Connor Bynum // Film Critic
Much like SPIDER-MAN (2002) or X-MEN (2000), Marvel films once existed as standalone properties. An early attempt in this concept was BLADE (1998), starring Wesley Snipes and Stephen Dorff. Unlike the other examples, BLADE wears its hard R rating like a badge of honor and goes out of its way to remind viewers that this one isn’t for babies. Now the vampire carnage and swear words can be experienced in glorious 4K UHD resolution.
Movie Grade: C+
Set in the magical time of the late 1990s, a secret society of vampires runs wild in New York City, and only one man is brave enough to stand against them. A daywalker (a cross between a human and vampire who can survive in sunlight) known only as Blade (Wesley Snipes) clad in leather, silver bullets and a deadly katana wreaks havoc on these evil creatures and uncovers an evil plan by the sinister Frost (Stephen Dorff) to reawaken the ancient Blood God and destroy all of humanity.
It’s always fun to experience a Marvel character that could exist on their own before the MCU came along. Risks are taken in BLADE for better or for worse, and it’s honestly refreshing to see a Marvel movie that isn’t overly concerned with pleasing everybody. It’s violent, crude, and campy as hell, and doesn’t care who knows it. Watch it with a drink and rest easy knowing that Captain America won’t show up for no reason this time around.
BLADE is presented in native 4K resolution and, for the most part, looks fantastic. The heavy uses of leather in costume design showcase a nice subtle texture, and skin tones look as good as ever. Practical effects look equally stunning, but the same cannot be said for the film’s computer-generated elements. The climactic ritual that culminates with demonic skeleton bats flying around the screen does indeed sound excellent, but the increased resolution only reveals the age of these animations and is painfully distracting.
The inclusion of HDR10 is a vast improvement for this 4K release. Since the vast majority of the film takes place at night, the increased contrast and deeper black tones result in a much more engaging image. The deep red New Line Cinema logo at the start of the film brilliantly sets the tone for the ensuing violence, and the deeper color pallet makes it all the more daunting. The frequent use of heavy blue tones also looks quite nice and helps solidify Blade’s coldblooded nature as a character.
A brand new Dolby Atmos audio track is a nice improvement over the DTS-HD 6.1 track from the 2018 Blu-ray release. The opening “bloodbath” rave sequence makes excellent use of the surrounding and overhead channels and creates the illusion that the viewer is right in the middle of the blood raining down from the ceiling. However, the sound effects themselves can often feel incredibly dated with abundant uses of stock punches and gunshots that come across as unintentionally campy. Still, the musical score fills the room wonderfully, and dialogue comes in perfectly clear.
Extras Grade: B-
There are two audio commentary tracks included on the 4K disc, but besides that, all other features can be found on the included 1080p Blu-ray. Unfortunately, these features are entirely recycled from previous releases.
The commentaries being on the 4K disc is a nice inclusion rather than resorting to the Blu-ray. A digital copy code is also included. Overall the extras are neither handled poorly nor are they anything to write home about.
Final Grade: B-
In spite of some, unfortunately, dated CGI monsters, BLADE is a mostly solid 4K experience. The new Dolby Atmos audio mix is truly outstanding, and the HDR helps far more than it hurts. Give this one a look if you like Marvel but want something different.