone is Van Sciver’s familiar but is becoming a liability so it is arranged for him to be Krista’s first feed. The attack turns him, and we discover through this that someone is turned if the vampire feeds but does not completely drain the victim. Boone knows too much but manages to escape the fate Van Sciver had planned for him and goes on a Mid-West rampage – heading straight for the House of Armaya, whose vampires Van Sciver has been experimenting on in order that he might develop Aurora.

Krista is sent to do a blood memory ritual at the House of Leichen – a House that only drinks cloned, synthetic blood. All vampires have a psychic link to their first turn (as well as a link to the one who turned them) and the ritual will allow her to find Boone. The first hanging plot point concerned the fact that, following the ritual, Krista shoots up serum (a necessity to keep the thirst at bay after five hours in a bath of blood). This is discovered by Frederick (Steve Bacic), a Leichen and ex-husband of Chase (Jessica Gower) – Van Sciver’s main lieutenant. Nothing ever comes of the discovery, indeed it is never mentioned again.

Chase and Krista believe that they stop Boone but he actually escapes – and never appears in the series again. Also on Boone’s tail is FBI agent Ray Collins (Larry Pointdexter), whose investigations open up the world of vampirism to him. Collins is a great character, someone who hunts serial killers for a living and whose family, we discover, were murdered by a serial killer whom he then assassinated. The character allowed a more ordinary man view of the world the series drew around us and, though his appearances were occasional, we could see reactions to both the supernatural and to the conspiracy of familiars (his boss is one). Yet, when he eventually meets Blade, the character is unceremoniously killed off – a waste.

Other characters to note are Krista – ultimately too two-dimensional as a character, which is odd as she is a main character and we get a lot of story centred on her. In fact this seems to be recognised by the writers when Chase calls her a hollow little girl. Chase herself is a great character. We get to hear very little about her, the series drip-feeding just enough to keep us interested, but the character works with that very mystery – creating a femme fatale. We discover a lot more about Van Sciver, with an episode virtually dedicated to his story, and as a character he works really well. Less developed is Shen, we need to discover much more about him – especially the loved one he lost to vampires.

The outstanding performance, for me, was given by Emily Hurst as pureblood Charlotte. Charlotte is still in child form (all vampires age, just at a much slower rate than humans, so does this mean that purebloods can stop that process if they wish? The series doesn’t tell us) and yet Hurst gives a mature performance and has a great amount of presence on the screen.

The series, all in all, was not perfect. Too much was thrown into the melting pot that was ultimately ignored. The performances, in the main, were solid though the action, whilst functional, was not up to the standard of the first two movies. That said, I rated the series a lot higher than Trinity. All in all, creeping above average at 5.5 out of 10 – definitely worth catching if you are a genre fan or a fan of the films.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

Good reviews all around. I didn't notice all of the contradictions between the films and the series, but now that you mention them it does seem rather odd that they ignored several key conclusions from Trinity.

I think I felt about the same way with th series. Like the films it suffered from taking itself WAY too seriously. I felt the acting was solid through, but pretty stiff in most of the characters. Van Sciver and Chase were the two best acted parts, but they also had the most interesting parts, so that doesn't tell us a lot. I felt that none of the actors had a lot of room to work with; the writers seemed to want to write the character all very similarly.

I'm not sure I would even want to watch it if a fan of the genre (which I obviously am). It's not a series I would recommend. It was fine watching it at the time, because it was the summer and nothing else was on, but I never really enjoyed myself. I think I watched it just to satisfy the completist in me.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

fair comment, thinking about it, the series did take itself way too seriously. That wouldn't have been a problem if they had the breadth of characterisation to pull it off - but as you say, none of the actors really had the room to expand their characters.

The contraictions were glaring as I rewatched the films back to back, having watched the series and so perhaps it was a little too unfair to pick them up. It is not uncommon for a series to deviate from the original film(s) it is based on, but Goyer's heavy involvement made it seem odd to me.

DarkwingDave said...

It was a difficult choice of course - it wasn't Snipes, wouldn't have a lot of the movies offered due to TV, but if we wanted out Daywalker fix then...the Van Sciver episode was nicely done and it was a throwaway of the FBI character when he could have been a good resource. Another minor the first episode, Shen tells Blade in response to his griping that he hasn't been able to duplicate Sommerfield's notes on the nebulizer - thus the shots. Personally I thought the air hypos I thought they used in B1 would have sufficed vs using the syringes all the time..

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Dave, there were several nitpicks through, I've picked up on a few of them as you'll have read. However, nothing too show stopping all in all